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.

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

Home Cured Corned Beef

Prep Time 5 d


  • 1 1/2 cups kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 4 tsp pink salt sodium nitrate (optional)
  • 3 garlic cloves minced
  • 4 tbsp 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

Pickling Spice

  • 2 tbsp black peppercorns
  • 2 tbsp mustard seeds
  • 2 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 2 tbsp hot red pepper flakes
  • 2 tbsp allspice berries
  • 1 tbsp ground mace
  • 2 small cinnamon sticks crushed or broken into pieces
  • 2-4 bay leaves crumbled
  • 2 tbsp whole cloves
  • 1 tbsp ground ginger


  • 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.
  • Place the brisket in the brine, weighted with a plate to keep it submerged; cover. Refrigerate for 5 days.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Pickling Spice

  • 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.
  • Combine with other spices and mix well. Store in a tightly sealed container.