Photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman.


It’s time for my yearly re-post of a recipe for corning your own beef. If you can brine a chicken, you can cure your own beef. Start by Thursday and it will be ready to cook on St. Paddy’s day.

Of special note here is my partner in charcuterie Brian Polcyn’s recipe for a fabulous pickling spice. You can buy pickling spice, but Brian’s is over-the-top delicious.

Any cut of beef can be “corned.” (See my pastrami short ribs.) But the best cuts are the tougher, less-expensive cuts such as brisket. The only uncommon ingredient is the sodium nitrite, pink salt, available here, and also from Amazon. If you know of any local shops that make their own bacon, hams, or smoked sausage, they may have some on hand. This is what accounts for the deep red color of the beef and also gives it its distinctive flavor. I think it’s important, but it’s not necessary from a safety standpoint.

The following recipe is from Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing. The recipe for corned beef and cabbage, the dish featured in Donna’s photo above, is here. There’s also a recipe for braised cabbage in my new book How to Braise.

Home-Cured Corned Beef

  • 1½ cups kosher salt*
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 4 teaspoons pink salt (sodium nitrite), optional
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 tablespoons pickling spice
  • 1 (5-pound) beef brisket
  • 1 carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and cut in two
  • 1 celery stalk, roughly chopped
  1. In a pot large enough to hold the brisket, combine 1 gallon of water with the kosher salt, sugar, sodium nitrite (if using), garlic, and 2 tablespoons of the pickling spice. Bring to a simmer, stirring until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until chilled.
  2. Place the brisket in the brine, weighted with a plate to keep it submerged; cover. Refrigerate for 5 days.
  3. Remove the brisket from the brine and rinse thoroughly. Place in a pot just large enough to hold it. Cover with water and add the carrot, onion, celery, and remaining 2 tablespoons pickling spice. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to low, and cover. Simmer gently until the brisket is fork-tender, about 3 hours, adding water if needed to cover the brisket.
  4. Keep warm until ready to serve. The meat can be refrigerated for several days in the cooking liquid. Reheat in the liquid or serve chilled. Slice thinly and serve on a sandwich or with additional vegetables simmered until tender in the cooking liquid.

*A note about the salt: The salt level is not hugely critical here because it’s basically boiled, and the excess salt moves into cooking liquid. You can weigh out 12 ounces here if you feel better using a scale (approximately a 10% brine). Or you can simply make a 5% brine of however much water you need to cover (6.4 ounces per gallon). When you cook it, season the cooking liquid to the level you want your meat seasoned. Another option is wrapping the brisket in foil and cooking it in a 225°F degree oven till tender, but do this only if you’ve used the 5% brine.

Yield: 8 to 10 servings.

Pickling Spice

  • 2 tablespoons black peppercorns
  • 2 tablespoons mustard seeds
  • 2 tablespoons coriander seeds
  • 2 tablespoons hot red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons allspice berries
  • 1 tablespoon ground mace
  • 2 small cinnamon sticks, crushed or broken into pieces
  • 2 to 4 bay leaves, crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons whole cloves
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  1. Combine the peppercorns, mustard seeds, and coriander seeds in a small dry pan. Place over medium heat and stir until fragrant, being careful not to burn them; keep the lid handy in case the seeds pop. Crack the peppercorns and seeds in a mortar and pestle or with the side of a knife on a cutting board.
  2. Combine with other spices and mix well. Store in a tightly sealed container.

If you liked this post, you might be interested in these links:

© 2015 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2015 Donna Turner Ruhlman. All rights reserved.


25 Wonderful responses to “How to Cure Corned Beef”

  • Denise

    Michael ~~ first off huge fan here ~`curing is all the rage of late and you helped to put it on the map~~~~question ~~~if i wanted to smoke this rather than boil or bake what would you recommend after the brine period ~~~ what i did with my ham was to rinse ~` soak 2 hours ~~ dry well and let set uncovered in the fridge overnight so the pellicle will adhere ~~~collect the smoke better that way ~~ any comments much appreciated ~~Denise ~~AKA~~Miss ~~Belle ~~a~~Que

  • Denise

    also i forgot to ask ~` would you do the 5 % brine here if you do plan to soak for the 2 hours or more and in the 5 % are you referring to only cutting both the salts here and continue to use the pickling spices at full measure or would you advise cutting them all ~ thanks for you time ~ smile

  • Adele K

    Hi Michael
    I was hoping to do this for St Patrick’s Day but can not find the pink salt anywhere locally. Is there something else you can use?

  • Allen

    Smoking is basically the same cut you would use for pastrami, it just has a coating of black pepper and coriander and is steamed. I prefer pastrami, but stay with corned beef for St. Patrick’s day.
    Irish coffe and watch The Love Bug are good for this day too.

  • brier

    Adele, any meat market has pink salt available for purchase. You just have to ask for it. It’s cheap.

  • Stephan

    How about a recipe for Irish Bacon so we can start St. Patrick’s day off right?

  • Tim S

    I finally had luck finding the pink curing salt at Williams Sonoma – they have it in small jars – plenty for doing several batches with. Local meat markets either did not have it, or were not willing to sell any. For online sources, the shipping was either as much or more than the salt itself!

  • MP Wall

    For pink salt, you can find it in most big outdoors stores. Outdoor World, Cabelas and Gander Mountain all have sausage making supplies and carry pink salt with the sausage casings and different grinding dies. Thanks for the recipe Michael, I will do some corned venison with your version rather then the longer version I tried last time. MPW

  • Joan

    Michael, as you know, you are the cover story in the Food & Wine section of the Sacramento Bees today. I am, unfortunately, allergic to mustard… am always amazed at how many recipes call for it both as a spice and a bonding agent.
    Can you recommend a substitute – I’ve asked other Chefs and haven’t really gotten any recommendations – hope you can give me one! Thanks – enjoy your blog and books!

    • ruhlman

      i actually have a slight reaction to mustard to but not so much that I avoid it. use common sense. in cabbage recipe, just a little good vinegar, some butter and maybe something to thicken.

  • David

    I have my very first brisket brining right now, I used the recipe from Charcuterie and added a can of Guiness to brine, just because! Can’t wait for Saturday. I’m lucky, the is based in Buffalo so went to their store for pink salt and spices. Happy St Patty’s day.

  • Darren


    If I wanted to cure two (2) briskets at once, do I have to do two (2) separate pots or can I throw them into 1 big one? Do i need to double all of the corning ingredients?


  • Paul D

    Someone mentioned pink salt at Williams Sonoma. Just because it’s pink, doesn’t mean it’s curing salt. It sounds like you got pink Himalayan salt, which is usually in small jars. It is not the same thing as pink curing salt. You may have luck finding it in hardware or outdoor stores in the hunting section, as they usually have meat packing equipment and ingredients kept there. It could be sold as “Cure #1”.

    • Carol

      I found pink curing salt (sodium nitrite) at Williams Sonoma. It was discounted and I got it for $8 for a jar that contains several uses.

    • Tim S

      Paul – pink curing salt I obtained at Williams Sonoma is labeled Curing Salt, along with all the warnings about not using it as a replacement for regular salt. I’ve been using it for several years for curing my own bacon, and I know it’s the real deal.

      Not that it wouldn’t be possible for someone to grab a container of the pink Himalayan salt by accident.

  • Dorian Swift

    I’m a huge corned beef this helps alot. thanks!!

  • Steve Braverman

    Tried your process and it came out perfect. I used a pressure cooker to reduce cooking time to less than one hour and intensified the flavor. Went well with your braised cabbage and a 1979 New York Times Irish potato and sausage pie recipe that I roll out every 15 years or so.

  • Doug R.

    Didn’t get my pink salt ordered in time, so I’m going to be throwing this together this week.

    Meanwhile, a question. We have a local restaurant that cures killer corned pork in-house. I figure that as long as I’m doing a corned beef, may as well do the other, as well. What would be a good cut to use for corned pork? Primary use will likely be sandwiches…

  • Scott

    I made this last night and it was great – thank you for the recipe. I noticed that afterwards I had a pretty potent but rich, unctuous stock. Is there any use for this? As a base for a rich soup or stew? Any recomendations or is it best down the drain?

  • Cissa

    This worked great!

    I’ve been corning my own corned beef for a number of years, using the recipe from Cook’s Illustrated. It’s good, but the broth ends up too salty to use.

    I’m very happy with this approach! The beef tastes great, and the broth is tasty. I admit i did use the pickling spice from Penzey’s rather than this mix, but next year we’ll use this one. Oh, and I didn’t bother with the pink salt; we don’t mind the color without it.

  • Nancy

    I have used your method for several years, with some tweaks. I sometimes use your spices, and sometimes Penzys and cannot tell the difference. Depends what I have on hand. After the brine, I cook the brisket in a crock pot overnight with 11/2 C water. Before serving I cover it with this glaze, bake it at 350 for 15-20 minutes and let it rest 15 minutes before carving. I find that the meat is less watery, and more flavorful.
    Corned Beef Glaze
    3 tablespoons packed brown sugar
    1 ½ tablespoons soy sauce
    1 ½ teaspoons dry mustard
    1 teaspoon ground ginger


  1.  Too Late To Cure | ok-cleek
  2.  Medium-Well(Cooking with Your Senses) | Michael Ruhlman