Happy St. Patrick’s Day and welcome to this edition of the smoking meat newsletter. This week we are going to learn how to make smoked corned beef quesadillas also known as pastrami.
I am going to show you how to make some of the best smoked corned beef or pastrami you have ever eaten and then we will slice that up thin and use it to make some extraordinary quesadillas that your family and friends will be talking about for weeks to come.
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Smoked Corned Beef
Let me show you how to prepare and smoke up a corned beef to perfection then I’ll show you how to make them into quesadillas below.
What You’ll Need
How to Prepare the Corned Beef Brisket
Remove the corned beef brisket from the packaging and discard the seasoning packet if there is one.
Rinse the corned beef brisket under cold water and place it in a foil pan fat side down.
Optional Step: The corned beef is pretty salty by default due to the corning process.
If you want to remove some of the salt, you can soak it in cold water in the fridge replacing the water every 30-45 minutes or so.
Do this for at least 3 hours but it can be continued for as long as it takes to remove the sodium.
Once you feel that enough salt has been removed, slice off a small piece and throw it in the frying pan, give it a good sizzle and taste it to see if your assumptions are correct.
At this point, you can choose to soak longer or move on with the preparation of the corned beef.
I love to use my rub on corned beef but I always make a fresh batch and omit the salt from the recipe.
Even if you soak the corned beef as described above, it will still have enough salt so that you will probably want your rub to be salt free.
Lucky for you, my rub is low on salt anyway;-)
With the corned beef brisket in a foil pan fat side down, or laying on a cutting board or counter if you don’t have a foil pan, apply about 1 heaping tablespoon of dijon mustard to the top of the meat.
Spread it out with your hands or use a brush to make it easy. Be sure to get some on the sides as well.
Sprinkle a generous amount of rub on the top and sides of the corned beef brisket.
Flip the corned beef over to fat side up and repeat the steps with the Dijon mustard and my rub.
We are going to be placing the corned beef directly on the smoke grate for maximum smoke penetration but the pan makes a great way to carry the meat out to the smoker.
Tip: You can also use a Bradley rack for this purpose (which I love) and you never have to remove the meat from the rack until it’s done cooking and ready for slicing.
At this point the corned beef brisket is ready for the smoking part of this recipe. If you have not done so already, go get the smoker ready.
Getting the Smoker Ready
I opted to use the Great Outdoors Smoky Mountain smoker for this recipe so I filled the water pan with about 1 gallon of hot water and lit the burner. I also filled the chip box with pecan pellets and set it aside.
As I have mentioned before in previous articles, I have been using pellets instead of wood chips/chunks in this smoker and I am consistently getting 3-5 hours of smoke out of a single fill.
I am going to be shooting for about 250 degrees so I turn the gas knob to HIGH and that is where it will stay untit the meat is in place on the bottom grate just above the water pan where it will get plenty of smoke as well as steam action which I hope will help to make it tender and tasty in the end.
Once the smoker is heated to 250 degrees and climbing, I add the wood chip box to the smoker which gives me just enough time to go get the meat and place it on the grate before the smoke starts.
Smoking the Corned Beef Brisket
The meat is placed directly on the grate, fat side up.
If you are using the Bradley rack, lay the rack with the brisket fat side up on the grate of the smoker and close the door.
If you are using the propane smoker like mine, leave it on set on HIGH until you see smoke coming out of the top.
If the smoker starts getting too hot, you can crack the door open just a bit to keep it at bay while the smoke is getting going.
Once the smoke starts and the smoker is up to temperature, you can back the heat off enough so that it maintain 250 degrees throughout.
Below are some other wonderful and recommended smokers that I use regularly and have written information about..
Information on Popular Smokers
Here’s some information that I have written on various smokers. I hope to include more very soon.
- Bradley 4-Rack Digital Smoker – An electric smoker that is fully automated and keeps the temperature where you set it. It also keeps the smoke flowing via an automated mechanism that moves a new wood puck into the smoker every 20 minutes. See this smoker and read reviews on Amazon.com
- Weber Smokey Mountain 22.5 Smoker – the king of charcoal water smokers. Add charcoal, water and wood and you’re good to go for several hours. 3 dampers on the fire bowl allow you to dial in the air perfectly for maintaining perfect smoking temperatures. See this smoker and read reviews on Amazon.com
- Big Green Egg – Ceramic cooker that uses charcoal. Add lump charcoal, light it and add some wood.. set the top and bottom vent and you’re good to go for hours on end due to the thick walls that hold heat incredibly well.
- Great Outdoors Smoky Mountain Propane Smoker – A propane smoker that works exceptionally well. I have had mine for more than 8 years and it still works great. See this smoker and read reviews on Amazon.com
- More smokers on the way..
Note: In colder weather, it is advisable to preheat the smoker at least an hour or more before you are wanting to use it. Keep the door closed as much as possible and even skip basting if necessary to maintain proper smoking temperatures.
You can expect this corned beef brisket to take about 7-8 hours to finish but if you are using an electric, charcoal or gas smoker, you only need to apply smoke for about the first 4 hours.
After that, you can finish with just heat if you so desire.
To help the brisket to tenderize and to help power it to the finish line, you can place it in a foil pan fat side up once it reaches about 160 degrees.
Leave it in this configuration until it reaches 195-200 degrees.
Let it rest for about 30 minutes before attempting to slice it.
Slice the corned beef into 1/8 inch slices using an electric slicer or a very sharp knife.
Tip: Keep everyone out of the kitchen while you are slicing. I ended up being a little short on slices due to everyone grabbing slices and stuffing them into their mouth as it came out of the slicer.
Apparently the smoky flavor of the corned beef with the crusty mustard/rub exterior made it impossible to wait!
Making the Smoked Corned Beef Quesadillas
- Large flour tortillas (2 per quesadilla)
- Olive oil, butter or other cooking oil
- Swiss cheese
- Smoked Corned beef
- Spicy mustard sauce (recipe below*)
Place a tortilla on your cutting board or counter top
Add the cheese
Tear the smoked corned beef into pieces and lay them randomly on top of the cheese.
Add some sauerkraut here and there.
Top with more cheese (can’t have too much of the good stuff!)
Top with another flour tortilla
Brush oil onto the pizza stone right where you plan to place the quesadilla. (helps the browning process)
Lay the pizza stone onto the pizza stone on the Big Green Egg or other ceramic cooker set at 375 degrees F.
Note: You can also place on a pizza stone or cookie sheet in the oven preheated to 375 degrees F.
Wait about 5 minutes or until it gets brown enough for you.
Brush oil onto the top of the quesadilla and flip over onto pizza stone.
Remove from pizza stone when finished and cut into about 8 equal slices
Serve hot with my spicy mustard sauce*
These were delicious and the mustard sauce that I made using my own barbecue sauce really made them even more special in my opinion.
You could change these up a little by using a different kind of cheese such as cheddar, a mexican mix or even provolone.
If you don’t like sauerkraut, you can use another form of sour such as pepperoncini’s.
*Spicy Mustard Sauce
- 1/4 cup of Jeff’s Barbecue Sauce
- 1/4 cup Dijon Mustard
Combine well and place into a condiment cup or small bowl for dipping
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Smoke Corned Beef Rollups (Pinwheels)
Here’s a link to a page on how to make smoked corned beef rollups using flour tortillas, cream cheese, sauerkraut and of course, smoked corned beef served with that delicious spicy mustard sauce