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Smoked Corned Beef Brisket (Pastrami)

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Many people eat corned beef brisket only once a year around St. Patricks day however, I see it in the grocery store all year long. If you ever try cooking it with smoke, you might decide to have it a little more often.. it’s delicious!!

If you want to pickle (corn) one yourself, well, it’s pretty easy to do and I can help you with that as well. Check out my 2-part instruction for that at the following links:

Part One: Curing a Brisket for Homemade Pastrami

Part Two: Smoking a Home Cured Brisket

If you want to just try it out using a store-bought cured brisket (corned beef) then read on.

Helpful Information
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 6-10 hours (depends on thickness of meat)
  • Smoker Temp: 240°F
  • Meat Finish Temp: 190°F
  • Recommended Wood: Cherry
What You’ll Need
Step 1: Test/Modify the Saltiness

When you purchase a corned beef brisket from the store, it may very well be too salty for you and thankfully, there is an easy way to remove some of the salt if necessary.

Cut off a small bite sized piece of the meat and fry it in a pan until it’s well done. Then give it a taste.

If it seems really salty to you, simply place the corned beef brisket into a pan of cold water and place it in the fridge for about 2 hours. This will leech a lot of that salt out of the meat.

Do another fry/taste test and see if that’s better.

If it’s still too salty, soak it for another 2 hours in clean, cold water in the fridge and test again

Once you get the meat at the right salt level for you, you can proceed with step 2 below.

Step 2: Season the Corned Beef

Lay the meat in a pan (recommended) so you can season it on all sides without making a huge mess.

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Brush vegetable or olive oil onto all sides of the meat to help the rub to stick. Regular yellow mustard also works well for this task.

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Apply a generous portion of my Texas style rub  to all sides of the corned beef brisket.

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My corned beef had a seasoning packet which included seeds of fennel, coriander, mustard and caraway along with allspice, cinnamon, pepper, dried chili and pieces of bay leaf. I decided to go ahead and use it on the very top of the beef to enhance the color and flavor.

If your’s does not have a seasoning packet, you can add on some common pickling spices (available in a small can where you purchase spices)

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You can season the night before if you wish or you can perform this task right before you are ready to smoke the corned beef. Your choice.

Once seasoned, the corned beef brisket is placed on a rack (if you have one) to make it very easy to transport the beef to and from the smoker.

I actually placed mine on a piece of wood for presentation purposes however, due to the low, indirect temperature of the smoker, the wood plank will not get hot enough to smoke and add any immediate flavor to the meat so it’s just for looks.

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Step 3: Smoking the Beef

Set up your smoker for cooking indirect at about 225-240°F using cherry wood if you have it. Any smoking wood will work just fine.

If your smoker uses a water pan, fill it up. A little humidity in the smoker goes a long way toward helping the meat to not dry out as bad in the smoker.

Once the smoker is ready to go, place the corned beef brisket flat in the smoker on the rack or directly on the grate.

My corned beef brisket had a very thin fat cap so I placed it in the smoker with the fat cap facing down. Once again, this was for presentation purposes and I wanted the top side to be meat with the seasoned crust.. no fat.

Monitor the temperature of the brisket using a digital probe meat thermometer such as the Smoke by ThermoWorks so you will know exactly when it’s done.

The meat is safe to eat when it reaches 160°F but is usually cooked to 190°F to allow it to get more tender.

You can expect this to take from 6-10 hours depending on the thickness of the corned beef brisket that you are using. The thicker is is, the longer it will take to reach it’s done temperature.

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Step 4: Slice and Serve

When the meat is done cooking, it can be held for 3-4 hours (if needed) wrapped in foil until dinner time as long as it is kept at or above 140°F.

To serve, slice the meat up into ¼ inch pieces.

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Smoked Corned Beef Brisket (Pastrami)

After eating this stuff right out of the smoker and seeing how good it tastes and how easy it is make, you might just make this a a lot more often at your house.

  • Author: Jeff Phillips
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 8 hours
  • Total Time: 8 hours 15 minutes
  • Yield: 6
  • Category: Entree
  • Cuisine: Hot Smoking

Ingredients

Instructions

Step 1: Season the Corned Beef

  1. Rinse the corned beef brisket under cold water
  2. Lay the meat in a pan (recommended) so you can season it on all sides without making a huge mess.
  3. Brush vegetable or olive oil onto all sides of the meat to help the rub to stick
  4. Apply a generous portion of my Texas style rub to all sides of the corned beef brisket
  5. My corned beef had a seasoning packet which included seeds of fennel, coriander, mustard and caraway along with allspice, cinnamon, pepper, dried chili and pieces of bay leaf. I decided to go ahead and use it on the very top of the beef to enhance the color and flavor.
  6. If your’s does not have a seasoning packet, you can add on some common pickling spices (available in a small can where you purchase spices)
  7. You can season the night before if you wish or you can perform this task right before you are ready to smoke the corned beef. Your choice.
  8. Once seasoned, the corned beef brisket is placed on a rack to make it very easy to transport the beef to and from the smoker.

Step 2: Smoking the Beef

  1. Set up your smoker for cooking indirect at 225-240°F using cherry wood if you have it. Any there smoking wood will work fine.
  2. If you have a water pan, use it. A little humidity in the smoker goes a long way toward helping the meat to not dry out as bad in the smoker.
  3. Once the smoker is ready to go, place the corned beef brisket flat in the smoker on a rack or directly on the grate.
  4. Monitor the temperature of the brisket using a digital probe meat thermometer so you will know exactly when it’s done.
  5. The meat is safe to eat when it reaches 160°F but is usually cooked to 190°F or higher to allow it to get more tender.
  6. You can expect this to take from 6-10 hours depending on the thickness of the corned beef brisket that you are using. The thicker is is, the longer it will take to reach it’s done temperature.

Step 3: Slice and Serve

  1. When the meat is done cooking, it can be held for 3-4 hours (if needed) wrapped in foil until dinner time as long as it is kept at or above 140°F.
  2. To serve, slice the meat up into ¼ inch pieces.

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11 Comments

  1. I made ths over the weekend and was very glad I did although I can’t believe the shrinkage from a 5.5 lbs flat. Next time I will soak the meat more to get rid of the salt as I felt it was a tad salty but I still gave the recipe 5 stars for taste and texture … the saltiness was my own error and not the fault of the recipe. I just received your cookbook today and look forward to making other recipes from it. My next attempt will be shrimps and smoked cheese for Easter. This newbie is enjoying smoking as a new hobby!

  2. I made this over the weekend and was surprised how much it shrunk for a 5,5 lbs flat. The next time I’ll soak the meat more beforehand as I foumd it a little too salty for my taste. I still give it stars for taste and texture because the saltiness was my fault I believe. I just received your cookbook today and look forward to trying more recipes from it. Next attempt will be shrimps and smoked cheese for Easter! Can’t wait!

  3. we made this a couple weeks after St Patrick’s Day it was a big hit we made a seven and a half pound corned beef briskets and a seven and a half pound beef brisket in the corned beef was definitely the winner of the two I really appreciate these emails they give me great ideas

  4. I made this last night. 2 families so we had to corned beef briskets a small one at 2.1# and a larger one at 3.3#.. I rinsed the briskets the night before, covered in olive oil then seasoned and refrigerated over night. I didn’t have all the ingredients to make Jeff’s rub, so I used my lowest sodium rub (Kinders). When I removed the briskets from the package, the smaller one smelled like corned beef and the larger one not so much. Interestingly, the smaller one tasted great after smoking and the larger one was too salty. Almost not edible. I ended up slicing it thin like pastrami and I’ll try it on a sandwich. Unexpected results…

  5. Jeff, as far as making up a seasoning mix, does it matter whether the garlic and onion is granulated as opposed to powder?

  6. Jeff – wish you would have chosen a whole packer brisket and showed us how to break it down. I’ve always been taught that you brine for a week in a water/pickling spice combination, then it is cold smoked, then it is steamed. I’m sure this method is tasty but I sure wouldn’t call it Pastrami.

    1. Whether I spend a week or more pickling or brining the brisket flat or whether I let someone else do that for me does not take away from what it becomes when smoked. Can you do a better job of pickling it at home? Probably so, with the right method but, this recipe is about using something ordinary purchased at the store and making it pretty amazing.

      1. I used a 3.5 lb corned beef brisket from my local wegmans grocery store. I used Jeff’s original rub with called for salt. I used my Weber WSM 22.5. I used applewood for the smoke and the total time was just about 10 hours. It was a very windy day so my temps varied from 130 – 150. I wanted to pull it early and glad I waited till we hit 190. Sliced cross grain, the meat was so juicy and tender. It had a sweet / spicy / salty flavor. Sadly, there were no left overs to have with eggs on rye bread the next day. This was a great recipe from Jeff and so to prep and cook. I always make a double batch of Jeff’s original rub and keep on hand for seasoning rice and sausage dishes. The dark brown sugar has such an awesome taste.