This Smoked Corned Beef is seasoned with a simple BBQ dry rub and slow smoked until each slice is tender and melt-in-your-mouth. Pile it into sandwiches for St. Patrick’s Day and don’t forget the homemade honey mustard sauce for dipping!
Fire up the smoker because this Smoked Corned Beef is salty, fatty, and downright irresistible! This mostly hands-off process will teach you how to cook corned beef in a smoker, leaving you with smoky and rich slices of beef that make for the best sandwiches.
It’s the best recipe for amateur pitmasters, aside from my Smoked Pork Belly.
I typically make classic corned beef and cabbage in my slow cooker or Instant Pot, but smoking adds layers of smoky aromas you can’t achieve from other methods. A simple dry rub creates a delicate peppery crust on the surface while the meat stays soft and succulent inside.
Serving this corned beef with cabbage and potatoes makes for a classic St. Patrick’s Day meal. However, I won’t blame you if you want to enjoy it every day of the year. Don’t forget to pair it with the homemade, 3-ingredient honey mustard sauce. The added tang complements the smoky beef perfectly!
🥩 What is corned beef?
Corned beef is essentially beef brisket that’s been cured in a salt brine and pickling spices. The term “corned beef” comes from the large kernels (“corns”) of salt rubbed onto the surface of the brisket.
Beef brisket is cut from a large portion of the animal’s muscle which contains a lot of connective fiber, meaning it’s naturally tough. That’s why, when cooking corned beef, it’s traditionally cooked low and slow to help the fat and fibers break down and slowly absorb into the meat. As a result, the meat becomes incredibly flavorful and tender.
- Corned beef brisket – Instead of brining the brisket yourself, buy ready-to-eat corned beef brisket from your local deli or butcher. The full cut includes the flat cut and point cut, but butchers often separate the two. The flat is the leanest, while the point is where most fat marbling and flavor are.
- Beef broth – It’s added halfway through the cooking time to keep the meat moist and juicy.
- Spice rub – A simple blend of black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, ground coriander, and brown sugar brings big flavor to the beef.
- Honey mustard sauce – A quick mix of honey (or agave syrup) and brown mustard tastes amazing with the smoky beef. To make the sauce creamy, you can add Greek yogurt. This honey mustard dipping sauce also pairs well with corned beef.
📋 How to make smoked corned beef
First and foremost, you need a smoker to make this recipe. An electric, gas, or charcoal smoker will work. A charcoal grill is the next best option – just smoke the beef over the indirect heat from lit wood chips and charcoal.
Here’s how it’s done:
Soak the corned beef
Remove the meat from the packaging and discard the spice packet (or save it for later). Soak the meat in water for at least 2 hours or overnight. Drain and change the water 3 or 4 times. Once it’s ready, remove the beef from the water and pat dry.
Apply the dry rub
Mix the black pepper, brown sugar, garlic powder, onion powder, and ground coriander together in a small bowl. Rub the mixture generously all over the corned beef.
Smoke the corned beef
Place the corned beef on the preheated smoker, fat side up. Cook until the internal temperature reaches 160ºF.
Transfer the brisket (fat side up) to an aluminum pan filled with the beef broth. Cover in foil and place it back on the smoker. Continue smoking until the internal temperature reaches 205ºF.
Rest, then slice
When it’s reached the right temperature, take the beef off of the heat and let it rest for at least 15 minutes. Slice it against the grain and layer it into beefy sandwiches drizzled with honey mustard sauce. Enjoy!
✔️ Corned beef do’s and don’ts
- Don’t skip the soak – Since corned beef is salt-cured, I highly recommend soaking it in water for at least 2 hours or overnight to rinse the intense saltiness.
- Don’t trim the fat – There’s no need to trim the fat from brisket. It’s responsible for keeping the meat moist as it smokes.
- Do season generously – Don’t be shy! You want the spice rub to be caked over every inch of the surface like a thin, crispy crust.
🍽 Serving suggestions
There’s no wrong way to serve smoked brisket, whether you pack it into sandwiches, make it the centerpiece at the barbecue, or enjoy it as the main on St. Patrick’s Day. This is how I like to use it:
- With classic BBQ sides – Make it a meal by pairing the sliced beef with coleslaw, baked beans, mac and cheese, black eyed peas, and potato salad.
- Keep it Irish-inspired – You’ll likely see corned beef and cabbage served as a classic St. Patty’s Day meal. For a spin on it, pair the beef with roasted cabbage steaks, mashed potatoes, and glazed carrots.
- In reuben sandwiches – Layer corned beef, swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and Thousand Island between slices of rye bread.
- In Rachel sandwiches – Make a reuben with coleslaw instead of sauerkraut.
Plan on about 1/2 pound per person. So, if you’re serving 6 people, look for a 3 pound corned beef brisket.
The precise time it takes to smoke corned beef depends on the size, but allow for at least 6 hours. I use a meat thermometer and, after the first 5 or so hours, begin checking it every 30 to 40 minutes until the internal temperature reaches between 190ºF and 205ºF.
Use a smooth serrated knife, cut the brisket in half first, and slice against the grain. You’ll notice the grain runs in different directions, so make sure you’re turning the brisket accordingly so each slice is against the grain.
🕕 Making it in the oven
I don’t have a smoker. Can I cook it in the oven instead?
No smoker? That’s okay. If you make it in the oven, technically it isn’t “smoked,” but there’s a simple way to achieve the smoky flavor:
- Soak the corned beef in water and rub with spices as instructed.
- Place wood chips in a roasting pan, followed by about 1 inch of beef broth (the wood chips shouldn’t be fully submerged in the broth).
- Set a roasting rack in the pan, and place the corned beef on top.
- Cook for 2 to 3 hours at 325ºF, then cover with foil and continue cooking until the internal temperature reaches the sweet spot between 190ºF and 205ºF.
- Let the beef rest before slicing.
The sous vide method works too! Head to my Sous Vide Brisket recipe to use this method instead.
🍷 Wine pairings for corned beef
- Pair the rich and salty beef with a light-bodied, fruity red like Beaujolais or Grenache.
- If you prefer white wine, Pinot Blanc and Riesling pair nicely.
- If it’s St. Patrick’s Day, skip the wine and grab a green beer or a Guinness!
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Smoked Corned Beef Recipe
- 3-5 pounds corned beef brisket
- 2 cups beef broth
- 1 Tablespoon black pepper
- 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 Tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 Tablespoon onion powder
- 1 Tablespoon ground coriander
Honey Mustard Sauce:
- ½ cup honey or agave
- ½ cup brown mustard
- ¼ cup Greek yogurt (optional)
- Remove the corned beef from the packaging and discard the spice packet, if included. Soak the corned beef in water for at least 2 hours, or up to overnight, changing the water a few times. Remove the corned beef and pat dry with paper towels.
- Preheat your smoker to 275-degrees.
- Meanwhile, combine the spice rub ingredients in a small bowl. Whisk to combine, then coat the corned beef in the spices.
- Place the corned beef on the smoker, fat side up, and cook for 2-3 hours, until the temperature reaches 160-degrees.
- Pour the beef broth in the bottom of a disposable aluminum foil pan. Add the brisket to the pan, fat-side up. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil.
- Continue to smoke for 2-3 hours, until the internal temperature reaches 205-degrees.
- Remove the brisket and let it rest for 15-20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, make the honey mustard sauce by stirring together honey, mustard, and greek yogurt.
- Slice the corned beef against the grain into 1/4-inch- thick slices and serve with the honey mustard sauce. Enjoy!