Corned beef and cabbage, Photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman

It’s not too late to corn your own beef if you celebrate St. Paddy’s day! I haven’t yet and my wife, who has Irish roots, expects it on this day! Below is a recipe for a quick cure, which should work on most contemporary briskets which are an inch or two thick (it’s all in the pickling spice, which you can buy or better, use our recipe below, far far superior than store bought if you’re not pressed for time). You can also use a two-inch thick chuck roast or any two-inch thick cut of meat (I actually prefer chuck roast because the briskets are so lean these days, and more expensive). See recipe for the beef below and method for finishing the meal in the post; if you use pink salt (sodium nitrite) in your cure don’t worry if the cure hasn’t made it all the way to the center. The beef will still be delicious.

Update: In one of the pieces I tested for the quick cure method, the pink salt didn’t reach the center, so that there was a pot-roasty, brown-gray center to the cut. Don’t be concerned! This is normal and your meat is fine; it’s sometimes what you give up on the quick cure, aesthetics. I promise the flavor will be outstanding!

Posted March 2010:

This was dinner last night, moments before it was consumed. Donna said, “This is the best cabbage I’ve ever had,” and, back at the stove, looking for thirds on the corned beef, “This is all you made?” All in all, a success. I’ve used this particular preparation several times and it can’t be beat, a really smart strategy for cooking and serving and making use of all the flavors and juices and soft textures.

First cook your corned beef (simmered for a few hours, braised, wrapped in foil with sliced onions for 4 hours at 250—how I did it—or even cooked sous vide). Only way not to cook this is slow roasting (a perfectly fine strategy but won’t give you the liquid you need to finish the cabbage here).

To complete the meal. Saute 4 or 5 ounces of bacon lardons. Poach red potatoes in hot but not boiling water till tender, about a half hour. Cut your cabbage into wedges, through the root so that the leaves stay attached. When the bacon is cooked and the fat is rendered, sear both sides of the cabbage wedges in bacon fat (never miss the chance to say “bacon fat,” it always invites), then add enough of the beef liquid to the pan to come halfway up the cabbages, cover and simmer till the cabbage is tender, 10 minutes or so. Keep the beef covered or wrapped so it doesn’t dry out. When the cabbage is tender, stir a tablespoon of Dijon mustard into the cooking liquid. Add the beef to the pan, cover and keep on low so that it all stays steaming hot. Drain the potatoes, slice them, toss them with butter and parsley and salt.

I sliced the beef right there in the pan, but you could remove it to a cutting board, slice and serve or slice and return it to the pan or to a platter. Just make sure it’s in plenty of the hot cooking liquid. Serve the cabbage, corned beef and potatoes, spooning plentiful sauce over everything. A great even elegant way to serve this unbeatable fare.

3/19/10, comment call: out, from “Jose Canseco”: On another note, my 100 year old Irish grandmother-in-law says in her day they never ate corned beef, rather corned pork. Her preferred part of the hog for pickling is spare ribs, so now I throw a few racks into the brine along with the brisket and tongue I pickle every year and the result is fantastic.

Great idea, and thanks for historical note. This would work great. For those who want to try this, be forewarned that spare ribs cured with sodium nitrite will have take on a distinctly bacony flavor. I recommend searing on grill, then adding to the pot!


The following recipes are adapted from my book Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking and Curing, here using a 10% brine for 24 hours, followed by a 3- to 4-hour cook time.

Quick Corned Beef

The Brine

  • 2 liters water
  • 200 grams kosher salt
  • 100 grams sugar
  • 6 grams pink salt (1 teaspoon, optional, sold as DQ Cure #1, Instacure #1, Prague Poweder #1)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons/20 grams Pickling Spice
  • 1 beef brisket or chuck roast, two-inches thick or thereabouts
  • 10 grams Pickling Spice (1 tablespoon)
  1. Combine all the brine ingredients in a sauce pan and bring to a simmer, stirring until the salt and sugar are dissovled.  Remove the pot from heat and allow to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate the brine until it’s completely chilled.
  2. Place the brisket in a 2-liter zip top bag along with brine for 24 hours (get all the air out of the bag, and flip the bag a couple times during the cure).
  3. Remove the brisket from the brine and rinse it thoroughly under cool running water and refrigerate till you’re ready to cook it.
  4. Place the brisket in a pot just large enough to hold it and add enough water (or stock) to come halfway up the meat. You can also use a pressurer cooker for an hour. Add the remaining pickling spice and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover, and simmer gently for about 3 hours, turning the brisket once and making sure that the water doesn’t cook off (add more water as necessary). Cut off a small piece and taste it. If it’s too salty for your taste, cover it with water, add another tablespoon of pickling spice, bring the pot to a simmer and continue to cook for another half our or so. If it’s not salty enough, guess you what you do. The brisket is done when it’s fork tender. It can be kept warm in the pot for an hour our so.
  5. Remove the corned beef from the cooking liquid (which can be used to moisten the meat and vegetables, if that is what you are serving).  Slice the beef and serve warm, or cool, then wrap and refrigerate until you are ready to serve or for up to one week.

Yield depends on size of beef, buy 6 ounces per person for plenty.

Pickling Spice

  • 2 tablespoons/20 grams black peppercorns
  • 2 tablespoons/20 grams mustard seeds
  • 2 tablespoons/20 grams coriander seeds
  • 2 tablespoons/12 grams hot red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons/14 grams allspice berries
  • 1 tablespoon/8 grams ground mace
  • 2 small cinnamon sticks, crushed or broken into pieces
  • 4 bay leaves, crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons/6 grams whole cloves
  • 1 tablespoon/8 grams ground ginger
  1. Lightly toast the peppercorns, mustard seeds, and coriander seeds in a small dry pan, then smash with the side of a knife just to crack.
  2. Combine the cracked spices with the remaining ingredients, mixing well.  Store in a tightly sealed plastic container or glass jar.

If you liked this post on corned beef and potatoes, check out these other links:

© 2012 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2012 Donna Turner-Ruhlman. All rights reserved


94 Wonderful responses to “Corned Beef: It’s Never Too Late!”

  • hortron

    I only tried “St Patricks” type corned beef for the first time a few years ago, but I was struck with how different it was from the Jewish Deli style corned beef I grew up with.

    Is it all in my mind, or is there really a difference?

  • Ewa

    Your blog is great 🙂 I like to read about stories of people and the occasion to learn new recipes for dishes.

  • jason

    I’ve made the corned beef from your book (it was great – homemade pickling spice is where it’s at) and I’m curious why you call for less salt here for a ‘quick brine’. I would think you would want a saltier solution if you were brining the meat for less time?

  • ruhlman

    great question. as I’ve continued to refine brines, I use a 5% brine for speed and control, a 10% brine for fast. The brine in the book is a more traditional preservative brine, but because it’s poached, the salt leaches out and the meat is perfectly seasoned. I don’t like to lose so much meat flavor to the liquid, so prefer to steam or cook in a little water, for a better result.

  • Abra from French Letters

    So if I’m using the traditional recipe from Charcuterie, which I am, having started it several days ago, I need to poach as opposed to the foil-with-onions method you proposed above? I’m totally doing this cabbage method, though!

  • ruhlman

    yes, i think it will be too salty if you don’t follow the whole charcuterie recipe through. (maybe not but probably.) the charcuterie recipe is solid, and you’ll have plenty of poaching liquid to braise cabbage!

  • Matthew Freeman

    If I only want to cook for 2, is there any point in using 1 12 oz brisket cut? Don’t you need a larger size to make a brisket work given how the fat is distributed?

    • ruhlman

      size doesn’t matter (phew!)–but fat does. I just bought a chuck roast and will pickle that tonight, nice marbling. brisket too lean but it’s traditional.

  • Chris

    Step #4: “…add enough come halfway…” (water?) –then add the remaining pickling spice?

    -beautiful photo btw

  • Julie

    My question is similar to Abra- if I follow the cure using the 10% brine in this post, will the meat be too salty if I wrap in foil & onions described above? Definitely making the pickling spice!! Thanks for the recipe.

    • ruhlman

      I think it might be, but here’s what you can do. cut a piece off, saute it till it’s cooked through, taste it. If it’s too salty, then you’ll need to cook in liquid. I’m actually going to brine two different thicknesses now to see how the 10% over 24hrs works for each.

  • adam wright

    if i’m substituting ground cinnamon for sticks in the pickling spice how much should i use? also don’t have mace, sub nutmeg or leave out completely?

      • adam wright

        did you mean 1 or 2 teaspoons? i’m sorry, i only have ground cinnamon and was wondering what the equivalent of 2 cinnamon sticks would be in ground cinnamon. (a quandary i’ve encountered before, should probably just buy some sticks…)

      • karen downie makley

        It was not at all bitter…in fact I saved the “gravy” as an accoutrement for the veggies (potato, carrot, and cabbage). My beer was some milk stout rather than the classic Guinness (I am not a beer aficionado, so I am not really sure how much of a difference the use of one stout versus another might make…got the milk stout because the grocery happened to sell it by the single bottle which made it easy and economical). I pressed the pickling spices and some brown sugar into the meat and let it sit at room temp for about 10 minutes before I poured the stout over it and put some heat on the pot. That was really all I did. I’m sure the fat in the brisket and the brown sugar helped combat any potential bitterness from the gravy.

  • Dan Falk

    Bravo on the timing. I’ve used the recipe in the book several times and it is awesome! But a friend gave me a bunch of brisket and I forgot to brine it … this is a lifesaver!!

  • Dan Falk

    Bugger, I accidentally almost doubled the amount of pink salt. Any suggestions?

    • ruhlman

      it’s probably fine, I went light on the pink salt in this version. if you’re concerned, poach beef submerged in water with pickling spice and 1% salt.

    • Nopi

      Hi Vicki! I’m not a tongue smkniog expert, but I’ll try to answer as best I can. We use wood from our yard- usually pecan or oak. Something neutral and smokey would be great, but you could experiment with more flavorful woods. We smoked it at 150, but it was still a little tough. I’m curious if a bit more heat would break down some of that connective tissue. I think taking off the skin would be a great idea, but it was so difficult to remove that we gave up. Yes, the meat would likely absorb more brine and smoke without it, but I don’t know if that’s a good thing. It might be too salty, and the smoke could dry it out. Please let me know if you have any other questions!

  • josh

    Michael, you said earlier that you miscalculated the number of bay leaves for your pickling spice recipe in “Charcuterie”. What is the correct number of bay leaves to use when making the pickling spice recipe from the book, also if I’m using nutmeg instead of mace, since it is somewhat stronger in flavor, is the amount the same when substituting? Thank you.

  • Aaron

    Can I reuse the brine? Was thinking when this one is done doing another corned beef. thank you

    • Riyah

      I’m for sure doing this, I have NEVER had BBQ failure using the BBQ PIT BOYS teiquchne or advice,as a matter of fact I’m going to make it this weekend,glad I talked myself into it.

  • ruhlman

    Never a good idea to reuse brine. salt concentration will be off, but given that’s its high salt, as long as you keep it cold there’s no safety issue if you reuse right away.

  • Leah

    I’ve been following your recipe from the book and it’s been chilling in the brine for 5 days. It isn’t that pinky color, is that a problem? I did get and use the pink salt.

  • Matt

    Had the brisket in the brine as soon as I saw this post. I tried a corned beef recipe you ha posted a year or so ago and it was magnificent. Looking forward to tucking into this one this evening.

    • Chelsea

      Love you guys. When cooking cheannl or any others approach you, please keep doin what ya do Great job. Thanks for all the great shows. I have never been disappointed with any of your .Thanks,Goodguzzi

  • David

    Hey Michael, I’ve read that corned pork is more traditional in Ireland than beef. Can you comment on substituting a pork shoulder or other cut of pork in place of a brisket?

  • Mr Bill Steves

    OMG… Home corned beef is the best. I found a recipe a few years ago and never turned back. It is so easy that my 4 yo could do it. I can’t wait to try this version.

    Salt plus spices plus meat equal delicious… every time!

  • Grant Colvin

    Used the recipe with chuck for St. Pat’s meal. It was in the brine for about 36 hours and then into the pressure cooker for about 90 minutes. For comparison I roasted a store-bought corned beef brisket. The gang thought that the texture of the chuck was clearly superior. Initially they thought that the flavor of the store-bought was better, but the also thought that the chuck need more salt. Yeah–more salt. After they added salt they decided that the flavor of the chuck was superior.

    I think I will probably never buy store-bought corned beef again. I rarely plan menus five days in advance, but one day ahead is pretty routine.

    I did use “pink salt” in the brine, so I got the lovely red color and the “cured” flavor that we associate with corned beef. The chuck had a better texture the the brisket because it’s a “better” cut to begin with.

    This got me wondering: why do we never “corn” some of the other cuts of beef? Short ribs, for instance, or round, or sirloin? Or loin?
    I suppose it seems odd to “waste” the more expensive cuts in such a way, but I’m thinking that the flavor would be quite interesting. When pork loin is cured we get “back bacon”, or what we in the U.S. call Canadian bacon. What would the beef equivalent–essentially, corned ribeye–be like? Or a beef equivalent of ham–corned round?

    Anybody ever heard of such a thing?

  • Joe Gunterman

    Michael~ I’ve made your corned beef several times and have enjoyed it immensely. This last time, however, a small part of the core of the brisket came out gray and slightly tough. (I used a very thick and fatty piece of brisket). The rest was beautifully red, tender, and tasted excellent. I used the recipe from the Charcuterie book and left it in the brine for 6 days. Cooked for 3 hours. What do you think went wrong?

    • Tyler

      The beer gives it a more savory taste in my opiinon plus it works to further break down the tendons in the meat making it that much more tender! I took a short break to work on my book and to heal a shoulder and arm with Bursitis. Better now and thank you!

  • chip

    Michael….I have done similar quick corned beef ….. * I use my vacuum sealer attachment for a wide jar…#2 glass pickle relish jar…penetrated the meat in about 8 hrs….use it for brining chops whole chickens etc….

  • Jen

    Might give this a go next year, or even next month, whenever. Did a French-ified St. Paddy’s this year with Jacques Pepin’s Braised Beef in red wine.

  • Stewart Putney

    We made the corned beef with the full curing time and it was just great. We served it with cabbage and potatoes and then used leftovers for Reuben sandwiches.

    We will be trying both the quick cure and the version using a chuck roast, as it is hard to get a brisket with enough fat. Thanks for the tip.

  • Andrew Morrison

    Just about to give the pastrami recipe a go. It quotes 42 grams of Pink Salt for the brine. Am I reading this correctly as 42 grams of Cure #1?

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    I was reading through some of your blog posts for this internet web site and My spouse and i conceive this website is actual instructive! Keep putting up.

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