If you can brine a chicken, you can corn your own beef. This is how I've been doing it for years. Never pass up an excuse to corn beef. You don't have to wait for next year's St. Patrick's day dinner.
The cure takes five days, ideally, so plan ahead. I recently got a question about curing it at room temperature. The brine is a nearly 10 percent salt solution, so I imagine it would be fine for five days. Also remember that after it's cured you can keep it refrigerated for about a week before cooking. And you could keep it indefinitely in the fridge in the brine, but you'd have to be sure to cook the salt out of it after.
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. 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.
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.
The following recipe is from Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing. There's also a recipe for braised cabbage in my new book How to Braise.
(And PS, I don't know who gave that pickling spice recipe two stars, but it is it is killer! I've added it as a separate recipe so that it can be printed alone; it's worth making a batch to have on hand.)
If you liked this post, you might be interested in these links:
- Food and Wine has a collection of St. Patrick's Day recipes.
- Gluten-free Irish soda bread recipe from Gluten-Free Girl.
© 2015 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2015 Donna Turner Ruhlman. All rights reserved.
Home-Cured Corned Beef
- 1 ½ cups kosher salt (300 grams)
- ½ cup sugar (100 grams)
- 4 tsp pink salt sodium nitrate (optional, but highly recommended for color and flavor)
- 3 garlic cloves minced
- 4 tbsp pickling spice
- 1 5-pound beef brisket (2.5 kilogram)
- 1 carrot peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 medium onion peeled and cut in two
- 1 celery stalk roughly chopped
- 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 (4 liters) 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 to 7 days. (It will keep a week or more refrigerated, until you are ready to cook it.)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- Combine the cracked spices with the remaining ingredients, mixing well. Store in a tightly sealed plastic container or glass jar.
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
Same question here...
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
for maximum ceertainty not cooking water I would rebrine 24 hours in a 2% brine.
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?
you still have time to mail order from amazon
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.
Adele, any meat market has pink salt available for purchase. You just have to ask for it. It's cheap.
How about a recipe for Irish Bacon so we can start St. Patrick's day off right?
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!
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
Looking for pink salt? Visit Butcher & Packer online.
What happened to the 24hr brine recipe and the post in which you talked about Chuck roast? I've been using that for years but now it's vapor.
i think i reposted this, didn't I? email me if I didnt.
I too was just searching for the Quick Corned Beef recipe Puhleaze, please, pretty please repost. My taste buds are all tingle and I have a beautiful chuck roast waiting in the wings. That's what I get for never printing it out. You ROCK Michael!
Will try to do this, and thanks!
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.....an 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!
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.
As always it's a pleasure to read your newsletter and I love your cookbooks. With St. Patrick's Day on the horizon, was hoping to beg for your quick brine corned beef recipe again. I keep kicking myself for not printing and saving it the first time I saw it. Unbelievable that in the vast interstellar black hole of the internet multi-verse I can't find that recipe anywhere. All the best. Cheers to a lovely weekend.
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 Sausagemaker.com is based in Buffalo so went to their store for pink salt and spices. Happy St Patty's day.
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?
Would love to know this, too! I make corned beef every year for about 20 people and I’d love to try this recipe. I always feel like I miss the mark with it—people say it’s good, but I think it could have more wow factor. Thanks!
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".
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.
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.
For anyone looking for curing salt also called Prague powder #1, try The Spice House in Evanston Illinois. I buy all of my spices from them and they have everything you could possibly want or need. Their prices are great and you can purchase almost all of their spices in flat packs which always ship free.
I'm a huge corned beef fan..so this helps alot. thanks!!
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.
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...
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?
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.
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
William Frank Webb
LORD, BEHOLD ! After over thirty years of smoking (salt-brined) meat, poultry, and fish, I never knew what Corned Beef really meant, or how to cook it at home. Your recipe was truly inspirational. THANK YOU ! ! !
However, I was unable to copy & print this recipe from your website link. Can you email this recipe to me ?
THANK YOU VERY, VERY, MUCH ! ! !
Smokin' Bill's LUCKY '13' Rocky Mountain Smokery & Sourdough House
William Frank Webb
I apologize ! I was able to print your recipe !
Therefore, I will not need your email copy for the recipe !
However, I do want to know you better, and hope to have many more correspondences with you in the future. It would be great to play with you in the kitchen ! I have many pretty girls I like to play with in the kitchen !
Nice post, Your post on cure corned beef is very useful for me. keep sharing with us
If I'm using a smaller brisket, should I reduce the amount of curing salt?
Always keep the proportions of the curing salt and liquid the same. That said, you can reduce the amount of brine to what you need.