This smoked corned beef uses minimal ingredients and is relatively easy. Smoking it adds a ton of flavor that you don’t get by cooking it the traditional way. Because it just uses meat and spices, it’s naturally gluten-free.
In 10 years of blogging, I’ve never posted a grilled or smoked recipe. Up today, we have the first of hopefully several smoked recipes.
Nothing says St. Patrick’s Day like corned beef, right?! At least in the US.
What is Corned Beef?
Where does the term “corned” come from?
It is a term used when the meat is salted with large kernels or “corns’ of salt. So corned beef is basically a salt-cured and seasoned beef brisket.
How to Pick the Best Corned Beef
Corned beef is usually made from brisket cuts. And if you buy from a butcher, you can choose from three different types of cuts.
The flat has a consistent thickness and is the learner of the three. The point is the thicker end of the brisket and has marbling which makes it flavorful. Or the whole brisket which includes both the other cuts.
Corned beef usually has a generous layer of fat which helps flavor the meat as well as tenderize it.
If you want to reduce calories, you can trim a little of the fat, but I wouldn’t recommend trimming it all off because the meat will be tough and less flavorful.
Why You Need To Soak It
If you buy corned beef (as opposed to making it from scratch by yourself) then it will be very salty.
It is essential to soak it to reduce the salt for the best results. Otherwise, it’ll just be way too salty.
How to Prepare Corned Beef
After soaking the meat, rinse it in cool running water and pat it dry. Preheat the smoker at 275 °F (135 °C).
While the smoker is preheating, mix together the rub ingredients. You need black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika, and cayenne pepper.
Rub the seasoning mix thoroughly on both sides of the brisket.
Once the smoker is at the right temperature, place the meat on the smoker.
Brisket contains strong muscle fibers making it tough which is why it is usually slow-cooked at a low temperature to help get that amazing taste and tender texture.
You should smoke the meat until you read an internal temperature of 160 °F (71 °C) for about 2 to 3 hours. But don’t stop there.
You will then wrap the meat in foil and smoke again until you reach an internal temperature of 195 °F (91 °C) which usually takes another 2 to 3 hours.
Remove the foil and let it rest 30 minutes or up to 2 hours before you slice and serve. It’s best to slice the meat right before serving.
But hold on! Knowing how to slice the meat is as important as the entire smoking experience.
How to slice corned beef brisket
First, the knife actually matters so make sure it’s a serrated knife, not one with super small ridge-like teeth. You want a smooth serrated edge to slice right through the meat without tearing it to shreds.
Like I stated before, the full brisket is made up of two overlapping muscles, the point and the flat. Because the grain runs in two different directions, it makes slicing the meat a little tricky.
So now you’re ready to slice. First cut the brisket in half, then slice across the flat against the grain.
Then turn the point of the brisket 90 degrees and cut in half. Slice along the point to make sure you’re slicing against the grain. This ensures a tender and mouth-watering corned beef.
In the photos, it doesn’t look like it was cut against the grain. The grain on that small cut changes as you cut into it. It was a bit of an unusual piece of meat.
How to Served Smoked Corned Beef
Corned beef is traditionally served with cabbage and potatoes, but I went with something more BBQ-ish. Potato wedges and coleslaw!
If you want to go the traditional route, try these Instant Pot Potatoes Colcannon! Then you’ve got your potatoes and your cabbage. 😉
A Traditional Irish Food
Most Americans darn their greenest outfits and drink copious amounts of green beer and eat corned beef on St. Patrick’s Day, and while some people say it is an Irish-American tradition, corned beef actually has Irish roots.
Traditionally, the cow was considered a symbol of wealth in the Gaelic religion so beef was reserved for royalty. Pork on the other hand was the most eaten meat in Ireland and on St. Patrick’s Day, you will mostly find boiled bacon.
However, in the 16th century with England conquering Ireland, the English put beef on the table as they say, to the victor goes the beef.
Then in the 1660s, the “Cattle Acts” prohibited cattle export to England which kept Irish beef at home which increased the abundance and made it more affordable.
While salting beef to preserve it has been around for thousands of years, the term “corned beef” dates back to the time of the Cattle Acts.
Ireland became the center of corned beef production, again due to the abundance of cows and lower salt tax. The quality of salt is as important in curing meats as the cut of the meat.
Irish companies could get high-quality white salt at a much lower cost which gave them a reputation of producing excellent cured meat.
The city of Cork became the center of the corned beef trade for over a century and shipped out half the beef that Ireland produced. It was so popular that corned beef dominated the transatlantic trade.
But as luck would have it, as the prices hiked due to demand, the very people that made the product could no longer afford to eat it. So they settled for pork and the new crop of the Irish potato.
Then the Great Irish Potato Famine of 1840 sent many Irish to America. Here corned beef was affordable.
And so the Irish-American tradition of eating corned beef on St. Patrick’s day begins, but remember if you go to Ireland expecting this delicious meal, you might be surprised and only find the traditional Irish bacon.
So that’s it! Enjoy. 🙂 If you make this or any of my recipes, I’d love to see pictures of your creations on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter! Hashtag them #fooddoodlesrecipes so I can check them out.
Smoked Corned Beef Brisket
- 4-5 pounds corned beef brisket
- 2 tablespoons black pepper
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
- hickory chips that have been soaked 1 hour before turning on the grill
- Get out a large pot or baking dish big enough for the meat.
- Rinse the meat under cool running water.
- Place it in the dish or pot.
- Cover the meat with water and let it soak for 1 hour. This is so that the meat isn't so salty. Exchange the water and let it sit for 1 or 2 more hours. One hour before you're done with the soaking, soak the hickory chips and frain. When the meat is almost done soaking, prepare the grill.
- Preheat the smoker to 275 °F (135 °C).
- I used indirect heat and a convEGGtor with the feet up. Once the fire is established, put in the convEGGtor. Insert it upside down (so with the legs up and the flat section down). I put a disposable foil pan on top of the convEGGtor in order to catch the drippings and help with clean-up. Install the cooking grate and then get the smoker running smoothly at 275 °F (135 °C).
- While it's preheating, mix together the rub ingredients in a little bowl.
- Remove the meat from the water, rinse and pat dry.
- Trim any excess fat, if it's needed (but don't remove it all!). Don't trim too much because the fat cap is what keeps it tender.
- Rub the seasoning on both sides.
- Place the meat in the smoker and smoke until the internal temperature reaches 160 °F (71 °C). This will take 2-3 hours and depends on the size of the meat.
- Wrap the meat in foil. Double wrap it (2 layers of foil) tightly. This helps prevents the liquid from flowing everywhere in case you poke or tear the foil.
- Smoke until you reach an internal temperature of 195 °F (91 °C). This will take another 2-3 hours and depends on the size of the meat.
- Remove from the smoker and let rest for 30 minutes and up to 2 hours before slicing.
- First cut the brisket in half, then slice across the flat against the grain. Then turn the point of the brisket 90 degrees and cut in half and slice along the point to ensure slicing against the grain. This ensures a tender and mouth-watering corned beef.
- Cool leftovers completely and then store in an airtight container for up to 4 days.