Smoked Corned Beef is a great way to take the classic St. Patrick’s Day dish and give it a smoky twist. This recipe is for a pre-corned beef cut that most commonly is a brisket flat.
This is a classic comfort dish that’s great for a family dinner or to be enjoyed for your St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.
Growing up in my husband’s Irish household, his family would often buy a pre-corned brisket flat, boil it in water with some spices and cabbage, and then simply serve it with potatoes. While a great nod to tradition, let’s just say that there are a lot of ways to add more flavor to this traditional dish — like smoking.
Corning Beef Versus A Brine
Smoked corned beef starts with a brine. Corning is simply a brining process with specific spices. The brine is a salt solution that the meat sits in, and through osmosis the salt and spices are absorbed into the meat. The salt is typically a curing salt, which is what gives the meat its signature reddish color.
If you go to the store and purchase a “corned beef” you will see that the meat is typically still packaged in some of that solution. Other ingredients you may see include; peppercorns, mustard seed, allspice, and other ingredients you would see in classic pickling brines.
Cuts of Beef
Typically the brisket flat is the common cut used for corned beef. You may also see beef round as we highlighted above. Either cut is going to be delicious. To make the process for this particular recipe easy grab a cut that has already been corned like these great corned cuts from Snake River Farms. Both of those cuts are best with a slow cooking process. Smoking corned beef (on a smoker or grill) is the perfect way to prepare these cuts versus braising (or boiling). You’re going to get so much more flavor out if it this way!
Corned Beef Round
When we are smoking beef round, the roast is typically 8 – 10 pounds (like this round from Snake River Farms). We recommend you cook to medium rare in this case, then slice thick for a classic dinner presentation, or thin slices for sandwiches. Add a simple rub that is light on salt (because the corned beef is going to be inherently salty from the brine) and then smoke at 250 degrees Fahrenheit using fruit wood. It should take about 4 hours to cook to medium rare (or 135 degrees F).
Corned Brisket Flat
You can check out this smoked brisket post on the various parts of a brisket. The most common pre-corned cut you will find is a small 2 – 4 pound brisket flat, which is perfect portions for 4 – 6 people. When smoking a brisket flat, it’s slightly different than a whole packer.
Start at a temperature of 250 degrees Fahrenheit, using fruit wood or oak. Smoke for five to six hours until the internal temperature ranges from 190 to 210 degrees F. This is just like any brisket cook, however the flat being smaller will cook much faster. If you just want to slice it for sandwiches you can also target 180. It will still be tender, but the texture won’t quite be as tender as going to the higher temp.
The meat probe should insert like butter into the flat similar to smoking a normal brisket. The best way to measure the temperature is using a remote temperature probe like the Thermoworks Smoke Unit.
Soaking The Meat
One of our readers asked about whether a pre-soak of the corned beef is needed to extract some of the salty flavor. This is going to be optional based upon your taste preference.
- No Soak – If you elect not to soak, then the concentration of all the brine remains in the meat and the flavors and salt component stand out. We love salt, and so we do not soak, nor recommend it for this recipe.
- Soak – Soaking the meat in cold water will allow the water to pull some of the salt out of the meat. Almost like a reverse brine. Simply place the meat into a large container and completely cover with cold water. Keep in the fridge. After 2 hours, discard the water. For smaller cuts under 4 pounds, that should be enough time to tame the salty flavor and its time to season. If you have a large cut like an 8 pound round roast, then do this 2 times at 3 hours. And it’s best to do this the day before the cook.
Be sure if you soak to discard the water as it’s now contaminated from the raw meat.
Smoked Corned Beef Recipe
Smoked Corned Beef
- 2 pound corned beef brisket flat or an 8 – 10 pound corned round (We use Snake River Farms)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons coarse black pepper
Smoked Corned Beef Brisket Flat
- Preheat the smoker to 250 degrees Fahrenheit using fruit wood like apple, or consider oak.
- Remove the brisket from packaging and discard any excess brine. Pat dry the flat with a paper towel. If there is an additional seasoning pack, that is intended for cooking the meat in boiling water. Set aside this packet and save for making an Au Jus for a sandwich (see notes).
- Season the flat with the salt and pepper. Be mindful not to over salt as the corning process will make the beef taste salty.
- Place the brisket in the smoker. Insert a remote thermometer probe, like the Thermoworks Smoke Unit, and smoke at 250 degrees F for 5 hours ,or until the internal temperature of the flat reaches 190-210 degrees F. The meat thermometer should insert like putting into room temperature butter and that can happen in that specific range.
- Once the flat reaches the proper internal temperature, remove and wrap in foil. Let rest for 30 minutes. Then slice against the grains in thin slices. Enjoy.
Smoked Corned Beef Round
- Preheat smoker to 250 degrees F using fruit wood like cherry or apple.
- Remove from the packaging and discard excess liquid. Trim off any excess fat from the exterior of the round and then pat dry with a paper towel. Season with pepper and kosher salt. We use 1 part salt to 2 parts coarse black pepper to season because the round is so much larger than a brisket flat. Don't over salt as the corning brine will be salty.
- Smoke the round for four hours or until the internal temperature at the thickest part of the roast reaches 135 degrees. Remove from smoker and let rest for 30 minutes.
- Slice against the grain. On a round there are two directions to the grain, so you'll want to adjust the round as you continue to slice.
- Serve with your favorite sides.
Once you’ve smoked your meat, using either a brisket or a beef round, it’s time to slice and eat! Enjoy the classic corned beef and cabbage, then use the leftovers to make the ultimate corned beef sandwich (recipe coming soon).
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