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How To: Smoked Corned Beef

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Prepare to celebrate St. Patrick's Day like never before with an irresistible smoked corned beef made with wood-fired flavor. Whether you're honoring tradition March, or savoring the savory, melt-in-your-mouth texture year-round, this dish promises a feast fit for any occasion.

Learn how to prepare and smoke this delicate piece of meat, and about the best sides to pair with it.


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?

Smoking corned beef is not only possible but highly recommended for anyone looking to elevate their flavor game. When it comes to achieving rich flavor and a tender texture, there's no better arsenal than a Traeger Grill. With its precise temperature control and wood-fired flavor, a Traeger smoker transforms ordinary corned beef into a mouthwatering masterpiece whether you're smoking pre-made corned beef or home-cured.

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 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, especially on popular days like St. Patty's.

Briskets have two parts called the point and the flat. Either will work for corned beef. If you're having a larger gathering (or just want lots of leftovers) you can make smoked corned beef by cooking full packer (contains the point and flat).

How to Prepare Brine for Making Smoked Corned Beef

Brining is the secret sauce behind every succulent bite of corned beef, and a necessary step in preparation if you want your brisket to be infused with flavor, tenderness, and moisture.

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, and 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 dissolve. After that, 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°F, 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°F 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°F) for a couple of hours, then increase the temperature to 325°F and cover with foil. At a 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 a MEATER 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°F.


Best Smoked Corned Beef Recipe

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Whether you're a seasoned corn beef cook or you want to try this delicious recipe out for the first time, our smoked corned beef brisket is the perfect one to make this Saint Patrick's Day. The secret? Covering your beef with Dijon mustard and Traeger Apricot BBQ Sauce sauce for a sweet and tangy taste to complement the unbeatable wood-fired flavor. Explore our step-by-step guide:

  1. Prep the Brisket: Soak your brisket for 8 hours, remember to change the water every 2 hours, and then pat it dry with paper towels. Trim any excess fat from the surface to ensure even smoking and flavor absorption.

  2. Prepare Your Traeger: After your 8-hour soak, fire up your Traeger and set the temperature to 275°F and let it preheat for 15 minutes with the lid closed.

  3. First Cook: For your first cook, insert your MEATER into the thickest part of the brisket and place it directly onto the grill grates, fat-side-up, and smoke with the lid closed for 2 hours.

  4. Seasoning: Rather than use a dry rub (though some salt and pepper never hurt), you'll prepare a wet mixture of Traeger Apricot BBQ Sauce and Dijon mustard. Once it's been whisked together, pour half the mixture into the bottom of a disposable aluminum foil pan. Then, transfer your brisket fat side up and pour the remaining sauce mixture on top. This will add depth and complexity to the flavor profile. Make sure to cover the pan tightly with foil.

  5. Additional Smoking: After you've drowned your corned beef in sauce, return it back to the grill and continue to cook until the internal temperature reaches 203°F - roughly about 2-3 hours more.

  6. Rest and Slice: Once the brisket is done cooking, resist the urge to dive right in. Let it rest in the foil for at least 30 minutes to allow the juices to redistribute. Then, carefully unwrap the brisket and slice it against the grain into thick, juicy slices.

  7. Serve and Enjoy: Now comes the best part—dig in. Serve your smoked corned brisket alongside your favorite sides, such as cabbage, mashed potatoes, or tangy sauerkraut. Don't forget to pour yourself a cold beverage and savor every mouthwatering bite of your masterpiece.

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