No St. Patrick's Day celebration is complete without this very best smoked corned beef brisket on the dinner menu! This corned beef is smoked low and slow with a spiced Guinness braising sauce to make the most tender, juicy cured brisket. After one bite, this is sure to become a St. Patrick's Day tradition — consider this dish a guaranteed party favorite.
What Is Corned Beef?
Corned beef is a brisket cured in a spiced salt brine. The seasoning is essentially a pickling spice, which often includes bay leaves, cloves, juniper berries, mustard seeds, peppercorns and coriander seeds. You can make your own homemade corned beef or buy it straight from the grocery store.
Unless you cure your own whole brisket, most grocery stores carry corned beef in two cuts: the flat cut and point cut. The brisket flat cut is much leaner and great for cutting into slices while the point cut is fattier and richer in flavor and makes for wonderful shredded beef. Both make amazing Reuben sandwiches, so it simply comes down to personal preference.
Although corned beef is brisket, don’t expect it to taste like your typical BBQ dinner. The curing process drastically changes its flavor — it’s almost ham-like with a similar salty flavor but with a more substantial texture. You’ll also notice the beef is pink throughout, no matter how long it cooks.
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
Always a crowd favorite: As such a large cut of meat, this smoked corned beef recipe is great when you need to feed a large party, and you can even smoke multiple corned beef briskets at a time for an especially big gathering as long as you have the smoker space. This is one dish everyone gobbles up quickly.
Easiest smoker recipe ever: Whether you’re an expert pit master or just bought your first smoker, cooking corned beef low and slow just about guarantees perfect results, no matter your skill level.
Requires hardly any hands-on time: With store-bought corned beef, you’re looking at five to 10 minutes of hands-on prep time. The smoker takes care of the rest.
Related: For another cooking method, you’ll also love my slow cooker corned beef.
Corned beef: Look for a bright red corned beef without gray spots. It should also have a large fat cap and consistent thickness for even smoking. Keep in mind, the beef will shrink as it cooks, so opt for a larger cut than you think you need. You can always freeze the leftovers.
Guinness: We divide the smoking process into two phases. The corned beef smokes directly on the grill grates during the first phase, and then we move it to a Guinness braising liquid for the second phase.
You can use any type of Guinness stout. The most common offerings are Guinness Foreign Extra Stout, which is more of a classic stout with harder, upfront carbonation, and Guinness Draught, which emulates a nitro pour you’d get at the pub with very little carbonation. I’m not a big nitro fan, so I prefer the Guinness Foreign Extra Stout. But pick up whichever you prefer to drink — many people love nitro beers.
All those extra spices and seasonings: These go in our Guinness braising liquid to give our corned beef an even deeper flavor.
Seasoning packet: Your corned beef should come with a seasoning packet. Even though we use our own seasoning blend, we still go ahead and add the seasoning packet for an extra flavor boost. It’s there — why not?
Step 1: We begin by heating the smoker to 225 degrees F. As the smoker heats, we rinse the excess brine off the corned beef with cold water and use a paper towel to pat it dry (photo 1).
Step 2: Now we place the corned beef fat-side up directly on the grill grates with a water pan and insert a leave-in meat thermometer into the thickest part of the meat (photo 2). This should be the center of the cut. We close the lid and allow the corned beef to smoke until the internal temperature reaches about 160 degrees F.
Step 3: As the internal temperature nears that 160-degree F mark, whisk together the Guinness, spice packet, dried bay leaves, brown sugar, beef bouillon, ground coriander, whole cloves, mustard powder, ground allspice and Worcestershire sauce. You can use an aluminum pan or Dutch oven. Once the corned beef comes to temperature, we place it in the Guinness braising liquid (photo 3).
Tip: The liquid should come up about halfway on the sides of the brisket for a proper braise. If necessary, you can adjust the beer amount, but I find two bottles of Guinness typically works well.
Step 4: From here, we reinsert the thermometer, cover with aluminum foil and place the corned beef back in the smoker (photo 4). I find it easiest to first insert the thermometer into the center of a large piece of aluminum foil and then pierce the temperature probe back into the meat. Once the thermometer is in place, we can seal the foil on the edge of the pan or Dutch oven to keep the meat covered.
Now we let the corned beef smoke again. Like when smoking a brisket, the internal temperature sweet spot is between 200-205 degrees F. At this point, the corned beef will be perfectly fork tender and juicy.
Step 5: For our final step, we remove the meat from the smoker, cover it with foil and let the corned beef rest for 30-45 minutes. After resting, we slice the beef against the grain with a sharp knife on a cutting board (photo 4). You’ll notice those lines on the meat in the photo.
We want to cut criss-cross against that to keep the meat nice and tender. Cutting along the lines can toughen the meat.
Note: This recipe was tested on a vertical pellet grill. That said, you can use any type of smoker, whether it's an electric smoker, charcoal smoker or propane smoker.
Delicious Serving Ideas
Of course, you can simply enjoy this smoked corned beef with a side of whole-grain mustard or horseradish sauce and plenty of carrots, cabbage and potato salad. You’ll also love it piled high on a Rueben sandwich. But those aren’t the only ways to enjoy this tasty dish.
Here are some of my favorite ideas.
- Stuffed into pretzel bites
- Topped on Irish nachos
- Piled onto a burger
- Used as a grilled cheese filling
- Spooned into Rueben egg rolls
- Layered into mac and cheese
- Made into sliders
Let me know what creative ideas you try!
How to Store, Reheat and Freeze Leftovers
If you have leftover corned beef, you can keep it in an airtight container for up to three to four days. For longer storage, you can freeze the corned beef for two to three months. After that, the corned beef is still safe to eat, but the quality isn’t quite as good.
When you’re ready to reheat leftovers, I recommend using gentle heat in the oven rather than the microwave, which can dry out the meat. To reheat, place the corned beef in a baking dish with a splash of water and cover it with foil. Allow it to gently reheat in a 250-degree F oven for about 10-15 minutes until it’s nice and warm.
This comes down to personal preference. Some people like to soak their corned beef from anywhere between 15 minutes to two hours to make it less salty. Corned beef is a cured meat, which means it’s supposed to be salty.
I find a rinse is just fine to remove excess salt. As mentioned earlier, corned beef is similar to ham in its salty flavor. But you know your own palate. If you’re sensitive to salt and find ham too salty, you’re more than welcome to soak it.
I love hickory here. With all those pickling spices, I like a heartier wood, though you can certainly use apple or cherry wood for a more gentle flavor and touch of sweetness. Whether you use wood chips or pellets depends on your type of smoker.
When smoking at a low temperature of 225 degrees F, you can expect both smoking phases to take about four to five hours each. This means you’re looking at a total smoking time of about eight to 10 hours and an additional half hour for resting.
Keep in mind, every cut of meat is different, and many factors can affect smoking time. Use this as a guideline.
If your corned beef finishes smoking before your expected serving time, wrap it with foil, food-grade butcher paper or a towel and store it in a cooler. It should stay nice and warm for a good three to four hours.
Use the internal temperature of the meat as your guide: As mentioned, the curing process turns beef pink, so you can’t use color to guide your cooking time. Get a trusty meat thermometer.
Don’t skip the resting period for best results: This allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat. If you cut into the corned beef right after smoking, you’ll be left with a sad, dry piece of meat. No one wants that.
Place the corned beef in the smoker with the fat side facing up: As the corned beef smokes, some of the fat will melt onto the brisket for an even tastier dish.
Let the corned beef sit at room temperature for one hour before smoking: This takes the chill off the meat and makes for more even cooking.
Naturally, we want some Guinness with this corned beef. That’s obvious, right? You’ll love how the roasted malt and touch of smoky flavor complement each other, and they’re both wonderful with those warm pickling spices.
If you’d like a wine with your corned beef, a pinot noir is a great choice. Pinot noir is known for its earthy notes that pair nicely with the spice, and it comes with the right touch of acidity to cut through the beef.
No matter the time of year, this smoked corned beef brisket is sure to be a favorite among your family and friends. You’ll want to make it every chance you get.
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The Best Smoked Corned Beef
- Wood pellets or chips hickory recommended
- Aluminum pan or Dutch oven
- 3-5 pound corned beef with seasoning packet
- 2 (12-ounce) bottles of Guinness both Guinness Foreign Extra Stout and Guinness Draught work
- 2 dried bay leaves
- ⅓ cup packed brown sugar either light or dark brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons beef bouillon (see notes)
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon whole cloves
- ½ teaspoon mustard powder
- ⅛ teaspoon ground allspice
- A few dashes Worcestershire sauce
- Heat the smoker to 225 degrees F. As the smoker comes to temperature, rinse the corned beef and pat it dry with paper towels (see notes).
- Place the corned beef fat-side up directly on the grill grates with a water pan. Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the corned beef. Close the lid and smoke until the internal temperature reaches about 160 degrees F, approximately 4-5 hours.
- In an aluminum pan or Dutch oven, whisk together the Guinness, seasoning packet, dried bay leaves, dark brown sugar, beef bouillon, ground coriander, whole cloves, mustard powder, ground allspice and Worcestershire sauce. Remove the corned beef from the smoker when it reaches that 160-degree F mark. Place the corned beef in the pan with the Guinness mixture.
- Insert the meat thermometer again and cover the pan or Dutch oven with foil and pinch the edges to seal. Smoke again until it reaches an internal temperature of 200-205 degrees F, about 4-5 hours.
- Remove the corned beef from the smoker and keep it in the aluminum pan covered with foil to rest for 30-45 minutes. Do not skip this step — this allows the juice to redistribute to the meat. Slice the corned beef against the grain and serve with your favorite corned beef fixings. Enjoy!
- Keep leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three or four days. Alternatively, store in the freezer for two to three months. To reheat, place in a baking dish with a splash of water and cover with foil. Place in a 250-degree F oven for 10-15 minutes.
- For those especially sensitive salt, you can go beyond rinsing off the brine and soak your corned beef from anywhere from 15 minutes to two hours to remove even more salt. I like the salty brininess, but this comes down to your personal palate.
- When covering the meat in step 4, I find it easiest to first insert the thermometer into the center of a large piece of aluminum foil and then insert the thermometer back into the meat. That way, you can see where you're place the thermometer. Once the thermometer is in place, we can seal the foil on the edge of the pan or Dutch oven to keep the meat covered.
- If your corned beef finishes smoking before your expected serving time, wrap it with foil, food-grade butcher paper or a towel and store it in a cooler. It should stay nice and warm for a good three to four hours.
- Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.