Smoked Corned Beef: Elevating a Classic Dish with a Smoky Twist
It’s too good to eat just once a year! Corned beef is famous on St. Paddy’s Day here in the United States, but did you know it is not popular in Ireland on this holiday? In the 1600s, most tables on the Emerald Isle on St Paddy’s Day featured boiled bacon and cabbage. Cows were prized for their dairy products and their meat and were owned by royalty and the wealthy, and not available to the average person.
Irish immigrants in the United States were looking for a taste of home on the patron saint’s special day, but could not afford bacon and pork. Immigrants sought out the cheapest cuts of meat, brisket among them. The corned beef was paired with cabbage because it, too, was cheap. Instead of boiling the brisket the Irish borrowed brining or salt-curing techniques from immigrants from Eastern Europe. The “corn” in corned beef refers to the nuggets of salt used in the brining process.
The Holy Grail Steak Company sent me a Tajima American Wagyu corned beef. The corned beef was cured and uncooked. The marbling in the Wagyu corned beef was magnificent, and will give you a memorable corned beef experience.
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Last year I smoked braised Holy Grail’s Tajima American Wagyu corned beef in Guinness beer and made grilled Reuben sandwiches. Check out my blog “Make the Best Reuben Sandwich Ever!” if you want to know how it all came together.
This year, I was planning a traditional approach to prepare the corned beef, but Steven Raichlen challenged me to find a way to incorporate smoke into the recipe. I made a few modifications to his corned beef recipe from his book The Brisket Chronicles to try to maximize the smoke in the dish. I knew it was probably not the best idea to try to make changes to Steven’s recipe, but I did. Here is how it went.
Smoked Corned Beef
I started by setting up my Big Green Egg XL (BGE) for indirect grilling. I added three wood chunks to create wood smoke. While the BGE heated up, I rinsed the corned beef under cold water and trimmed it so it would fit in my Dutch oven. Next, I added equal parts of Guinness and beef stock and placed the Dutch oven in the BGE once it reached 300 degrees. I also added a spice sachet that included black peppercorns, yellow mustard seeds, allspice berries, and two crumbled bay leaves. I left the cover off the Dutch oven so the corned beef and the broth could absorb the flavorful smoke.
Once the corned beef was in the BGE, I prepared the vegetables. I decided to go with small yellow potatoes since they would not require any chopping. I washed and peeled the carrots and cut them into one-inch pieces so they would be the same size as the potatoes. I removed the outer leaves of the cabbage and cut it into wedges and removed the core. I drizzled olive oil over the cabbage, potatoes, and carrots and seasoned them with kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper.
I spooned off any fat that came to the top while the corned beef was cooking.
My plan was to smoke-roast the veggies to incorporate additional smoke flavor into the recipe. I smoke-roast carrots and potatoes on a regular basis, but never cabbage. The cabbage leaves took on a golden color from the smoke. I removed the cabbage after 30 minutes since I didn’t want the cabbage to become crispy. The potatoes and carrots smoke-roasted for 45 minutes. Then I added all the veggies to the pot and added more of the Guinness and beef stock mixture. The mixture of veggies and corned beef continued to roast for another 30 minutes. The total cooking time for the corned beef was three hours.
Once the corned beef was done cooking, I removed it from the Dutch oven to slice. The corned beef was tender, and a smoky aroma filled the kitchen. I spooned broth, carrots, potatoes, and cabbage into a bowl and topped it with slices of corned beef and garnished the dish with fresh parsley.
The corned beef was so tender I could cut it with a spoon. It was meaty, had a hint of spice, and was slightly salty, but not overpowering. The potatoes and carrots were soft, but not mushy, which can happen when boiling. The cabbage had a unique texture that I enjoyed, due in part to the initial smoke roasting. The earthy cabbage helps to balance the flavor of the corned beef. The broth had depth of flavor due to the Guinness and the smoke. The amount of smoke was spot on, and I met Steven’s challenge. How will you take your corned beef to the next level?
Recipes for Corned Beef
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