Learn step by step how to make a smoked corned beef brisket on ANY grill or smoker!
Take this classic St. Patrick’s Day tradition to the next level, whether you are using a Traeger pellet grill, an electric smoker, or a plain old gas grill, we’ve got you covered!
Let’s get started!
A corned beef brisket is a classic St. Patrick’s Day tradition, typically simmered beyond recognition for hours until it is devoid of all beefy flavor and texture.
Today we are going to create a delicious SMOKED corned beef brisket slow cooking it on a smoker or grill rather than in a pot of greasy water.
We are going to cover:
- How to prep your corned beef for the smoker
- How to set up different grills and smokers for a smoked corned beef brisket
- What temperature to smoke your corned beef
- The best wood choices for a smoked corned beef
- How to know precisely when your smoked corned beef brisket is finished
- How to rest, slice, and serve the perfect smoked corned beef this St. Patty’s Day!
Wow, that’s a lot…so let’s get going!
How to Prepare Corned Beef for the Smoker
Submerge in Cold Water
Now, a typical store bought corned beef comes LOADED with salt after being brined and cured before packaging.
This is part of the what makes the beef brisket “corned” and gives it is distinctive pink/reddish color.
Generally, they expect you to cook it simmering in water for hours where the intense amount salt will dissipate out of the meat over time.
So if you just throw your corned beef as is out of the packaging onto the smoker it will likely be VERY salty.
Some people are OK with this, but we suggest soaking the beef in some cold water in the refrigerator, just barely submerged, for about 2 hours before smoking.
After this, take it out of the water and pat it dry really well with some paper towels before trimming and seasoning.
If you can find a “Low Sodium” corned beef brisket, you may be able to skip this step.
Trim the Fat Cap
Next you’ll want to trim some of the fat cap off the corned beef brisket. Its ok to leave a little layer of fat, maybe about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thickness.
Depending on the brand you buy, there may not be much of a fat cap at all and you can skip this step.
Seasoning your Smoked Corned Beef
Your corned beef likely came with a seasoning packet, and while you CAN technically use this to season your corned beef for smoking, beware these spices really are meant for boiling and braising.
You will likely find whole peppercorns and bay leaves among other things.
These large spices work great to infuse a pot of simmering water with flavor, but aren’t so good to bite into directly on the crust of a piece of corned beef.
So you have two options, you can either put the spice packet into a spice grinder or food processor and grind it up into a more palatable fine powder, OR, just use a different spice rub altogether.
We like a good, straightforward steak or pot roast seasoning on the corned beef rather than a typical BBQ rub.
We find the pot roast-y flavors of Lindberg Snider Porterhouse & Roast Seasoning work really well with the corned beef flavor of the meat.
If you DO want to add some sweetness, we recommend brushing a glaze at the end of the cook like in the video and recipe below we use a sweet and spicy peach jelly glaze you can try out.
Best Smoking Wood Choices for Corned Beef
For a big robust piece of beef like a smoked corned beef, go with something like hickory, maple, cherry, or pecan that will compliment the beef well.
If you want to keep it simple and straightforward, choose a lighter smoking wood like oak, apple, or peach, although these lighter fruitwoods may not impart as much smokey flavor into the corned beef as they might with chicken or fish.
When in doubt, you can always mix and match your choices.
Best Times and Temperatures for Smoking Corned Beef
You will need to watch both your cooking temperature and internal temperatures carefully when smoking the corned beef.
Grill or Smoker Temperature
We recommend setting up the smoker to cook at 275-300°F.
This is similar to how we cook our hot and fast beef brisket and will get even a large corned beef brisket done without having to babysit it overnight.
Monitoring the Internal Temperature
You HAVE to use a good instant read meat thermometer to know where the internal temperature is of your smoked corned beef.
Ideally you want a good leave in probe thermometer like the Thermopro as well as a second instant read to spot check different depths and areas on the roast.
We are going to slowly bring the internal temperature up to 197-203°F, similar to pulled pork or a regular BBQ beef brisket.
We are particular fans of this one from ThermoPro because of its durability and affordable price.
So keep it handy and use it often.
How Long Does it Take to Smoke a Corned Beef Brisket?
A typical 3-5 lb store bought corned beef brisket will take about 4-6 hours to cook at 300°F.
We like to use the Texas crutch method described below to help speed up the cook and help the corned beef power through any stalls in temperature.
How cold it is the day you smoke the corned beef, the humidity, and how often you open and close your grill or smoker will also all have an effect on how long it takes to smoke
Setting up your Smoker for a Smoked Corned Beef Brisket
Vertical or Offset Charcoal Smoker
Fill your firebox or lower charcoal basin with about 1/3 a bag of unlit charcoal and create a small hollowed out depression in the center where you can add your lit briquets.
If your smoker comes with a water pan, like the Weber Smokey Mountain, fill the water pan as well to help stabilize the temperature and add moisture to the cooking chamber.
Light a charcoal chimney about 1/2 way with charcoal and wait about 20 minutes for it to fully ignite. You don’t want TOO many lit briquests initially or the temperature will get too high too fast and be unmanageable.
Fill your water pan first, then add the lit briquets to the center depression you created.
Keep the dampers about 1/2 way to 3/4 open until the temperature is to about 250°F. Then slowly close them down until you are maintaining a temperature of 275-300°F.
Add 1-2 chunks of smoking wood once the smoker is up to temperature and put your corned beef on the cooking grate.
Propane and electric options are some of the easiest smokers for beginners to start with.
For Propane: Open your gas valve and light the bottom burner. Adjust it to keep the temperature constant at 275-300° F.
Check out our Complete Step-by-step Instructions for How to Use a Propane Smoker HERE if you need a refresher.
For Electric: Plug your electric smoker in and turn the temperature to 275°F.
Fill the water tray if there is one.
Place your corned beef brisket on the rack and close the door.
Fill the pellet hopper with your choice of smoking wood pellets.
Plug in the pellet grill, turn it on and let it run through its start up process.
Then turn the temperature to 300°F.
When the pellet grill has come up to temperature, place your corned beef directly on the grill grate.
Never used a pellet grill like a Traeger or a Camp Chef before?
Read our ultimate guide to pellet grills to learn why they are so easy to use and how to set one up for success every time.
Gas or Charcoal Grill
On a charcoal grill you can use wood chunks just like you would in a charcoal smoker.
On a gas grill you will likely need to use a smoker box filled with wood chips, or a pellet tube smoker filled with wood pellets.
Think you need a fancy smoker to smoke food at home? Think again. Great smoked food can be made right on your current gas or charcoal grill.
If you are unfamiliar with these gas grill smoking devices mentioned above, no worries, we have you covered!
In the case of a smoked corned beef brisket, we would opt for the pellet tube smoker since it will provide you with a longer smoking time without needing to refill multiple times like a smoker box.
However either one will work just fine depending on what you have available.
Set up your gas or charcoal grill for indirect cooking with the burners or a small amount of lit briquets on one side and plan for your meat to be on the other side.
Once the temperature of your grill is about 250°, place your wood chunks, smoker box, or pellet tube smoker over the coals or lit burners and once smoke begins coming out, place your meat on the opposite side.
To Wrap or Not to Wrap, AKA the “Texas Crutch”
Another way to speed up your cooking time is by using a tried and tested barbecue technique known as the “Texas Crutch”.
Don’t worry, it’s not complicated.
Sometimes for hours depending on the size of the meat.
This can be maddening if your guests are arriving soon and the internal temperature needs to rise another 50 degrees and hasn’t budged for over an hour.
Without getting too much into the science behind why this happens, just understand it has to do with a lot of trapped moisture evaporating at this temperature and continually cooling your meat as it evaporates.
One way to “power through the stall” is to take your corned beef out of the smoker when it hits 150-160°F, and double or triple wrap it tightly in aluminum foil.
You can add a little beef broth, or even some Irish beer, just a few tablespoons is all you need, to the foil to help add some additional moisture inside the wrap.
Then replace your thermometer, place the meat back on the smoker, and let it continue to cook.
The aluminum foil will keep the moisture from evaporating, possibly keeping your meat from drying out as much while to cooks, and most importantly, let it continue to steadily rise in temperature.
Leave it wrapped until it gets to a temperature of about 190°F and then remove it from the smoker.
At this point you can apply your glaze and put it back on for the rest of the cook unwrapped to help the bark firm back up.
Optional: Apply a Glaze to your Smoked Corned Beef
This part is completely up to you, but we think a nice sweet glaze pairs well with the smokey and briney corned beef flavors.
Check out the recipe for the peach horseradish glaze used in the recipe section below.
Apply this when the temperature has reached about 190°F, you’ve removed it from the foil, and the corned beef has about 30 minutes to go on the pellet grill or smoker so that the glaze can caramelize and a little and set on the meat..
How to Carve and Serve Smoked Corned Beef
You will then remove the smoked corned beef brisket from the hot smoker or grill and let it rest for 10-15 minutes before carving.
You can let it rest longer if needed.
Don’t start carving until your guests are ready to eat as it will be more likely to get cold and dry out once its sliced and sitting.
Use a good meat slicing knife and cut the smoked corned beef into nice even slices.
We particularly like this meat slicing knife from Mairico.
Best Things to Serve on the Side
Traditional corned beef brisket is served with cabbage and potatoes, and there’s no reason you can’t cook these on the smoker right along with the corned beef!
You can add horseradish, or even make a delicious reuben sandwich with your smoked corned beef.
What Other Food Can I Smoke on a Grill or Smoker?
Looking for some more smoky inspiration?
So glad you asked.
Check out some of our other great recipes of smoked and grilled food to try out at your next outdoor BBQ!
More Smoked Beef
- Smoked Prime Rib on a Traeger Pellet Grill
- Smoked Ribeye Roast
- Hot and Fast Smoked Beef Brisket
- Smoked and Reverse Seared Ribeye Steaks
- Pellet Grilled Steak
- Perfect Grilled Hamburgers
- Honey Smoked Salmon
- Smoked Oysters in a Garlic White Wine Sauce
- Smoked Scallops with Lemon Butter Sauce
- Smoked Lobster Tails
- Honey Smoked Tilapia
- Smoked Leg of Lamb with Guinness Marinade
- Smoked Lamb Chops with a Balsamic Butter Sauce
- Smoked Rack of Lamb with Garlic and Rosemary or Smoker
- Smoked and Pulled Lamb Shoulder with a Turkish Spice Rub
- Smoked Lamb Shanks
Smoked Pork, Turkey, and Chicken
- Smoked Fresh Ham with Dark Rum Citrus Glaze
- Spatchcocked Chicken on a Pellet Grill
- Smoked Turkey Breast with Cajun Butter Injection
- Spiral Sliced Smoked Hot Dogs
- Smoked Bratwurst with Beer Braised Onions
- Grilled Bratwurst
- Pellet Grill Turkey
Other Odds and Ends
Trash Can Turkey – OK, technically not made on a grill or smoker but one of the most fun ways there is to cook a Turkey…at over 700 degrees in only 2 hours!
You’ve got to check it out!
Smoked Corned Beef Brisket
- Pellet Grill, Smoker, or Grill
- Baking Dish
- Wood Pellets - Hickory, Cherry, or Maple preferably
- Aluminum Foil
- Internal Meat Thermometers
- Large Cutting Board
- Meat Slicing Knife
- Meat Trimming Knife
- 1 3-5 lb corned beef brisket already cured and brined
- 4 Tbsp Beef Broth can substitute irish stout or irish red ale
- ½ cup Peach jelly
- 1 Tbsp Soy sauce
- 1 tsp Horseradish
- cooking oil
Prepare the Corned Beef
- Remove the corned beef from the packaging and soak the beef in some cold water, just barely submerged in a baking dish, in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours. This will get rid of much of the salt from the brining process.
- Remove from the cold water and pat dry really well with paper towels
- Trim any excess fat cap from the exterior of the corned beef brisket if needed, leaving about 1/4 inch thickness
- Apply a thin layer of cooking oil to the entire exterior of the brisket.
- Sprinkle your favorite low or no sugar steak or beef seasoning on the brisket, covering all parts of the exterior of the brisket.
- Wrap in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for up to 2-3 hours while you prepare the grill.
Set up the Grill or Smoker
- If using a pellet grill fill the hopper with pellets.
- If using a pellet grill or electric smoker, turn them on, go through the startup process and set the temperatures to 300°F.
- If using a smoker or regular gas or charcoal grill, set up the cooking chamber for indirect heat by lighting the burners or charcoal on only one side of the grill.
- Add your wood chips or wood chunks once the cooking temperature has reached 275-300°F. If using a gas grill, use a smoker box filled with wood chips or s smoker tube filled with pellets.
Smoke the Corned Beef Brisket
- Remove the plastic wrap and place the corned beef brisket on the indirect side of grill or in the smoker.
- Place an internal temperature probe if you have one into the center of the brisket.
- Close the lid, cook the brisket for about 3-4 hours until it reaches an internal temperature of about 150-160°F.
Optional Texas Crutch
- At this point, you can leave the brisket on the grill to continue cooking or remove it and wrap it in foil to speed up the cooking time.
- Carefully remove the brisket and place on a large sheet of aluminum foil.
- Wrap the brisket in opposing directions with three layers of foil. Pour the beef broth or beer in with the corned beef inside the foil and close tightly.
- Replace the temperature probe and place back on the pellet grill.
Apply the Glaze
- When the internal temperature reaches about 190°F, remove the corned beef from the aluminum foil and place back on the indirect side of the grill or in the smoker
- Heat the jelly gently in the microwave until warm, mix in the soy sauce and horseradish.
- Brush the glaze onto the top of the corned beef brisket while its still on the grill or smoker.
- Close the lid and continue cooking for about another 30 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 200°F.
Remove, Rest, and Slice
- When the internal temperature of the corned beef brisket has reached 200°F, remove it from the grill or smoker.
- Let the corned beef rest for 15-20 minutes before slicing to allow the juices to distribute.
- After resting, place the corned beef on a large cutting board. Slice in ¼ inch slices and serve immediately.
- Save extra corned beef unsliced and tightly wrapped to maintain moisture.