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Who doesn’t love a great corned beef sandwich? Piles of smoky corned beef topped with crisp slaw and dressing between hearty rye bread. It’s divine. This smoked corned beef recipe delivers just that but at a fraction of the cost of buying slices at the market. You’re about to make an amazing meal.
When corned beef is on sale, stock up. This smoked corned beef recipe is perfect for turning a tough cut into delicious thin slices for the best sandwiches, elevated corned beef and cabbage, or even hash. The trick is a simple rub and low and slow smoke that takes what was once a tough cut and transforms it into a new family favorite.
THE CUT: CORNED BEEF
Corned beef is beef brisket that’s been preserved in salt. It is often cut from the brisket flat, a tough cut that was inexpensive for years; it’s a unique pink color spotted at deli counters worldwide due to the nitrites in the curing brine. The brisket point can also be used to make corned beef and has a thicker fat cap but will produce fewer even slices.
Sadly, for years, corned beef had a bad wrap. It was boiled with the pre-mixed seasoning packet and a head of cabbage. The result was a less-than-desirabl, too tender cut of meat and bland, soggy vegetables. And it’s a shame because when cooked properly, it’s delicious. Like a mouthwatering smoked brisket, low temperature and slow cooking time are key to perfectly tender corned beef.
Once a year, when the local grocery store stocks up on supplies for St. Patrick’s Day, corned beef goes on sale, despite not being an Irish dish. And that’s when we stock up. It freezes well; we use it for homemade smoked pastrami and corned beef throughout the year. Corned beef nachos. Oh, that’s a thing. It’s easy enough to make your own deli meat and can save you tons of money. We’re not biased, but we think this smoker recipe is the best way to cook corned beef.
We keep this one simple with a light SPG (salt, pepper, garlic) blend and a pop of paprika.
- Corned Beef
- Salt – we always use kosher salt
- Pepper – course ground black pepper
- Garlic powder
- Apple Juice or Vinegar for mop
How to smoke a corned beef
- Start by removing the corned beef from the package and throwing away the spice packet that comes with it. Rinse it under cool running water then pat it dry with paper towels and place it in a large plastic container. Add cold water and allow the corned beef to sit for one hour.
- Rinse the water and repeat 2 more times. This helps remove the excess salt for a better flavor.
- The next day, remove the corned beef from the water and rinse and pat dry again.
Liberally rub the mustard over the entire surface.
Combine the salt, pepper, garlic, and paprika in a small bowl to combine the dry rub.
Pour the spice blend evenly over the entire corned beef. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and store in the fridge overnight.
- When ready to smoke, prep the smoker for 250 to 275 degrees F. If using a traditional charcoal grill or smoker, set it up for indirect heat with a drip pan filled with water on the cooler side of the grill, under the grill grate.
- Add the corned beef to the grill and close the lid when the smoker has come to temp.
- Allow the corned beef to smoke until it reaches 165 degrees F with a digital meat thermometer.
- Then place the corned beef on pink paper or aluminum foil and spritz it with apple juice or cider vinegar before wrapping it.
- Return the wrapped corned beef to the grill and continue to smoke it until it reaches 200 degrees F, spritzing every 20 minutes with more apple juice or vinegar.
- The size of your corned beef will affect how long effect it takes to cook. For an average grocery store corned beef, expect 4-5 hours. Always check the internal temperature of the meat with an instant-read meat thermometer or probe. When probing a corned beef brisket, it’s essential to insert the temperature probe into the thickest part of the meat for accuracy.
- When the smoked corned beef’s internal temperature reaches 200F, remove it from the grill and rest for 30 minutes before carving against the grain into thin slices and serving.
GirlCarnivore Expert Recipe Tips
For Charcoal Grills:
We use Cowboy All Natural Hardwood Briquets and Post oak wood chunks for fuel and smoke flavor. This recipe works on a Masterbuilt offset, Pit Barrel drum smoked, or classic Weber Kettle grill.
For Pellet Smokers:
We use Jack Daniel’s Charcoal pellets in our Traeger grill, and a smoker box filled with hickory or post oak wood chips for added smoky flavor. Smoke as directed with a foil pan filled with water on the grill grates to add moisture.
What to serve with smoked corned beef
Cabbage, of course. We love smoked cabbage or oven-roasted cabbage steaks and fried fingerling potatoes for an updated classic meal. Smoked baked potatoes are also a great choice. If you want to serve this as a deli sandwich, homemade slaw, and course ground mustard are a must.
Alternatively, we love smoked corned beef brisket shaved thin with havarti dill cheese and mustard on a sandwich and grilled on a flat-top griddle.
Leftovers and Reheating
Wrap leftover corned beef tightly in foil and store in the fridge for up to a week. Slice off the smoked meat as you need to reheat.
Reheat just like our steamed pastrami by using a steamer basket over a pot of simmering water for the most tender bites. This not only reheats the meat but prevents it from drying out.
Smoking times will vary based on the size of your corned beef and other external factors, like weather and altitude. But, a 3.5-pound brisket should take about 4 to 5 hours to smoke.
For best results, smoke corned beef at 250 degrees F.
The best smoking wood for corned beef is hickory. It has a mild flavor and won’t overpower the meat. Other woods like post oak or apple work as well.
We treat this just like smoked brisket, and hit it with a salt, pepper, and garlic combo. Heavy on the pepper. We add paprika for a pop of color and a little more smokey flavor too.
Corned beef is cooked to meat safety standards at 145 degrees F. However, it isn’t tender or done smoking when it reaches an internal temperature of 200-205 degrees F with an instant-read thermometer.
Smoked Corned Beef
- 3.5 lbs corned beef
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp paprika
- 2 tbsp Mustard
- ½ cup apple juice or apple cider vinegar to mop
Prep the corned beef
- Remove the corned beef from the package and rince off.
- Pat dry with paper towels.
- In a large container, submerge the corned beef in cold water for 1 hour.
- Drain the water and repeat 2 more times to remove excess salt.
- After the final soak, pat the corned beef brisket dry again.
- Spread the mustard evenly over the entire surface.
- Mix the salt, pepper, garlic and paprika together in a small bowl.
- Sprinkle the spice mixture evenly over the entire surface of the corned beef.
- Wrap the beef in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator over night.
Smoke the corned beef
- Prep the smoker for 250 degrees F. Add a drip pan filled with water under the grate where the corned beef will rest.
- When the smoker is at temperate, add the corned beef to the grill grate and close the lid.
- Smoke the corned beef until it reaches 165F internally, about 1 ½ – 2 hours.
- Remove the corned beef from the grill and lay it on pink paper or foil.
- Spritz the corned beef with the apple juice or vinegar and wrap it in the paper.
- Return the corned beef to the smoker and continue to cook, spritzing every 20 or so minutes, until the meat reaches 200 degrees F internally with a meat thermometer. About 1 ½ to 2 more hours.
- When the beef has come to temp, carefully remove it from the smoker.
Rest and serve
- Allow the corned beef to rest 30 minutes before slicing to serve. To carve, slice against the grain into thin strips
- Serve with smoked corned beef or as a corned beef sandwich.
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