Smoked Corned Beef Brisket (Pastrami)

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Nearly every New Years day and St. Patrick's day season, the corned beef briskets show up in stores and I start getting emails about smoked corned beef brisket or making homemade pastrami.

Pastrami is simply a corned beef brisket seasoned with a special blend of spices and then smoked until tender. In this variation, I am going to show you how to amp up the flavor with my original rub  and finish with a tasty horseradish mustard sauce.

It'll be the best smoked corned beef brisket you've ever had.. I have no doubts!

Helpful Information

  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 4-6 hours
  • Smoker Temp: 225-240°F
  • Meat Finish Temp: 195°F
  • Recommended Wood: Hickory

What You’ll Need

Picking Out the Best One

When you go to purchase a corned beef brisket, there will be every size and shape and weights ranging from 2.5 to 4 lbs usually with most of them right around 3 pounds.

Look for one that is of even thickness side to side and end to end and has a nice fat cap of about ¼ inch thick.

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Soaking to Remove Some Salt (optional)

Corned beef briskets are very salty and if you like it that way, then you can skip this step but if you want to remove some of that salt, it's pretty easy to do by simply soaking it in cold water in the fridge for several hours.

Change out the water every 30-45 minutes.

The longer you soak, the more salt is removed but typically 3-4 hours is plenty.

Prep the Corned Beef Brisket

I don't use the seasoning packet that is often included in the package but if you want to use it, do so before you add the rub and rub it all over the meat to get even distribution of the spices, herbs and seeds.

If you see any clumps or patches of fat on the corned beed brisket other than the on the fat cap side, you might consider removing it with a sharp knife. It's not something you have to do but it will improve the aesthetics and I am of the persuasion that we eat with our eyes as much as anything else so it's important for the end product to look as good and “well put together” as it possibly can.

Now we are ready to season the meat, place it fat cap down on a cutting board or down in a pan to contain the mess.

Add the Seasoning

Apply a good coat of horseradish mustard such as Dijon, Grey Poupon, etc. onto the top and sides of the brisket (fat cap side is down).

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Sprinkle Jeff's original rub liberally onto the top and sides of the brisket and pat it into place lightly with your hands or a fork but do not rub it in. We want to create a nice flavorful crust.

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Turn the meat over carefully to fat cap side up.

Repeat the horseradish mustard and Jeff's original rub  on the fat cap side.

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The corned beef brisket flat is ready to go into the smoker.

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I did mine the night before so it went over a pan, fat cap up, and into the fridge ready to go into the smoker the next morning.

Smoke Time

Place the meat directly on the rack or you can leave it on a pan with a rack, a cooling rack or a weber grill pan depending on what is convenient for you.

If you're using a smoker with multiple racks, you might consider placing the meat on an upper rack with a pan just below it to catch drippings.

Allow the meat to cook in the smoker for about 3 hours or until it reaches 140°F in the thickest part of the meat.

I used the “Smoke” thermometer by Thermoworks to monitor temperature.

Note: If you're looking for a digital meat thermometer, my guide called “6 best digital meat thermometers” will help you decide which one is best for you.

You can continue to add smoke throughout this initial smoke time.

Braise in Foil

When the corned beef brisket has reached 140°F and has been cooking for about 3 hours (varies by meat thickness), it is time to do some braising to tenderize the meat.

The horseradish mustard really goes well with the smoked corned beef and in this variation, I have mixed the horseradish mustard with equal parts of my barbecue sauce. This was so good I was licking the spoon.. of course, I love horseradish so the new combination of flavors was amazing!

Use about ½ cup of Jeff's original barbecue sauce with about ½ cup of the horseradish mustard and stir to combine. Make a little extra if you want extra for using later on a sandwich.

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Lay down a pad of the mustard in the bottom of a foil pan and lay the meat, still fat cap up, onto the mustard.

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Brush a good layer of the mustard sauce onto the top of the fat cap as well. Be generous!

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Cover the top of the pan tightly with foil and place it back into the smoker. The oven can also be used in this last stage of the process since the meat is covered in foil.

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Note: It is important to continue monitoring the temperature of the meat so make sure a probe is inserted into the thickest part of the meat and that the foil is sealed around the probe wire. You can also place a small hole in the foil top to push the probe through.

With the meat covered in foil, there is no need to continue adding smoke, maintain the heat at 225-240°F until the thickest part of the meat reaches about 195°F.

Rest and Slice

Let the meat rest for at least 30 minutes or up to an hour in the foil with a thick towel laid over the foiled top or you can leave it in the smoker or oven at 140-170°F during the resting period if you so desire.

Remove the meat from the pan and onto a cutting board or plate.

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Slice into pieces the thickness of a pencil and across the grain for best results.

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3.7 from 23 votes

Smoked Corned Beef Brisket for New Years

Why not make smoked corned beef brisket this New Years day and it's so easy you'll probably find yourself doing this throughout the rest of the year as well.
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time6 hours
Total Time6 hours 10 minutes
Servings: 6



  • Remove the corned beef brisket from the package.
  • To remove extra salt, soak the meat in cold water in the fridge, changing out the water every 30 minutes.
  • Three to four hours should be plenty of soak time to remove the extra salt.
  • Remove any excess fat on the non fat cap side of the brisket.
  • Coat the entire corned beef brisket with horseradish mustard then apply Jeff's original rub liberally to all sides.
  • Pat the rub down as it is applied rather than massaging it in.
  • Set up smoker for cooking at 225°F with hickory smoke.
  • Place the corned beef brisket on the smoker grate and smoke cook for 3 hours or until it reaches 140°F in the center of the thickest part.
  • Make a mustard sauce by mixing equal parts of Jeff's original barbecue sauce with horseradish mustard such as Dijon or Grey Poupon.
  • Create a pad of mustard in the bottom of a pan and lay the meat on the pad fat cap side up.
  • Brush more of the mustard sauce onto the fat cap and cover tightly with foil.
  • Place the meat back into the smoker at 225°F and continue cooking until it reaches 195°F in the thickest part.
  • Let the meat rest under foil for 30 minutes then slice pencil thick and serve.

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Recipe Rating


  1. 3 stars
    Followed it exactly and too temp and it was tough and not tender all. The taste was overwhelming and I wish I did different rubs minus the horseradish and rub mustard. It took like 7 hours and it was a tough chew.. I was the only one that ate it. My wife had TMJ and got a sore jaw and my kids were not interested.. I was so disappointed.

  2. 1 star
    I had to cook sealed in oven at 300F for another 2hrs before it was tender. I also scraped all the rub/mustard/horseradish/BBQ off after smoking as directed above, as they ruined the natural corned beef flavor. Then it was wonderful

  3. Seeing Brenda’s comment below, that is how mine turned out, and this was a Sam’s Club Maker high quality brisket. My finish temp was 205 from smoker.

  4. 2 stars
    Personally, I found these spices detracted significantly from the flavor of the corned beef. Also, smoking for this length of time @ 225F did not result in a tender meat. I had to put in oven at 300F for 2-3 more hours to have it be juicy and tender, after scraping off all the rub/mustard/horseradish.

  5. Jeff always enjoy & also thanks for the Pinterest button. I have my corn beef & am going to use it as well as your tips. I normally do mine in Instant Pot & on my own a year or so ago tried the packaged one in my Z grill, but thought that with it being already cured only went to about 145 degrees, WRONG so damn tough I did pretty much save it but did very thin slicer job & made jerky with my dehydrator after adding so teriyaki & other normal jerky items. Edible, yes good, not so much!!
    Harold W2HR (Allways a true follower) from Southern Oregon.

  6. 5 stars
    I followed your instructions to the T.
    All I can say is OMG!
    I did 3 for a st pattys day party at my daughters.

    It was a hit.!

    Even my wife who hates corned beef was like this is really good.
    Only thing I will change on my end is half the hot stuff in the rub and bbq sauce. I love hot but most where like dam this is good but hot.

    The meat was super tender and just delicious.

    Thanks for the recipe.10/10 👍😁

  7. 5 stars
    Definitely a keeper!
    I picked up a cheap corned beef after St. Patrick’s day and thawed it out this past week for a trip to the smoker. Followed your steps and put it in my Smokin-it #2 on 225 deg for 2 1/2 hours (138 deg IT) then covered and back in for another 2 1/2 hours (190 deg IT). Seriously good pastrami and served with cole slaw and homemade Russian dressing…delicious. Will be doing this one again for sure.

  8. 1 star
    Not sure why this didn’t turn out, but the roast never got soft or tender. It was the toughest thing that ever came off of my Traeger smoker! We threw it out because it wasn’t edible. I followed the recipe exactly and had the right cut of meat(I smoke different foods all the time). I definitely will not be making this again.

    1. Brenna, what was your finish temperature? I’ve never seen a brisket/corned beef of any kind that did not get somewhat tender if it’s allowed to cook to an internal temperature of 200°F.

  9. Don’t know what I did wrong. Made this for NYE. Ran at 225 F in an MES for 7 hours before I took them out at 180F. At 140, wrapped in foil with some liquid to braise. Taste was good but it was not tender at all.

    1. Bill,
      When this has happened to me with brisket, it was because I bought USDA Select grade rather than USDA Choice or Prime. It makes a big difference. I don’t know if that could be your problem, but just a thought…

  10. 5 stars
    Bought a tip cut instead of flat due to extreme sale during St. Patty’s day. I followed this recipe pretty much exactly, and it turned out great. I did soak the meat for a few hours in cool water, changing the water multiple times, to try to leech some of the salt. I smoked mine over hickory.

    Definitely a very unique combo of flavors. Everyone enjoyed it, I will definitely be making this every year for st. patty’s.