Cooking With Confidence
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Beef, Economical, Gluten Free, Main Dishes

Homemade Corned Beef

by Nick

Every year during March, I tell myself that I’m going to make corned beef because it’s probably my favorite way to prepare brisket (and yes this includes BBQ and smoked). For some reason I failed at this every year for the last four or five years. I either ran out of time or I couldn’t find the right ingredients.

Mostly though I was just plain lazy.

This year I was determined to make it happen. I ordered my pink salt (more on this later) online because it’s damn near impossible to find at normal stores and I made it happen. As expected, it’s not actually a hard dish to make. It just requires planning. You need to start it a full business week before you plan to eat it. That’s just the way it goes.

So let’s walk through it and I’ll show you what I did to make this beautiful stuff.

Yield
Serves 8-10.
Prep Time
Total Time

Just a moment please...

Print Recipe Homemade Corned Beef

Ingredients

  • Pickling Spice:
  • 1 tablespoons black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoons brown mustard seeds
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 big cinnamon stick, crushed
  • A handful of bay leaves, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon whole cloves
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • Corned Beef Cure:
  • 1/2 of the above pickling spice
  • 1 gallon water
  • 2 cups kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 5 teaspoons pink salt
  • 5 pounds brisket, the flat cut part is best I think
  • For Simmering:
  • Other 1/2 of pickling spice
  • Water
  • Cured brisket

Helpful Equipment

Directions

1) For pickling spice, lightly crush the peppercorns, mustard seeds, and coriander seeds. You can just use a heavy pot for this. You don't want them to be ground completely. Mix together spices, crumble bay leaves and cinnamon stick roughly.

2) In a large pot bring 1/2 gallon of water (8 cups) to a simmer with salt, sugar, pink salt, and half of the pickling spice. Once the salt is dissolved add enough ice to the pot to equal 1 gallon (this should be about four pounds of ice). This will cool off the brine mixture quickly.

3) Once the mixture is cooled, add brisket and store in the fridge for 5-7 days. You can either use the pot that you used to make the brine if the pot is big enough or move it to a large plastic container or something.

4) When you're ready to make the beef, remove it from the brine and rinse it really well with cold water. Discard brine.

5) Add brisket to a large pot again and just cover with water. Add the rest of the pickling spice and bring to a slight simmer.

6) Simmer the brisket, slightly covered for 3 hours until it's very tender. You might need to add more water as the brisket simmers to keep it covered.

7) When brisket is cooked, you can cook cabbage and potatoes in the same liquid.

8) Slice brisket thinly and serve with potatoes and cabbage or store for later. The corned beef is great in hash or sandwiches.

Recipe adapted from Charcuterie.

Starting the Brine

Corned beef is basically pickled beef which doesn’t sound like an appetizing thing, but I think it just has incredible flavor. These days you can buy corned beef in almost any stage of the process. You can buy finished corned beef at your deli, but most supermarkets will also carry brisket that has already been brined so you just have to boil it and you’re done.

My guess is that these pre-packaged corned briskets don’t have the flavor that you can get from a homemade brine. Here are all the spices I used for my brine and it will smell amazing and give the beef a really nice, deep flavor.

spice

You can buy this stuff also.

The original recipe that I was basing my version on is from Charcuterie (an amazing book if you want to get into stuff like this). It actually also includes some allspice berries and ground mace. I didn’t have any of those and didn’t want to go buy any so I just left them out. I thought my version was still super-flavorful.

The pickling spice I listed in this recipe is the perfect amount for this recipe. Just lightly crush the whole spices (you don’t want them ground) and then stir everything together. You’ll use half of this for the brine and half for cooking the brisket later.

spices

All mixed together.

The Pink Salt

 Pink salt is an elusive ingredient. I heard that it’s not completely essential for making corned beef, but I really wanted to use it. For one thing, the pink salt keeps the corned beef that signature red color, but it also inhibits bacteria growth.

I got a huge tub of the stuff off of Amazon so I’ll never have to hunt for it again!

pink salt

Not essential, but I like it.

You only need a few teaspoons of the stuff for a big brisket so I think this tub will last me a while.

When you’re ready to make the cure, mix up half of your pickling spice mixture with half a gallon of water, the salt, pink salt, and the sugar and bring it to simmer until the sugar and salt are dissolved.

simmer

Lots of salt in there.

Then I added about four pounds of ice to the pot to cool off the liquid and bring the total liquid to a full gallon.

Then stick in the brisket once the brine is cool!

curing

Fun stuff.

Store this in the fridge for 5-7 days and turn the brisket every day or so to make sure it’s curing evenly.

The 5-7 days thing is legit. I actually cured mine for four days and there was a few thicker parts of my beef that weren’t cured all the way through. Not a big deal, but five days would’ve been perfect.

Cooking the Beef

After about a week of curing, take the brisket out of the cure and rinse it well with cold water.

later

After about four days. Should’ve done longer.

You can discard the brine and add the brisket back to the pot and cover it with water. Add in the other half of the pickling spice and bring the whole thing to a simmer.

simmerin

Clean water and fresh pickling spice.

Simmer the brisket over low heat, slightly covered, for about three hours until it’s very tender. You might need to add more water as the brisket simmers to keep it covered.

While the brisket simmers you can prep your sides for the corned beef which pretty much have to be cabbage and potatoes. Not negotiable.

sides

Essential sides.

After the brisket has simmered, remove it from the pot and let it rest for a few minutes.

Then you can slice it nice and thin. You can, and should, cook the potatoes and cabbage in the same liquid that you simmered the brisket in.

Look at the color on this!

sliced

Love the color.

I had to try a piece right away. It was really tender and had amazing flavor.

piece

Yum.

There’s no doubt that this meal takes a bit of planning, but it’s actually not that much work. As long as you have the fridge space for a huge thing of brisket, and you can get your hands on some pink salt, this is a fairly straightforward dish to make.

Has anyone made their own corned beef? I’m in love with this dish.

 

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26 comments on “Homemade Corned Beef

  1. I’ve heard the name of this dish before, but never thought that it takes almost a week to make it! Well, we don’t have it in Turkish cuisine, so ridiculously enough, I thought it is a dish with beef and corn!

    The pinkish color of the beef looks amazing! Never heard of pink salt before, it’s great that it inhibits bacteria. It sounds a bit tiresome to make it, but I love that kind of foods. You know you will get a great result at the end, so it’s definitely worth! All spices and process of brine sounds intriguing to me, I can imagine the flavor inside brisket when it’s done!

    1. Yea… the hard part about the dish is just planning. Planning a week ahead and also making sure you have room in your fridge to store the beef while it cures. If you can figure those out the actual recipe is pretty easy.

  2. That looks awesome. I use Morton Tender Quick instead of the pink salt to do mine. It’s a little easier to find. I’ve used to on vension roast and wild goose breast. It’s kind of magic, it takes gamey meat and makes it taste like corned beef.

    1. Ah! I figured there was probably a more common solution. Now I have a pound of pink salt, but thanks for the info for others!

      1. My husband is on his second package of pink salt – once he got hooked on making his own bacon and pastrami, he hasn’t looked back.

  3. I made my own two years ago and it was a huge success – I swore I’d never buy the prebrined kind again. Then last year I tried again and it was a total flop… I think maybe I didn’t use enough salt ot preserve the meat. We ended up throwing it out. I haven’t decided yet if I’ll try again this year.

  4. I love that book! Use it for several recipes. I make corned beef fairly often and I make pastrami too. In fact, I have a boneless lamb leg brining to make lamb pastrami next weekend. I very much recommend that people who like to cook start making things like bacon and corned beef. The results are so amazing.

  5. Wow, that looks fabulous, and I absolutely will make my own this year! Foolishly enough I thought that corned beef was for “them” (manufacturers) to make, but in view of my determination to avoid processed foods (unless I make it myself), this post is perfect. Thanks, Nick!

  6. For those of you looking for pink salt, you can find it in a lot of larger outdoors/hunting kind of stores. I took a class on making sausage and jerky from wild game, and they recommend the pink salt for those undertakings. They said you can get away with it with storebought meat, but for wild game never to take a chance. I use it with storebought meat as well, because nobody ever asked for a side of food poisoning with their jerky. I’ve never tried corned beef though….maybe this year!

  7. I have salt that is pink. Does that necessarily mean it is the required pink salt? I originally picked up a grinder of “Himalayan Pink Sea Salt” from Trader Joe’s, and then have been re-filling it with pink sea salt I found in the bulk section of our local Whole Foods-rip-off-store. I don’t want to assume that just because it is pink that it will do the same thing…especially since pink salt seems to be hard to find and I seem to have an abundance of it.

    1. I believe “pink salt” is actually salt mixed with nitrites, not just pink-colored salt. (and it’s use is also the reason we’re supposed to avoid eating processed meats – something to keep in mind)

    2. No, the pink sea salt is not the same thing as Pink Salt. Technically, pink salt, aka Prague Powder #1 is a mixture of 93.75% sodium chloride and 6.25% sodium nitrite.

      There is also a Prague Powder #2 which is 89.25% sodium chloride, 6.25% sodium nitrite, and 4.00% sodium nitrate. Prague Powder #2 is used for dry cured sausages like hard salami.

      Both are actually pink from a dye used so you don’t mistake it for normal salt.

  8. I haven’t made my own corned beef yet… but I sure do eat my fair share of Reubens (especially over the next couple weeks). Thanks for the recipe!

    <3 St Patrick's Day

  9. If you are feeling lazy, these are currently on sale pre brined with a seasoning packet at safeway, mines currently on the stove, cant wait.

  10. Iv’e made this with a very similar recipe a few times and it always ends up too salty. This year I only cured mine for a few days and that helped, but it was still on the borderline of being too salty. Anyway, if you have leftovers, I have a pretty good recipe for them going up tomorrow.

    1. The last time I made corned beef using the recipe from Charcuterie I also though it was a bit too salty but you can soak the brisket in cool water for an hour or so before cooking to bring the salt content down.

  11. Is that the 6.5 quart green Tramontina porcelain dutch oven I see you simmering your brisket in?

  12. My corned beef is in the slow cooker as I type this :) Along with potatoes and cabbage, of course. Can’t wait for corned beef hash this weekend!

  13. A must try! I normally buy the grocery store kind for my braised corned beef. I’ll try my recipe using your recipe in the future. Thanks for sharing!

  14. Admiring the commitment you put into your site and detailed information you provide.
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  15. I have found that throwing 3 or 4 cups of ice into the pot after the meat has been completely cooked and the heat turned off and allowing the meat to rest in the now cooled broth for 15 minutes yields a much, much juicier corned beef.

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