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Smoked Corned Beef

You can Traeger this St. Patrick's Day classic two different ways: Either starting with the brined corned beef sold in supermarkets, or making the DIY version with an unseasoned full packer brisket.

What Is Corned Beef?

Corned beef is beef brisket cured in flavored salt water (aka brine), then cooked.

When you buy uncooked meat labeled "corned beef" at the store, that means it has already been cured.

Can I Smoke Corned Beef?

You can absolutely smoke corned beef -- and it'll probably be the best you've ever had. You can smoke the pre-cured corned beef they sell at the supermarket. You can also buy unseasoned brisket, then cure and smoke it yourself.

How to Prepare Pre-Cured Corned Beef for Smoking

The pre-cured corned beef you buy at the store is extremely salty. If you plan to smoke it, you should first soak it in water for at least two hours and up to eight hours. This process will help draw out some of the salt.

If you don't have time to soak the corned beef, at least give it a thorough rinse. It will wash away some of the salt on the surface of the meat.

After the soaking or rinsing, pat the meat dry, and you're ready to smoke!

How to Buy Brisket for Making Smoked Corned Beef

The first thing to know about making corned beef from scratch is that it takes 4 to 5 days. Yes, days. So plan ahead!

The process starts by buying a brisket. Some large warehouse stores like Costco carry brisket all the time. If you plan to buy from your local butcher or supermarket, call them and ask -- they may have to special order it.

Briskets have two parts called the point and the flat. Either will work for corned beef. Sometimes you can buy the entire brisket, called a full packer. You can make corned beef from a full packer as well.

How to Prepare Brine for Making Smoked Corned Beef

Once you've purchased your brisket, you have to brine it. The brine adds flavor to the brisket, and makes it more tender.

A standard rule for brine is to use 1 cup of salt for every 1 gallon of water. But corned beef is traditionally heavy on the salt. Use 1½ cups of salt per gallon of water. The brine should also contain other flavor elements such as bay leaves, mustard seeds (and other spices). You can also use pickling spice which is a combination of herbs and spices. Another potential ingredient? This Traeger corned beef recipe calls for beer in the brine.

There are several different ways to make brine. One method is to add all the ingredients to a pot and stir it until the salt dissolves.

You can also toast the aromatic elements to enhance their flavors, and then heat the brine to a simmer, which will help the flavors blend and the salt to dissolve. Then you take the brine off the heat and let it rest until it returns to room temperature.

Once you've made the brine, add the brisket. Make sure the brisket is fully submerged. If any of the brisket is peeking out, the meat could spoil. If you haven't made enough brine for the brisket to be fully submerged, make more. Weigh the brine down with a plate or other heavy object so it will stay beneath the water.

Then, place the container in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days to cure, stirring daily.

Do I Need to Season Corned Beef?

You don't need to add extra seasoning to corned beef that has been cured. The curing liquid seasons the beef for you.

How to Smoke Corned Beef

After the soaking process, the cooking process is simple.

First, choose your smoking wood. Some of the best wood types for smoking corned beef are cherry, apple, hickory, or mesquite. The fruit woods -- cherry and apple -- will lend a sweet, subtle smoke flavor. Hickory and mesquite are stronger flavored woods.

Next, you'll choose your smoking temperature.

How Long Should You Smoke the Corned Beef?

Corned beef should be smoked until its internal temperature reaches 204 degrees Fahrenheit. So the temperature you choose, along with the size of your brisket, will determine how long the process will take.

A 3-pound corned beef brisket, smoked at 275 degrees Fahrenheit, will take approximately 4 to 5 hours to reach the desired temperature.

A full packer, 12- to 16-pound brisket, smoked at a similar temperature, will take between 7 and 10 hours to reach the desired temperature.

You can set your grill's temperature anywhere between 180 to 275 degrees to smoke corned beef brisket. The lower the temperature, the longer the cook will take, and the more smoke flavor your brisket will get.

If you want to speed up the cooking process, one method you can use is to start the cooking process at a low temperature (180 to 225 degrees) for a couple of hours, then increase the temperature to 325 degrees and cover with foil. At the low temperature, the corned beef will be directly exposed to the smoke and take on the woodsmoke flavor. Once the foil covering is on, it won't be getting much additional smoke, but it will reach the desired temperature faster.

To avoid overcooking the corned beef, use an internal thermometer to measure the temperature after the first few hours of smoking, and as needed through the rest of the cook. The brine you used before cooking, and the internal fat of the brisket, should keep it from drying out as long as you don't cook it much past 204 degrees Fahrenheit.

Smoked Corned Beef Recipes

Cook time: 5 hours

Serves: 4

Ingredients

1 (3 pounds) flat cut corned beef brisket, fat cap at least 1/4-inch thick

1 bottle Traeger Apricot BBQ Sauce

1/4 cup Dijon mustard

Smoked Corned Beef and Cabbage

Cook time: 5 hours

Serves: 6

Ingredients

1 (3-5 pounds) corned beef brisket

1 quart chicken stock

12-ounce beer, preferably pilsner or lager

1/4 teaspoon garlic salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, cut into slices

2 cups baby carrots

1 pound baby or fingerling potatoes

1 head cabbage, cut into wedges

2 tablespoons fresh chopped dill

Smoked Corned Beef

Cook time: 8 hours

Serves: A crowd

Ingredients

BRINE

1 tablespoon whole allspice berries

1 tablespoon yellow or brown mustard seeds

1 tablespoon coriander seeds

1 tablespoon red pepper flakes

1 tablespoon whole cloves

1 tablespoon black peppercorns

9 whole cardamom pods

6 large bay leaves

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1/2 cup brown sugar

4 tablespoons pink curing salt

1½ cups Jacobsen Salt Co. Pure Kosher Sea Salt

1/2 cinnamon stick

MAIN

1 (12-16 pounds) whole packer brisket

CORNED BEEF RUB

1 tablespoon whole allspice berries

1 tablespoon yellow or brown mustard seeds

1 tablespoon coriander seeds

1 tablespoon red pepper flakes

1 tablespoon whole cloves

1 tablespoon black peppercorns

9 whole cardamom pods

3 tablespoons fennel

6 large bay leaves, crumbled

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup kosher salt

3 tablespoons onion powder

3 tablespoons garlic powder

Beer Braised Corned Beef and Irish Vegetables

Cook time: 7 hours

Serves: 6

Ingredients

4 pounds corned beef brisket flat, fat cap at least 1/4-inch thick

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 tablespoon pickling spice

1/2 medium onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced or smashed

12-ounce Guinness beer

4 carrots, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch slices

1 pound of small red potatoes, washed, halved and cut into 3/4-inch slices

1/2 head cabbage, cut into wedges

1 teaspoon fresh thyme

Fresh chopped parsley, for garnish

Beer Brined Corned Beef

Cook time: 5 hours

Serves: A crowd

Ingredients

3 bottles (12-ounce) dark lager beer, apple juice, or water

3 quarts cold water

1½ cups kosher salt

1/2 cup brown sugar

1½ cups Morton Tender Quick Home Meat Cure

5 tablespoons pickling spice

1 medium onion, peeled and sliced thick

5 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed

1 (9-12 pounds) whole packer brisket, fat cap trimmed to 1/4-inch thick

Traeger Prime Rib Rub