How to Smoke a Corned Beef Brisket: Easy Steps for a Delicious Result

Discover the art of smoking a corned beef brisket to unlock deep flavors and tender textures.

Smoking a corned beef brisket can elevate your BBQ game to new heights, and it’s easier than you might think. This process involves curing the beef, then slow-smoking it to perfection, resulting in a tender, flavorful dish that’s sure to impress.

This article will guide you step-by-step through the process, providing tips on selecting the right brisket, the optimal smoking temperature and time, and even how to achieve that coveted smoke ring.

Let’s delve into the details to help you master the art of smoking a corned beef brisket.

Key takeaways:

  • Consider the weight and cut of the corned beef brisket
  • Acquire the necessary tools for smoking
  • Use the appropriate ingredients and substitutions for the recipe
  • Follow the preparation and smoking process carefully
  • Rest and slice the smoked brisket properly, and consider serving suggestions

Selecting Corned Beef Brisket

Corned Beef Brisket

Consider the weight: Typically, a corned beef brisket weighs between 3 to 5 pounds. It’s vital to consider how many people you’re planning to feed.

Point cut versus flat cut: This difference is essential to remember when making a purchase. The point cut tends to be thicker with more fat, promising a juicier result but it can be tougher. While the flat cut is leaner meat but can risk ending up a little drier if not properly handled during smoking.

Checking for quality: Look for a piece that has consistent coloring, without any graying. The fat should be white or cream colored.

Avoid excessive liquid: Too much brine can make the beef overly salty. Look for vacuum-sealed packs where the pink meat is clearly visible and not drowning in liquid.

Pre-cured or not: If you’re short on time, select a pre-cured corned beef brisket. This means it has already been soaked in a curing solution of water, salt, and spices. If you prefer fresh, uncured cuts, consider that you’ll need a few days to brine it yourself.

Choosing Between Flat Vs Point Cut

flat Cut Corned Beef Brisket

A key step in smoking a perfect corned beef brisket is deciding between a flat cut and a point cut. This decision significantly impacts the cooking process and final outcome.

Flat cuts, lean and more uniform in shape, are ideal for neat, consistent slices. This cut typically has a fat cap on one side aiding in flavor during the cooking process. However, it can turn out slightly drier due to its low-fat content.

Point cuts, on the other hand, are marbled with fat throughout. This renders a juicier and more flavorful brisket but can make slicing a bit messy due to the irregular shape. It’s crucial to understand these differences when selecting your brisket cut for smoking.

Action points:

  • Determine your preference in terms of neat slices or juicy flavors.
  • Assess needs based on the number of people being catered to.
  • Consider the capacity of your smoker or grill.
  • Visit a reputable butcher to purchase your chosen cut.
  • Request the butcher trim the fat cap on a flat cut to about 1/4 inch if it is thicker than that.

Acquiring Necessary Tools for Smoking

grill with a smoking

Securing the right tools is paramount to achieving a perfectly smoked corned beef brisket.

A smoker or a grill with a smoking functionality will lead the list. Smokers come in various types: pellet, electric, charcoal, and gas. Each offers a different flavor influence, with pellet smokers being a favorite due to the variety of wood pellet types available.

Heatproof or BBQ gloves are essential for safety. They offer protection when handling hot meat or adjusting grill grates.

Invest in a decent meat thermometer. It takes the guesswork out of determining whether the brisket is ready.

Metal or wooden skewers help in checking the meat’s tenderness. If it goes through the meat without resistance, the brisket is likely ready.

A good set of tongs will assist in handling the meat. Go for a long-handled pair to ensure a safe distance from the heat.

Lastly, consider a sharp carving knife for slicing the brisket. It should cut smoothly, preventing the meat from tearing and preserving its juicy interior.

Now, let’s move onto the recipe ingredients and possible substitutions.

Listing Recipe Ingredients and Possible Substitutions

high-quality brisket

A high-quality brisket, anywhere between 4-6 lbs, forms the cornerstone of this recipe. The corned variant adds a distinctive flavor profile, making the smoking process differ from traditional brisket.

For the smoking wood, hickory or mesquite is advisable due to their robust and hearty notes. However, other woods like apple or cherry could be an alternative, as they generate a milder, sweeter smoke that pairs well with red meat.

A basic dry rub comes next, a blend of spices including paprika, garlic and onion powder, dry mustard, black pepper, and brown sugar. Feel free to experiment by adding or substituting elements such as turmeric or chili flakes as per personal preference.

Finally, a drip pan underneath the brisket filled with liquid (water, stock, or beer) aids in maintaining the brisket’s moisture during smoking. This could be substituted with apple juice or even a mixture of cider vinegar and dissolved brown sugar for a caramelized finish.

Identifying and acquiring these key ingredients will set the stage for a successful smoking process, resulting in a flavorful and tender corned beef brisket.

Preparation Process for Corned Beef Brisket

corned Beef Brisket preparation

To begin, rinse your corned beef brisket under cold running water to get rid of the excess brine. Pat it dry using clean kitchen towels. This step is crucial because it helps to ensure the smoke adheres to the brisket effectively.

Next, you’ll need to prepare a dry rub for your brisket. A basic rub for corned beef brisket generally consists of black pepper, coriander, and mustard seed. Grind these spices and massage them generously into the meat. Ensure all sides are well coated.

After applying your dry rub, let the brisket rest in the refrigerator. This allows the spices to penetrate into the meat, deepening the flavor. The rest period can range anywhere from 2 hours to overnight, depending on how much time you have.

Remember, the longer the brisket rests, the richer the flavors will be once it’s smoked. Do not skip this step, as it’s part of what gives smoked corned beef its distinctive and delicious taste.

Before you begin the smoking process, allow the brisket to come to room temperature. It ensures the meat cooks evenly once in the smoker.

While your brisket is resting, it’s time to prepare your smoker. Fill your smoker’s water pan, preheat it to the recommended temperature, and add your choice of wood pellets or chips for smoke. Preferably, choose wood with a mild flavor like apple or cherry. They complement the flavors of the corned beef brisket without overwhelming it.

By following these steps, your corned beef brisket will be well-prepared and ready for smoking.

Detailed Smoking Procedure On a Traeger/Pellet Grill

empty pellet grill

Preheat the Traeger/Pellet Grill to a target temperature of about 225°F, a suitable temperature for slow smoking corned beef brisket that allows the meat to reach a tender point.

Place the prepared corned beef brisket onto the grill grates, fatty side up. The fat layer aids in self-basting the meat while it smokes, improving its taste and texture.

Keep the lid of your smoker closed as much as possible to maintain the precise temperature and smoke levels. Don’t let curiosity get the better of you; resist the urge to frequently check the meat.

Make use of the grill’s thermometer probe by inserting it into the thickest part of the brisket. This enables continuous monitoring of the internal meat temperature without having to open the smoker.

Aim for an internal meat temperature of around 190°F for optimal tenderness. This usually takes about an hour per pound of meat, but can vary depending on the exact cut and specific grill performance.

Once your brisket reaches the target internal temperature, remove it from the grill. Remember it will continue to cook from residual heat, so ensuring it doesn’t overcook is essential.

Finally, wrap the smoked corned beef brisket in aluminum foil. This step is crucial as it allows the meat to rest, letting the juices redistribute evenly, enhancing the brisket’s flavor.

Time and Temperature Guidelines for Smoking

cooking smoker temperature

Consistency is key when smoking a corned beef brisket. Maintaining an accurate temperature throughout the process ensures the meat cooks evenly and acquires that desired smoky flavor.

– Start with preheating the smoker to 225°F. This lower temperature helps infuse the meat with the right amount of smoke without overcooking.

– Carefully place the brisket in the smoker, fat side up. This allows the fat to slowly melt and baste the meat as it cooks.

– Keep the meat at 225°F for approximately 1 to 1.5 hours per pound. For a standard 5 lb corned beef brisket, that’s an estimated 5 to 7.5 hours of smoking time.

– Monitor internal temperature using a meat thermometer. Aim for an internal temperature of 190°F to 200°F. This range signifies that the proteins have broken down sufficiently, yielding a tender brisket.

– Always remember: patience yields perfection. Don’t rush the process by increasing the temperature – low and slow is the key to succulent, smoky corned beef brisket.

Resting and Slicing the Smoked Brisket

Slicing the Smoked Brisket

Once the smoked corned beef brisket achieves the desired internal temperature, remove it from the smoker and wrap it snugly in aluminum foil. This allows the meat to reabsorb some of the juices that it exuded during cooking, often referred to as “resting” the meat.

Leave the wrapped brisket to rest for at least 20 minutes, or up to an hour if time allows. Resting not only makes the meat juicier, but it also makes it easier to slice as it won’t be as hot.

When it comes to slicing, it’s essential to cut against the grain. This means you should make your slices perpendicular to the lines of muscle fiber, visible on the meat. Cutting against the grain provides a tender bite, as it shortens the fibers and makes the meat easier to chew.

Pay attention to the brisket itself, as corned beef often has two different muscle sections that may have grains running in separate directions. You may need to change your cutting direction when you transition to a different muscle.

Slice with a sharp knife for best results. The thickness of your slices will depend on your personal preference and the intended use of the beef. A thickness of 1/4 to 1/2 inch is often recommended.

For best presentation, arrange your slices on a platter, perhaps dressed with some of the cooking juices. You are now ready to serve your smoked corned beef brisket.

Serving Suggestions for Smoked Corned Beef Brisket

Smoked Brisket with potatoes

For a traditional approach, carve the smoked corned beef brisket and serve alongside boiled potatoes, carrots, and cabbage. This combination of dishes often brings out the natural flavors in the brisket.

Pair your corned beef with a slice of hearty rye bread or sourdough and a slather of grainy mustard or horseradish sauce. These accents can provide a nice contrast to the richness of the meat.

Create a Reuben sandwich, laden with sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, and Russian dressing. Simply assemble the components and lightly grill the sandwich for a crispy exterior and gooey interior.

For a less conventional side, consider smoked or grilled vegetables. Asparagus, bell peppers, or zucchini can complement the robust flavors of the brisket.

Add corned beef as a protein boost in salads. It will harmonize with a crisp, fresh green salad or a vibrant coleslaw.

Lastly, transform leftover brisket into a hash for the next morning’s breakfast. Accompany it with scrambled or poached eggs for a filling start to your day.

Handling and Storing Corned Beef Leftovers

Smoked Brisket in container

Proper handling of your corned beef brisket leftovers is essential to ensure food safety and quality. Firstly, allow the brisket to cool at room temperature, but not for over two hours. You can then slice the remaining meat into smaller pieces for more manageable storage.

For safe and hygienic storage, use airtight containers or heavy-duty freezer bags. Make sure to remove as much air as possible from the bags before sealing them. This method not only saves space but also prevents freezer burn.

Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator if you intend to consume them within three to four days. For longer storage, the freezer is your best option, where corned beef brisket can be kept for up to 2-3 months. Label the packages with the date to track the storage time.

When you’re ready to feast on the leftovers, reheating properly is a crucial step. Refrigerated leftovers should be heated thoroughly to a minimum internal temperature of 165°F to ensure food safety considerations. If you’ve frozen your corned beef, thaw it in the refrigerator, not on the counter, to prevent bacterial growth.

Remember, the quality of the reheated corned beef may decrease over time, especially if frozen and thawed repeatedly. Hence, only thaw as much as you’ll use at once.


How do you smoke store bought corned beef?

To smoke store-bought corned beef, preheat the smoker to 250°F, smoke the beef for 3-4 hours until it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F, then add it to a pan with beef stock, cover with foil, and return it to the smoker until the internal temperature hits 205-210°F.

How do you smoke a brisket so it is tender?

To ensure a tender brisket, you should smoke it at a temperature of 250 degrees Fahrenheit using cherry or apple wood, which facilitates the breakdown of connective tissue and renders intramuscular fat, maintaining its tenderness and juicy flavor.

What is the secret to smoking brisket?

The secret to smoking brisket lies in the approach of cooking it slowly at a low temperature, often starting the process early in the day to ensure it’s done by dinner time.

What is the ideal temperature and duration for smoking a corned beef brisket?

The ideal temperature for smoking a corned beef brisket is approximately 225°F (107°C) for about 1 hour and 30 minutes per pound.

Which types of wood chips are best for smoking a corned beef brisket and why?

Hickory and apple wood chips are ideal for smoking a corned beef brisket due to their robust, slightly sweet flavors that compliment the savory beef without overpowering it.

How can one utilize a dry rub or marinade to enhance the flavor of a smoked brisket?

To enhance the flavor of a smoked brisket, one can utilize a dry rub or marinade by thoroughly covering the meat with a blend of spices, herbs, and other flavor ingredients before smoking, allowing it to sit for several hours or overnight for the flavors to infuse the meat.