Your comment may need to be approved before it will appear on the site. Thanks for waiting. First time commenting? Please review the Comment Policy.
Some clarifications about pink salt:
Pink salt is a blend. As I remember, it’s about 95% salt (sodium cloride) 5% sodium nitrite with some sugar thrown in.
Pure sodium nitrite is quite toxic. Half a teaspoon will kill. As far as I know, it’s a restricted product not available to the average consumer. The commercially available curing blend is pink to keep it from being mistaken for table salt. Even the blend can injure you if handled improperly.
But if you want the best corned beef, pink salt is the way to go.
It’s only the pure chemical nitrite that is hazardous. We all eat nitrites every day, it naturally occures in many of our foods.
The small amount of nitrites that end up in our home-made corned beef by using pink salt are OK.
Just handle with care.
One more thing. The Spice House in Milwaukee has the best corned beef spice blend ever.
Corned beef man here, I have cooked corned beef in tonnage.
It is not a good idea to reduce the salt in the brine. You want the brine to be strong.
At the deli, we soaked the corned beef in fresh water overnight, nearly 12 hours, no refridgeration needed if it’s been well-brined.
That really helps cut down on the saltiness.
Wondering if you can begin brining process while waiting for the pink salt to arrive in the mail. I have brisket and other ingredients, but salt won’t arrive for two days.
Hi Camille, good question! Pink salt is an optional ingredient for the cure. In our case it does add color and flavor. If you were to add pink salt later in the curing process (day 3 of a 5 day cure), you would need to remove the meat from the brine, add the pink salt to the brine, and stir it until completely dissolved. Since the meat has already been absorbing salt from the brine, I would use less pink salt at this point. That said, if it were me, I would just wait until the pink salt arrived. I don’t feel comfortable messing around with it, given its toxicity if you aren’t using it properly.
I have my corn beef curing but when it’s done I would like to make Pastrami.Question: should I desalinate the corn beef before I put it in the smoker?
Yes, rinse and then de-salinate in cold water for about an hour per pound before adding rub (with no salt) and then smoking.
You can also make pastrami without smoking it. Delish!
Isn’t unsmoked pastrami just corned beef ?
If I use a bottle of pickling spice instead, should I still toast and crush them as I would if I started with the individual spices?
Hi, Suzanne! Emma here, managing editor for Simply Recipes. Yes, go ahead and toast your pickling spices!
It’s time to start making Corned Beef. I love this recipe.
I followed this recipe to the letter for my first attempt at home made corned beef. I am pleased to say that I am now confident it can be done and done to near perfection. The reason I say “near” perfection is because the final product came out a little saltier than I like. Question for Ms. Elise – Do you think if I cut back on some of the salt in the brine it would help the meat be a little less salty, or do you think that might hinder the brining/curing process?
Hi Scott, check to see what brand of kosher salt you are using. If you are using Morton’s, you’ll need much less than if you are using Diamond Crystal. I’ve updated the recipe with measurements with weights, and different volumes depending on the brand.
In New England there is a definite preference for grey corned beef. Red corned beef is referred to as New York style corned beef.
I’ve lived in Maine and New Hampshire for my entire 39+ years and have never had a gray corned beef.
Linda O’Leary you mean grey corned beef is preferred in Boston, and the surrounding areas. Its not popular anywhere else.
Don’t alter the recipe. The 2 cups of salt have more to do with the food science curing equation than the seasoning of the finished product
I didn’t boil mixture will it still taste the same
Hi Malinda, boiling helps get more flavor out of the spices, and helps sterilize the mixture before you cure your beef in it.
Hi..after having gone through the brining process for about 10 days..can I cook the beef brisket and then mince in and place it in a ham maker..or can I pressure cook the beef after the brining process..
What color should the corned beef be when I take out of the brine? I am a little more than midway through brining and it is looking a little grey… no bad smells, but I’m worried it is not curing properly. How can I tell if the beef has gone bad?
The brine does turn the outside of the meat a grey-ish color.
I followed the directions for the brine.. It came out super salty – I think maybe cutting back to one cup or kosher salt would have been better.
Hi Lynn, it probably has something to do with the brand of kosher salt you are using! I’ve clarified the recipe to indicate the amount of salt needed by weight, and how the volumes are different depending on the brand of salt. If you are using Morton’s you will need a little more than half as much as you would need if using Diamond Crystal.
Can I reused the brine ?
Hello JR, no, the brine strength changes after it has been used. You should not reuse the brine.
Hi, I followed the recipe to the T and the meat didn’t turn pink! Flavor was great but corned beef should be pink! Any ideas?
Hi Sally, what brand of pink curing salt did you use?
I would suggest adding the sodium nitrite to the brine after it has been cooked and cooled. That way you avoid the possibility of losing any in the cooking process and benefit from its full effects..
Hi, folks! When I make this homemade meat dish, I use pork loin or shoulder, as it comes out very tender. A person could probably use just about any type of meat. I’ve used different cuts of beef or pork, with varying success. (some more tough than others). None has been anything but tasty. As an aside. I don’t use pink salt, as it has been implicated in some diseases. I don’t care if the meat is not that rose color. Make sure the meat stays well refrigerated!
Hi – Elise – can you (or anyone reader) offer a simple method to finish, i.e. “cook” the corned beef for use with sandwiches such as the Rueben on this site? I want to try this method for curing my own but would like to use for sandwiches instead of a boiled dinner. Thank you.
Hi Mike, you might try baking the corned beef, as described in one of the methods here: http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/corned_beef_and_cabbage/.
For sandwiches, you just chill it overnight after cooking, then slice thin. Doesn’t really matter the cooking method.
To get great color without the pink salts — I’ve had success in the past by adding one or two small beets during the final cooking (I simmer it in beer) for a rich rose color. Just remember not to use the cooking solution for the rest of your meal (veggies, potatoes) because everything will turn red. Also, do remind your guests about the colorful effects of beets on the elimination system ;).
Great tip Teri, thanks!
AWESOME idea! Thank you.
Couldn’t the beets be added to the brine to get that color instead of in the final cooking?
I’m sure this is a dumb question, but I just placed in the brine last night…the beef I bought has a sell by date of today, brining will keep it, right??
Yes, you should be fine.
Can you use rump or sirloin tip roast to corn brine in lieu of brisket?
Hi Stephen, I haven’t tried to make corned beef with those cuts, but if anyone has, please chime in!
I have used both eye of the round, and bottom round. They don’t have quite the moisture as the corned beef due to the lower fat content but make for a great finished product. We always use the meat in either some type of corned beef sandwich or as a corned beef hash ingredient so the lower fat content was never an issue. A meat market up this way makes a wicked good corned beef, all done with an eye of the round.
Hey Stephen, did you ever corn a sirloin tip? Because I’m going to attempt to corn tri tip myself for Patties Day, and was curious on how it would turn out.
I have ‘corned’ many sirloin tip. No quite as ‘shreadable’ as bisket but tastes about the same.
Hi,I have corned a beef before but, my daughter brought me a 45lb frozen brisket and asked me to corn it for her!!! My question is this, after corning it, can I refreeze in smaller portions without cooking it?
I have froze corn beef before it taste good after 1 yrs in freezer.
Hi i brought a corned beef ftom Woolworths, how do i know if it has been cured?
Hi Tracey, typically corned beef that you buy at the store is already cured, that is what the “corning” process does. Otherwise, it’s just plain brisket.
I absolutely love corned beef and I am looking forward to making my first “scratch” batch, however in reading over the directions I did not see what to do with the 1/2 stick of cinnamon in preparing the pickling spices. Should I toast with the spices break up in the mortar, or add with the crumbled bay leaves? Thanks.
Hi DiAnne, you add the 1/2 stick of cinnamon to the pot in step 2.
Please warn folks that toasting volatile spiced like gloves and allspice can be dangerous especially if they have breathing problems! Within seconds of placing the spices in the hot pan the cats and I were coughing and running for the door! I had to use a painter mask to complete the task.
When I was a teenager many many years ago, I remember my grandmother curing the corn beef by simply packing in kosher salt and leaving on a platter on my moms kitchen counter. Every day she would pack more salt around it and left it that way for about 5 or 6 days. No brining, It was delicious, but was it food poisoning just waiting to happen. Has anyone heard of corning brisket this way?
Hi All!: I had a thought just now reading your recipe. The “sodium nitrite” is notsupposed to be good for you. The key is to salt and turn the meat a nice red color. I’m going to try using beets to color the meat, using kosher salt to cure.Any thoughts on that?
If you want to cure meat without sodium nitrite, read this: http://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/nchfp/lit_rev/cure_smoke_cure.html You can use meat with plain salt, but you’ll still need to refrigerate it and cook it before eating.
I have been corning beef for years, as much as 150 lbs at a time for large groups.To get the right recipe my butcher taught me to put a medium potato in a bucketof water, and keep adding kosher salt slowly until the potato floats to the top,then add some pickling spice and a piece of bottom round beef which has been pierced with a long fork several times. Cover with a plate weighted down and put in cool place 3 to 5 days before cooking. Results? a perfect gray corned beef.
great tip! thank you.
Fran, do I read this correctly that you let the beef sit in the brine without refrigerating it? And do you cover the bucket? How cool of a place do you put it in?
As long as it is less than 10 degrees Celsius or 50 degrees Fahrenheit
Hi Elise, is there any problem with leaving it in longer than 10 days? Just found out I’ll be out of town for a few days next week so I can cook it at 4 days or at 11 days. Thanks!
Hi Kevin, the longer it stays in the cure the saltier it will be. You need at least a week of cure so I would say do 11 days. You can always leach some of the salt out later in the cooking preparation.
Long cures of cured meat have both a nitrite (as found in pink salt) and a nitrate (can be bought on internet, but you must mix the salt yourself). The nitrate will slowly change to nitrite and keep the cure going for a longer time. This is usually done if the meat if very thick, such as a whole leg of beef or horse.
About to make this using a bag for the cure. Do I half everything in the brine, or just the water and spices?
Should have said water and pickling spices.
Hi Julie, you’ll want to halve everything. With a bag you only need half as much brine. The brine recipe makes a gallon. With a bag, you’ll need half a gallon. So cut everything in half.
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.
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?
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.
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!
Sure! We make roast beef hash by putting roast beef through an old fashioned meat grinder. Works great.
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?
Hi Stephanie, yes, I’ve made it without the curing salt. Tastes fine. It’s just more grey and less pink.
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?
“Cover with at least one inch of water.” ~Elise
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.
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.
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!!
..Shosho, where can I get that recipe ? Thanks……..rick
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!
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
I have corned bear meat, as my husband hunts them. It turned out so good that he feels he eats too much of it now! I think bear works good with this cuz it’s actually porcine; I also make “ham” with it.
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
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.
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
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!
You can order pink salt from the Spice House too.
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
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.
@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
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
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.
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
I’m making mine with a round roast. Hope it works.
It should work. Just finished my round roast cure and about to serve up corned beef and cabbage for the family. Thank you Elise!
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.)
After you make the corned beef if you pepper it then smoke it BAMMM YOU HAVE PASTRAMI
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
A crockpot is a great way to cook it. I do it on low which really tenderizes the meat. This creates a great broth to season the vegetables (potatoes, carrots, cabbage and sometimes turnips or parsnips).
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
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
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
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
Try this with a piece of venison or other large game – oh, my! And leftover bits make great “creamed-chip beef”.