Home Cured Corned Beef

How to easily cure your own corned beef, with beef brisket, pickling spices, and salt.

The spice mix with the gallon of brine makes easily enough curing brine for a 5 pound brisket, cured in a somewhat large-ish container. If you were to use a 2-gallon freezer bag or marinating bag, you would likely need just half (or less) of the amount of brine and brine spices.

  • Prep time: 5 days
  • Cook time: 3 hours

Ingredients

Pickling spices:

  • 1 Tbsp whole allspice berries
  • 1 Tbsp whole mustard seeds (brown or yellow)
  • 1 Tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1 Tbsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 Tbsp whole cloves
  • 1 Tbsp whole black peppercorns
  • 9 whole cardamom pods
  • 6 large bay leaves, crumbled
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1/2 stick cinnamon

Brine:

  • 1 gallon water
  • 2 cups Kosher salt
  • 5 teaspoons pink curing salt*
  • 3 Tbsp pickling spices
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar

*Pink curing salt, or sodium nitrite, goes by many names, such as Prague Powder #1 or DQ Curing Salt #1, and is available online and may be available at your local specialty market or butcher shop. If you don't have it, you can still make corned beef, but it is necessary for that vibrant pink color we associate with corned beef. And it adds flavor too. Without it the corned beef will be a dull grey color.

Brisket:

  • 1 4-5 pound beef brisket
  • 1 Tbsp pickling spices

Method

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1 You can either used store-bought pickling spices or you can make your own. To make your own, toast the allspice berries, mustard seeds, coriander seeds, red pepper flakes, cloves, peppercorns, and cardamom pods in a small frying pan on high heat until fragrant and you hear the mustard seeds start to pop. Remove from heat and place in a small bowl. Use a mortar and pestle to crush the spices a little (or the back of a spoon or the side of a knife on a flat surface). Add to a small bowl and stir in the crumbled bay leaves and ground ginger.

2 Add about 3 Tbsp of the spice mix (reserve the rest for cooking the corned beef after it has cured), plus the half stick of cinnamon, to a gallon of water in a large pot, along with the Kosher salt, pink salt (if using), and brown sugar. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Then refrigerate until well chilled.

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3 Place the brisket in a large, flat container or pan, and cover with the brine. The brine should cover the meat. The meat may float in which case you may want to weigh it down with a plate. Alternatively you can use a 2-gallon freezer bag (placed in a container so if it leaks it doesn't leak all over your refrigerator), place the brisket in the freezer bag and about 2 quarts of brine, squeezing out the air from the bag before sealing. Place in the refrigerator and chill from 5-7 days. Every day flip the brisket over, so that all sides get brined equally.

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4 At the end of the cure, remove the brisket from the brine and rinse off the brine with cold water. Place the brisket in a large pot that just fits around the brisket and cover with at least one inch of water. If you want your brisket less salty, add another inch of water to the pot. Add a tablespoon of the pickling spices to the pot. Bring to a boil, reduce to a very low simmer (barely bubbling), and cook 3-4 hours, until the corned beef is fork tender. (At this point you can store in the fridge for up to a week.) Remove the meat to a cutting board. (You can use the spiced cooking liquid to cook vegetables for boiled dinner or corned beef and cabbage.) Slice thinly against the grain to serve.

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Comments

  1. Michelle

    Try this with a piece of venison or other large game – oh, my! And leftover bits make great “creamed-chip beef”.

  2. Eileen

    Are you participating in Charcutepalooza?

    I am not, but I support it all the way! For those who are unfamiliar with Charcutepalooza, it’s an ongoing community event in which people are cooking their way through Michael Ruhlman’s Charcuterie book, and posting about it in their blogs. Rules of participation can be found here. The Twitter hash tag is #charcutepalooza. ~Elise

  3. Kate

    I keep wanting to try to corn my own beef, but I never remember to actually track down the appropriate sodium nitrate, and I don’t want icky grey beef.

    I wonder if the Amish store I recently found might have it on the shelf. They seem to have everything else under the sun you might need for preserving food!

  4. Val from PA

    I’ve seen corned beef made on Food Network, and you’re right – it doesn’t look hard at all… I will add it to my bucket list, but in the meantime, I’ll just continue enjoying the stuff from the store… I am a salt fan so I guess that’s one of the reasons why I love corned beef – and pastrami!! There is no better sandwich than a really good reuben!!!

  5. Ryan

    I love the seasonal posts, Elise. St. Patrick’s Day would not be complete without corned beef and cabbage, just like my grandma used to make every year. Your recipe has inspired me to make my own this year!

  6. Carrie

    Hi Hank and Elise, I ordered a brisket to pick up on Saturday so we can have this for St. Patrick’s Day. I did order a first cut – do you know what the difference is between that and (I guess) the second cut?

    The first cut, while still fatty, is far less fatty than the second cut. The second cut is a better piece of meat for a traditional pot roast brisket, though. ~Hank

  7. Stephanie

    Have you ever made this without the curing salt? I’ve cut out all sodium nitrates and soduim nitrites from my diet and I would really like to avoid using it. I’m willing to give up the color but if it actually changes the flavor is there an alternative?

    There is a recipe listed in the links at the bottom of the recipe that uses celery juice as a natural source of the sodium nitrate. It’s still sodium nitrate though. I would suggest reading Harold McGee’s article in the New York Times about nitrites and nitrates. Quote Harold, “In the 1970s, the nitrite and nitrate in cured meats fell under the suspicion that they might cause cancer. Later research showed that we get far more of these chemicals from vegetables like celery, spinach and lettuce.” ~Elise

  8. Angie Peters

    Is the pink curing salt the reason other cured meats (hotdogs and salami’s) are pink?

    Yes, but not because the salt is pink, but because the salt is sodium nitrite or sodium nitrate. They color the salt pink only for our benefit so that we don’t mix it up with regular salt. ~Elise

  9. Susan

    This sure makes it look simple enough to corn your own beef. I recall Ruhlman warning to be careful using the pink curing salt and not to confuse it with the likes of Himalayan Pink Salt and such for garnishing foods. It’s definately not the same thing, so label it well and keep it away from your seasoning salts! Make sure that you rinse the meat well after curing it.

    Yes, I’ve labeled mine “curing salt” in the pantry. ~Elise

  10. megan

    Have you tried this with your recipe for baked brisket (from last year around this time)?

    No, but there’s no reason it wouldn’t work. Just make sure you have a brisket with a nice thick fatty layer. ~Elise

  11. Anne Maxfield

    As part of Charcutepalooza, my corned beef has been taking up a lot of room in my fridge for five days,and tonight’s the night. I’ve never been a huge fan of corned beef, and I’m hoping that doing it myself changes that. It’s certainly easy enough, once you clean out the fridge!

  12. Ian

    Could you use a crock pot (with an inch of water and spices) to cook the beef instead of using a pot of water?

    Yes, I think that would work fine. I would cook it on the low setting for 4 hours after it reaches a simmer. ~Elise

  13. Paul

    I love corned beef, and will try this, without the nitrites. Any tips on how to make pastrami, which I thought was peppered and smoked corned beef, would be appreciated.

    (@Stephanie–When you’ve finished Harold McGee’s article, you might want to read any of the many recent studies that suggest a link between nitrates and nitrites and many serious health problems.)

  14. Jenny Eliuk

    So the lame one-horse town I live in didn’t have a specific brisket cut, so I just got a standard roast. Do you think it would be wise to try it with a regular roast, or would that cut of meat be put to better use with another recipe.

    Signed,

    Dejected Diaspora near Denver

    Great question. You can actually corn any cut of meat; the method has been used for hundreds of years on all sorts of cuts. The brisket is a tough, fatty piece of meat that is highly flavorful. The toughness lends itself to low, slow cooking, and the fattiness adds to the flavor and helps the meat from being dry. I’m thinking a well-marbled chuck roast would work, though it wouldn’t slice as easily as a denser cut like a top or bottom round. ~Elise

  15. merd

    Do you know what the process is for Pastrami, Elise? I think they’re about the same thing but there’s this place called Pickles here in the Denver area that smokes the brisket with oak and cherry wood all day long to make this amazing pastrami. Is Pastrami simply Corned Beef preparation plus smoking low and slow? If so, I’m intrigued and wonder if this recipe would work. Sounds really good.

    Hi Merd, pastrami is just corned beef that has been coated in coriander seeds and peppercorns, and then smoked. In Ruhlman’s book he takes the corned beef out of the brine, coats it with the coriander and pepper, hot smokes it to an internal temp of 150°F, then steams it for 2-3 hours until fork tender. ~Elise

  16. Stephanie

    @Paul – Those are the reasons I cut out nitrites and nitrates a couple years ago :)

    @Elise – Thanks for the article, it was very interesting and I had no idea it’s found naturally in celery! That was cool! However it feels like the same kind of argument many make about high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and how HFCS comes from corn and therefor, natural.

    I’m very interested in trying to make this with celery in place of the pink salt.

    If you are concerned about nitrites or nitrates, then you’re still going to get them from celery juice. What you won’t know however, is exactly how much you are getting when you use celery. When you use pink salt, you can measure exactly how much goes into your cure. ~Elise

  17. Diane

    In reply to Ian’s question re crockpot, I always cook my shop bought corned beef in crockpot. Cover with water, add quarted peeld onion and 1-2 Tbs brown sugar or golden syrup. Cook on low for about 8 hours. Melt in the mouth. Have to try doing my own corning.

  18. Micron the Cat

    Is the curing salt similar or same as Morton’s Tender Quick salt?

    I have made corned beef several times, using Alton Brown’s recipe from FoodTV.com. It does turn out the grey color of well-done beef, but otherwise there’s nothing wrong with it – Alton’s recipe is really good. Just ordered that Chartucerie book tho- can’t WAIT to get it! Also have just received a box of Tender Quick salt to make my mother’s salami recipe. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm…

    Good question. I saw that Morton’s product in the grocery store today. It appeared to be an already mixed together cure, but not with the same ratio of pink salt to regular salt as in this recipe or as recommended by Ruhlman. It does have directions though, on the package as to the correct amounts to use, and for how long, to cure various meats. ~Elise

  19. Kelly @ Evil Shenanigans

    My husband has been bugging me to make corned beef but I had no idea what to do, or where to start, because corned beef is not such a big thing down here in Texas. I think he will be very happy if I make this for him! Time to talk to the butcher … :D

  20. Sammie

    This corned beef looks amazing- I had no idea it could be so easy. In honor of St. Patty’s Day I just might have to try this recipe out! Thanks for posting!

  21. Tommi Nick

    My brisket went into the brine a couple of days ago and I look forward to corned beef and cabbage with your soda bread, then corned beef and potato hash for breakfast, and then, finally, corned beef sandwiches. This will be my first time with corned beef at all and I can’t wait for my weekend of immersion. Thanks!

    Awesome! ~Elise

  22. Rachel

    Elise, does it take the same amount of time to cure regardless of the brisket size? I put one in the frige yesterday with the assumption we were going to eat it Friday because my husband and I couldn’t do a St. Patrick’s Day dinner on Thursday. That’s changed and now he wants to do it on Thursday, but that’s only 4 days from when I put it in. The brisket is small, like 3.5 pounds…does that matter or does it still need the full 5 days?

    Hi Rachel – that’s a very good question. I don’t think the weight makes that much of a difference, if anything it would be the thickness of the brisket. Given that you are going to immediately cook the meat after you take it out of the cure, I think you’ll be okay to take it out after 4 days. It may not be as pink or as deeply flavored (or salty) as if you had waited 5 days. But I don’t really know. Personally I would go for it. ~Elise

  23. Judith

    I have made corned beef without the curing salt for years. Yes, it’s gray, but it still tastes great. Among other seasonings, I use allspice and bay leaves in the brine. I don’t understand how or why the pink salt changes the flavor.

  24. John

    The curing salt I have warns to only use 1/4 tsp per pound but your recipe calls for about 1tsp per pound. Is that because it’s being used in a brine and not getting put directly in the meat like you would for say sausage?

    That is correct. ~Elise

  25. Liesel

    Have you ever corned any wild game? I have a freezer full of elk, deer and fowl and am always experimenting. I think an elk pastrami could be divine :).

    I haven’t, but my colleague Hank Shaw has. There is a link to his corned venison in the section of links underneath the recipe. ~Elise

  26. TexasDeb

    Just a note – I tried cooking my home cured corned beef brisket baked with a mustard/brown sugar glaze as suggested in a previous post that compared baking to braising. I found the foil covered baking method left the home cured meat too salty and it did not become tender in the allotted time. I finished the brisket off in a water braise for another 60 minutes, changing the water once at the halfway point and it turned out super tender and just right in terms of saltiness.

    Next time I’ll braise after home corning beef and then finish the meat with a mustard/brown sugar glaze up under the broiler.

    Thanks for this great recipe, Elise!

  27. Shosho

    Just a note abt. the cut of beef for ‘corning’: I always disliked store bought corned beef until I discovered “Corned Beef Round”. I made this with your recipe using an eye round, after thoroughly trimming the fat. Instead of making “boiled dinner” I put the meat and veggies in an oven bag and baked it at 300 deg. for 4.5 hours. It was WONDERFUL! Everyone loved the taste and texture of the entire dinner. The veggies were “sweeter” than when boiled, and the meat was delish!! Thanks for your recipe, it’s a new favorite!!

  28. Ron Smith

    What a great recipe! We cured a beef bottom round roast. It was the best corned beef we have ever eaten. I omitted the pink curing salt and the taste was perfect.

  29. Jim R

    Believe it or not but gray corned beef is the traditional Irish American corned beef, at least in Boston – no nitrates. For aficionados, it is by far preferred to red corned beef. So pleas, no “yucky” comments. It is perfection with a Guinness or a Harp. My father wouldn’t consider red corned beef of St. Patrick’s Day.

    Cordially,
    Jim

  30. Bonnie Maukonen

    Am trying this recipe this year, as last year’s didn’t turn out that great. We live in Finland, and being an American wife, I miss having Corned Beef around St. Patty’s Day.
    Quick question though. We you go to cook the beef, once the 5 days (or whatever) is done, you mentioned using 1″ of water.

    Is that 1″ of water TOTAL in pan? or do you cover corned beef with with 1″ over the meat itself?

    Thanks.

    “Cover with at least one inch of water.” ~Elise

  31. Lisa

    Excellent! Now for the big question…
    I am searching out recipes to make the ground corned beef that is way too costly in stores. I want to do this myself. Would I just make this and grind it through a meat grinder? Sure would love the know how for this, and Thank You!

  32. Lisa

    Corned beef and cabbage is a wonderful meal and I’ve been eating since I was a little girl. Great Grandmother made her stew w’ the canned version, and used same ingredients plus, corn as well. Excellent meal anytime with warm home made bread.

  33. Heidi Rodis

    Hi,

    I would love to try this out. I love corned beef and I was so happy I saw your article. Thanks for sharing this!

    One question though,

    does this work as well even if I don’t have a fridge? I mean, in the days before fridge, they can make this by storing it in a dry, cool place. Do you think it would work?

    Thanks

  34. Dale Stewart

    I’ve used this procedure several times now and it works great. HOWEVER, I make corned beef ONLY for corned beef hash, so, for those who are interested, you can use ground beef and soak it in the brine. I currently have 10 pounds of coarse-ground brisket soaking in our second fridge. I run the brisket through a meat grinder with a three-quarter-inch (.75″) grinding plate, marinate it, then cook it in a crock pot for eight hours or so. I refrigerate it overnight and then run the chilled meat through a smaller plate (three-eighths-inch), mix it with par-cooked diced potatoes and freeze it so that I have it ready whenever I’m in the mood for corned beef hash, which is frequently. With this latest batch, I’m going to pressure can at least part of it in half pint or 12 oz jars, which are the right size for one serving with a side of eggs. Also, ground beef has a lot more surface area, so the corned beef holds a lot more of the flavor though I haven’t noticed it being especially salty. Hope this helps.