Our Friday lunch special, a smoked corned beef Reuben sandwich recipe born of a St. Patrick’s Day celebration, has become my favorite sandwich. I didn’t even know I liked sauerkraut until I tried this recipe. Many a person who previously disliked corned beef has become a fan after one bite of this Reuben sandwich.–Wiley McCrary, Janet McCrary, Amy Paige Condon

LC To Smoke Or Not To Smoke Note

Truth be told, this Reuben sandwich recipe is something of a riff on the traditional Reuben sandwich. See, the classic sandwich calls for corned beef brisket, Thousand Island dressing, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and rye bread. The recipe below calls for smoked corned beef brisket. The way we see it, you have several options when making this. You can buy the corned beef already smoked, you can buy regular corned beef and smoke it at home, you can make and smoke your own corned beef, or you can swap in regular corned beef brisket in place of the smoked. We tried it each of these ways, and oh baby! While the complexity of home-smoked beef is unparalleled, this hearty sandwich is still darn swell even without the smoke. So don’t spend much time on the debate “to smoke or not to smoke?” because far more life-changing questions await. Like, say, milk or dark chocolate? Or butter or mayo on your lobster roll?

A stack of halved reuben sandwiches on a wooden cutting board.

Reuben Sandwich

5 / 2 votes
Use smoked or non-smoked corned beef brisket in this recipe but don't deny yourself the joy of tangy sauerkraut and the glorious nuttiness of Swiss cheese.
David Leite
Servings10 servings
Calories548 kcal
Prep Time15 minutes
Total Time15 minutes


  • Smoker (optional)


  • One (5-pound) smoked corned beef brisket, (or unsmoked, if desired)
  • 20 slices Texas toast or thickly sliced bread
  • Thousand Island dressing
  • 40 slices Swiss cheese
  • One jar sauerkraut, drained and patted dry


  • If you’re not smoking the corned beef, skip to the next step. If smoking the corned beef, heat your smoker to 225˚F (107°C) place the corned beef on the smoker plate, and cover the smoker. Smoke the corned beef until it reaches an internal temperature of 190˚F (88°C), approximately 6 hours. Remove it from the smoker and let it rest on a cutting board at least 15 minutes to allow the juices to settle.
  • Carve the corned beef against the grain into 1/4-inch-thick slices.
  • Slather 1 side of each slice of toast with Thousand Island dressing, then place 2 slices Swiss cheese on top. On half the bread slices, place 4 tablespoons sauerkraut and several slices corned beef.
  • Put the sandwiches together, then press in a panini maker for 3 to 4 minutes or cook in a skillet over medium heat, flipping once, until the toast is golden and crisp. Serve immediately.
Wiley's Championship BBQ Cookbook

Adapted From

Wiley’s Championship BBQ

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Serving: 1 servingCalories: 548 kcalCarbohydrates: 35 gProtein: 24 gFat: 35 gSaturated Fat: 16 gMonounsaturated Fat: 5 gCholesterol: 63 mgSodium: 545 mgFiber: 2 gSugar: 4 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2014 Wiley McCrary | Janet McCrary | Amy Paige Condon. Photo © 2014 Chia Chong. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

Sandwiches for dinner usually don’t elicit much of a favorable response in my home, but everyone loved this reuben sandwich recipe and was excited to have leftovers for lunch during the week. The corned beef brisket needs to be smoked, so this sandwich isn’t a quickie to make from scratch without some forethought. But after the corned beef was smoked, the recipe came together quickly. This would also be a great football party or tailgating dish.

Of all the possible recipes my family could test, this is the perfect one. For years my husband and sons, along with several of their friends, have sought out the perfect Reuben sandwich up and down the East coast while on soccer or other trips. For years, all Reubens have been held to the standard of one from a restaurant more than 4 hours away. But now the new best Reuben sandwich to judge all others against can be made in our home. We started with a 4.8 pound beef brisket that was brined and turned into corned beef via the recipe on this website. Then we smoked the corned beef to become pastrami for 8 1/2 hours using hickory chips. We were careful to make sure the temperature stayed between 225°F and 250°F, but even after the 8 1/2 hours the meat never reached 190°F. When we took the meat off the grill, it had remained at 177°F for more than 45 minutes. Since the meat took longer to cook than anticipated, we ended up wrapping it in aluminum foil and storing it in the refrigerator until the next day. The following day we took the corned beef out of the fridge, let it come close to room temperature, and sliced it against the grain. The meat had a great smoky flavor, good moisture. and the crust added wonderful texture with a bit more of that smoky flavor. We would like to offer some suggestions to make the perfect reuben sandwich. First, the recipe calls for slicing the meat 1/4 inch thick. This is too thick for the perfect Reuben. It’s best to slice the meat very thin. The proportions of ingredients is key. You want to cover the bread with Thousand Island so you get some in each bite, but not so much your bread gets soggy. You want a lot of pastrami but just enough chess (according to your sandwich size) that you notice it but but it does not get in the way of the flavors. You want sauerkraut in each bite, but not enough to drown out the other flavors. Finally, the true error in the recipe is the bread. A traditional Reuben is made with rye bread and for a good reason. Rye bread adds to the wonderful blend of savory ingredients. The smoky pastrami, tangy Swiss cheese, bitter sauerkraut, savory rye bread ,and hint of sweet Thousand Island balance each other perfectly, creating the best sandwich you will ever eat. If the sandwich sounds odd to you, I should mention that my family members each dislike almost every ingredient independently, but together they create magic. The ingredients need each other.

A Reuben sandwich with sauerkraut, Swiss, and Thousand Island dressing just happens to be on the top of my go-to comfort food list. I love it! The choice of ingredients just elevates this Reuben sandwich recipe even more. Don’t forget to butter the bread before assembling the sandwich—a little bit of butter adds to the nice, buttery grill of the bread. I do not have a panini press, so I used a cast iron skillet instead. The lid of a small pan worked great to weigh down the sandwich and get a nice grill on the first side. I did not make my own corned beef although I purchased a good sliced-to-order version from the deli of my local Whole Foods. I chose a nice rye bread from a German deli and a preservative-free sauerkraut in a jar. I used standard big eye Swiss and a traditional Thousand Island dressing recipe. I happen to like sauerkraut so I used the full 4 tablespoons, but add to your preference and don’t forget to drain it well to prevent a soggy Reuben. My only addition to this recipe is inspired by a restaurant that is now closed. The cooks used to add…get ready…sliced cooked beets to their Reuben and it took the sandwich to a whole new level.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    This sounds amazing. I’m remembering my dad bringing home sliced corned beef still warm from the deli in Southfield, Michigan. We all loved corned beef sandwiches on rye. I’ve not enjoyed a reuben in a long time, this recipe sounds perfect. Thanks for sharing with us.

  2. 5 stars
    What an honor to have you share my Baked Reuben!! Thank you David! I have to say I have never had smoked corned beef, but it sounds amazing, and now I must go seek it out or I guess smoke it myself. Ha!