Corned beef brisket is traditionally cooked in a generous amount of liquid, simmering or braising it to create a tender and juicy piece of meat. This helps retain its classic bright pink color even though it’s cooked beyond the medium stage of doneness. However, you’re not limited to cooking your favorite corned beef on the stovetop or in the oven. You can also utilize your backyard smoker to add flavor and interesting texture to this cut of meat. Try a hybrid method to smoke corned beef brisket without losing its characteristic juiciness.
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How to Pick the Best Corned Beef
The brisket used for corned beef should be a deep red and well-marbled with fat. Many pre-packaged briskets don’t tell you the quality of the meat, therefore they’re likely to be just USDA Select grade. For a finer result, try buying at least a USDA Choice quality brisket and brine it yourself. USDA Prime beef is always an option for truly luxurious corned beef. For a brined brisket that’s ready to cook, try squeezing the meat through the package. A squishy or soft texture indicates a higher percentage of fat than you likely want for corned beef. When choosing a half brisket to reduce the volume of leftovers when serving just a few people, choose the flat cut over the more fatty point cut, especially if you want clean slices of corned beef.
Tools Needed to Smoke Corned Beef
While you don’t need a lot of special equipment to smoke corned beef, there are a few tools that are essential. First, make sure you have a reliable instant-read thermometer, preferably with an extendable probe so you don’t have to reach into the smoker or oven for as long. Second, keep a set of heavy-duty meat tongs handy for transferring the brisket out of the smoker and into the pan for the oven. Water pans or trays are a must if your smoker is designed to utilize them. Keep plenty of aluminum foil on hand as well since it helps at a number of points in the cooking process.
Best Wood Pellets to Use
Whether you choose wood pellets or chips for your smoker, you need to pair the right wood varieties with your corned beef. The strong flavor from ingredients like whole peppercorns, juniper berries, and mustard seeds combines with the saltiness from the brine to create a classic corned beef flavor. If you choose a wood that is too assertive, such as Mesquite, you’ll just muddle the flavor and struggle to tell it was even corned in the first place. A milder hardwood, such as Maple or White Oak, is a great choice. Fruit woods like Cherry and Apple also introduce a sweeter smoke flavor that goes well with the brown sugar in the brine.
Tips for Making Smoked Corned Beef
- Try rubbing the surface of the meat with garlic powder, cracked black pepper, and thyme to add even more flavor to the finished brisket.
- Rinse or soak the corned beef if you buy a piece of meat that was already brined in advance. Smoking tends to concentrate the salt, so you don’t want to take a piece of brined meat and immediately start cooking it.
- Due to the long cooking time, there’s no need to bring the meat to room temperature before cooking it. In fact, if you brined your own brisket without the addition of sodium nitrate, make sure to keep it refrigerated right up to the moment of cooking for safety.
How to Prepare Corned Beef
Soak the corned beef
No matter what kind of corned beef you’re starting with, there’s some amount of soaking needed to prepare the meat. If you bought a plain flat-cut brisket and need to brine it, you’ll want to soak it between 3 and 5 days. For longer soaks, you’ll need to add pink curing salt to your brine for safety. Keep it to just 3 days of brining for nitrate-free brines.
For pre-packaged and brined briskets, you’ll want to soak the meat for at least 2 to 4 hours to reduce its salt level. Keep the corned beef refrigerated the whole time. Then remove it from the water and pat it dry.
Apply the dry rub
Patting dry the surface of the brisket allows you to easily apply a dry rub. For basic smoked flavor, try the mixture of black pepper, garlic powder, and thyme all over the brisket. Dry brisket rubs used for barbecue or pastrami can also work well.
Smoke the corned beef
Smoking corned beef requires a low temperature and steady supply of both moisture and smoke. Electric, propane, and pellet-fed smokers tend to offer the best level of control of heat to avoid drying out as well. Aim for a temperature around 250 degrees F. You can handle the braising step in the smoker as well if it can accommodate a large roasting pan, or you can move the meat to the oven for that stage of cooking.
Using only open smoking to reach the desired internal temperature of 205 degrees will result in a corned beef brisket that is dry and tough. Instead, you’ll take the meat off the smoker when it is around 170 degrees F. Then you set the brisket on a rack inside a roasting pan, adding a few inches of beef broth or stout beer in the bottom. Add a tight-fitting lid or cover the pan with aluminum foil. Braise the meat until it reaches around 200 degrees F internally, either on the smoker or in the oven. This finishes off the meat without losing the smoky flavor or leading to toughness.
Rest, then slice
A corned beef brisket needs a rest when it’s cooked with this method, unlike when it’s cooked in plenty of water. Not only will it rise about 5 to 10 degrees while resting, but the juices will distribute evenly through the meat without evaporating. With a rest of at least 10 minutes, the corned beef should slice thinly and easily.
Smoked Corned Beef Recipe
Use a two-stage cooking process to give the corned beef plenty of flavor and juiciness at the same time.
- 1 half-sized brisket, flat cut preferably, already brined
- 2 tablespoons of garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon of cracked black pepper
- 2 teaspoons of dried thyme
- 2 cups of beef broth or stout beer
1. Remove the brisket from the brine, rinsing it off if you used a homemade brine, or soaking the meat for 2 to 4 hours if it was commercially brined.
2. Pat the meat dry, then apply the seasonings as a dry rub. Return the meat to the refrigerator and let the smoker reach 250 degrees F.
3. Place the brisket in the smoker once there is generous smoke being produced by the pellets or chips. Smoke the brisket uncovered for about 30 to 45 minutes per pound, checking the meat after 2 hours or less. Remove the brisket from the smoker when it reaches 170 degrees F internally.
4. Use tongs to move the meat into a roasting pan or aluminum pan that fits in your smoker. Set the meat on a rack, adding a few inches of flavorful liquid to the bottom. Use a tight-fitting lid or aluminum foil to cover the pan.
5. Put the pan in an oven preheated to 300 degrees F or back on the smoker at the same temperature. Braise the meat, checking the temperature every 30 minutes until it rises to 205 degrees internally. Remove it from the oven or smoker and let it rest, still covered, for 10 to 20 minutes before opening and carving.
Experiment with other dry rubs and even wet ingredients like Dijon mustard to introduce more flavor to the surface of the meat. Just make sure to avoid salt or salty ingredients since the brined meat already has plenty.
Smoked corned beef brisket is a whole new experience if you’re used to a traditional Irish-American boiled dinner. Put your smoker to good use cooking corned beef brisket, premium top sirloin steaks, and more from the Chicago Steak Company.
Smoked Corned Beef Brisket
- 1 1/2 sized brisket, flat cut preferably, already brined
- 2 tbsp garlic powder
- 1 tbsp cracked black pepper
- 2 tsp dried thyme
- 2 cups beef broth or stout beer
- Remove the brisket from the brine, rinsing it off if you used a homemade brine, or soaking the meat for 2 to 4 hours if it was commercially brined
- Pat the meat dry, then apply the seasonings as a dry rub. Return the meat to the refrigerator and let the smoker reach 250 degrees F
- Place the brisket in the smoker once there is generous smoke being produced by the pellets or chips. Smoke the brisket uncovered for about 30 to 45 minutes per pound, checking the meat after 2 hours or less. Remove the brisket from the smoker when it reaches 170 degrees F internally
- Use tongs to move the meat into a roasting pan or aluminum pan that fits in your smoker. Set the meat on a rack, adding a few inches of flavorful liquid to the bottom. Use a tight-fitting lid or aluminum foil to cover the pan
- Put the pan in an oven preheated to 300 degrees F or back on the smoker at the same temperature. Braise the meat, checking the temperature every 30 minutes until it rises to 205 degrees internally. Remove it from the oven or smoker and let it rest, still covered, for 10 to 20 minutes before opening and carving