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If you don’t have the days it takes to make homemade pastrami, this corned beef brisket recipe is what you need to make corned beef on the grill or smoker.
Table of Contents
What Corned Beef Brisket
Corned beef brisket is a cut of meat from the chest region of the cow that is cured in a salt and sugar wet brine with pickling spices.
It can be roasted in the oven, cooked in a pot on the stove or in a slow cooker or instant pot. Once you introduce smoke during the cooking process, the corned beef brisket actually becomes pastrami.
Corned beef and pastrami are super popular around St. Patrick’s Day.
Corned Beef Brisket: At your grocery store, look for brisket that says corned beef on its packaging. It will either be the flat cut or the point cut. If you find the point, choose that. It will be way more tender and flavorful because it has more marbling. You can see the difference in the calories and fat content for each cut below.
Pastrami Seasoning: The brisket should include a package of pastrami seasoning that you can use as the rub. The seasoning usually includes mustard seeds, coriander seeds, black pepper and other spices. If yours doesn’t include the packet, you can make my Homemade Pastrami Rub.
Water or Beer: Place this in a spray bottle to spritz the brisket as it cooks.
PRO TIP: While this recipe is great if you're short on time. Making homemade pastrami is going to taste better because you can control the quality and grade of the brisket. It's unclear what grade of brisket the pre-brined meat is. I tried to call Kroger and they weren't sure either. My guess based on the lack of marbling is it's probably select grade.
See the full recipe card below for servings and a full list of ingredients.
How to smoke corned beef brisket
The key is to cook the meat over indirect heat at a temperature of 275F degrees.
If you’re using a charcoal grill or charcoal smoker, push the coals to one side of the grill and cook over the side without coals.
For a pellet grill or electric smoker, just set the temp, and make sure your diffuser plate is inside.
For this recipe, I like to add a bowl of water or beer to the grill. This helps provide extra moisture during cooking.
- STEP ONE: Remove the corned beef from the package. Rinse it under cold water and pat it dry with paper towels. If you want to remove even more of the salt cure, try soaking the meat in cold water for 15 minutes.
- STEP TWO: Season the meat with the provided seasoning package or use my Homemade Pastrami Rub. Plan on 1 to 1-1/2 tablespoons per pound of meat.
- STEP THREE: Place brisket on the grill over the indirect heat with the fat side down. Smoke it for several hours until it reaches an internal temperature of 160-170F degrees. As it cooks, spritz it every 30 minutes with water or beer.
- STEP FOUR: Remove the brisket from the grill. Place it on two large sheets of butcher paper or aluminum foil. Spritz it again with water or beer. Then, wrap it tightly and place it back on the smoker.
- STEP FIVE: Cook until the internal temperature reaches 205F degrees if you’re cooking a flat cut, or 210F degrees if you’re cooking a point cut.
PRO TIP: Use an instant-read meat thermometer to check the internal temperature. Place the probe through the side into the thickest part of the meat.
- STEP SIX: Remove the brisket from the smoker. Keep it wrapped and wrap it in a towel. Place it in a cooler without ice for 30 minutes to an hour.
- STEP SEVEN: After you let the corned beef rest, slice it with a sharp knife on a cutting board. If you have the flat cut, be sure to slice it against the grain into thin slices. If you have a point cut, it’s great sliced against the grain or shredded.
According to the USDA, you can save cooked corned beef brisket AKA pastrami in the refrigerator for up to 40 days because it has been cured. However, I usually freeze it if I have leftovers that will last more than a week. You can freeze it in an airtight container for up to six months.
GCG Pro Pitmaster Tips
- Rinse the packaged brisket to remove excess salt
- Season with the provided packet
- Smoke over indirect heat
- Wrap the brisket, using the Texas Crutch
- Smoke to an internal temp of 205-210F degrees
- Don’t forget to let it rest before slicing against the grain
Frequently Asked Questions
Beef brisket comes from the pectoral region of the cow and is made up of two muscles, the flat and the point. The main difference between the two muscles is that the beef brisket flat is a leaner muscle that is commonly used to make brisket slices.
The point contains more fat and is used to make burnt ends. If you have the choice, try smoking a brisket point. It will be more tender and flavorful.
Packaged corned beef brisket usually comes with a spice packet that includes mustard seeds, coriander seeds, black peppercorns and other spices. You can also make Homemade Pastrami Spice Rub.
There is no need to use extra salt in the rub, because the meat has been cured in a salt brine.
Corned beef brisket has been cured in a salty brine solution with pickling spices for several days. Brisket by itself is a raw piece of unseasoned meat.
Both can be cooked a variety of ways. Once corned beef brisket is smoked, it’s called pastrami.
The time of year when most grocery stores carry corned beef brisket is around March, because it’s a popular dish for St. Patrick’s Day. If you enjoy corned beef year-round, stock up and freeze the packages for up to a year.
Or be adventurous and Learn to Make Homemade Pastrami from scratch.
More Corned Beef Recipes
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Smoked Corned Beef Brisket
- 3 lb corned beef brisket
- 3 cups water or beer
- Heat Smoker: Light your coals until they are amber and start to ash. Add hickory wood chips and adjust your grill to reach 275F. Add a pan of water or beer off to the side of the coals.
- Season: Remove the corned beef from the package. Rinse. Pat dry. Rub with provided seasoning pouch.
- Smoke: Place on the grill over indirect heat. (Coals should not be directly under the meat). Cook until the internal temperature reaches 160-170F degrees. Spritz occasionally with water or beer. This will take around 3 hours.
- Wrap: Place the brisket on two sheets of butcher paper or aluminum foil. Spritz with more water or beer and wrap tightly.
- Finish Cooking: Return the wrapped brisket to grill. Cook until it reaches 205F degrees for a flat cut or 210F degrees for a point cut. This will take another 2-3 hours.
- Rest: Wrap the brisket in a towel and place it in a cooler without ice. Let the meat rest for 30 minutes to an hour with the lid closed.
- Slice: Slice the meat against the grain. If you smoked a point cut, you can also shred the meat.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.