St. Patrick's Day is good for a lot of things; drinking beer, dying everything green, leprechaun hunting (wait, you guys don't do that?) and eating Irish classics. Sadly, when I was growing up, Irish classics were pouched corned beef with boiled cabbage and potatoes. Every year we would stick that brisket in the crockpot and watch her boil all of her flavor out and right into the water. St. Patty's became a day of sorrow and mustard.
Lots and lots of mustard.
Then, one magical March day, we thought, "I could Traeger that." Let's just say St. Patty's is now a day of anticipation and real celebration. This corned beef brisket is unlike anything you have experienced before. Tender and flavorful from the inside out, our brisket gets to bathe in a beautiful beer brine for four days before getting the special smoky treatment from your favorite pellets (think apple, cherry, or oak). It is then braised in dark lager and spices. Oh yes, Traeger Nation. This is a recipe to wait an entire year for. And don't worry, it's easier than you might think.
Traeger's Ultimate Beer Braised Corned Beef
Prep time: 4 days for curing
Cook time: 4 to 6 hours
Pellet recommendation: Apple, Cherry, or Oak
Serves: 8 to 10
Ingredients for the Brine:
3 - quarts cold water
3 - 12-ounce bottles dark beer (lager), apple juice, or more water
1-1/2 - cups kosher salt
1/2 - cup brown sugar
1 - tablespoon curing salt per pound of meat OR 1/4 teaspoon Prague powder per pound of meat
5 tablespoons commercial or Homemade Pickling Spice (see recipe below)
1 onion, peeled and thickly sliced
5 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 4- to 6-pound beef brisket flat, outside fat trimmed to 1/4-inch
Ingredients for Homemade Pickling Spice:
2 tablespoons mustard seeds
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
1 tablespoon whole cloves
1 tablespoon allspice berries
2 teaspoons hot red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon ground ginger
6 juniper berries (optional)
2 bay leaves, coarsely crumbled
1 3- to 4-inch cinnamon stick, coarsely broken
Step 1: BRINE
In a large stockpot or food-safe pail, combine the water, beer, kosher salt, brown sugar, and curing salt. Stir with a long-handled spoon until the salt and sugar crystals have dissolved. Add the pickling spice, onion, and garlic. Transfer the brine to the refrigerator. (Because of its weight, please position it on the lowest, sturdiest shelf.)
Add the meat to the brine and weight it so the meat is completely submerged in the brine. You can use an inverted plate, bags of ice, or any other heavy waterproof object. Brine the brisket for 3 to 4 days, stirring once daily. Remove the brisket from the brine, discarding brine. (Pour the brine through a kitchen colander positioned in the sink. That way, you can dispose of the solids and liquids separately.) Rinse the brisket thoroughly under cold running water. (You can cover the meat tightly at this point and refrigerate until you’re ready to cook it, up to 2 days ahead. Bring to room temperature before smoking.)
Step 2: SMOKE
When ready to cook, start the Traeger grill on Smoke with the lid open until the fire is established (4 to 5 minutes). Place the corned beef brisket directly on the grill grate and smoke for 2 hours.
In the meantime make the braising liquid: In a saucepan, combine the beer, brown sugar, and pickling spices. Add the onions and garlic. Simmer until the liquid is hot, watching carefully so the beer doesn’t boil over. Pour into a roasting pan.
Step 3: BRAISE
Transfer the smoked corned beef brisket to the braising liquid, fat-side down, and cover tightly with foil. Increase the temperature of the Traeger to 250 degrees F. Put the roasting pan on the grill grate. Roast the brisket for 3 to 4 hours or until it is fork-tender, turning the meat over once halfway through the cooking time. (Be careful when lifting the foil as scalding steam will escape. Use tongs for this task.) Remove the meat from the braising liquid and let it rest, loosely covered with the foil, for 10 minutes. To serve, carve the meat across the grain into 1/4-inch slices and transfer to a platter or plates. If desired, dribble some of the braising liquid over the meat, or discard.
Step 4: ENJOY!! (my personal favorite step)
If you are lucky enough to have leftovers, Nancy, the brains behind all of Traeger's recipes gave us the details for this unbelievable Reuben style party sandwich.
Slice off the top third of a round loaf of pumpernickel and pull out enough bread to leave a shell. Brush Thousand Island dressing on the interior of your bread shell and layer in Swiss cheese, thinly sliced corned beef, well-drained sauerkraut, and more cheese to "glue" everything together. Wrap tightly in foil and warm on the Traeger. Slice into wedges and serve warm. Serves 6-8. YUM!!