How to make delicious homemade corned beef ~ it’s so much easier than you think!
the most aromatic, flavorful corned beef I’ve ever had!
When my son in law John came to me with the idea of making homemade corned beef I jumped at it. He’s our resident charcutier and he took me through the process, step by step. What better time to delve into this classic cured brisket recipe than the week before St. Patrick’s Day? If you act now you can have it on your holiday table. There’s no special equipment needed, and the ingredients are easily available. The only thing you might have trouble finding is the pink curing salt, but it’s worth tracking down. Check specialty stores, Amazon, and Walmart. Sometimes you can find it at butcher shops.
Our homemade corned beef recipe comes from Michael Ruhlman who has written numerous books about food and cooking, including “Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing” His recipe is the gold standard, and very easy to follow.
what you’ll need for homemade corned beef
- beef brisket
- beef brisket is a popular cut for slow-cooking methods, such as smoking or braising, because it has a lot of connective tissue that breaks down and becomes tender with long, slow cooking. Beef brisket is commonly smoked (for traditional Texas-style barbecue,) braised (think Passover dinner with a rich gravy,) or corned (for sandwiches or St. Paddy’s Day.) I used a large 5 lb brisket, but you can easily halve this recipe for a smaller piece of meat.
- Kosher salt
- pink salt
- Pink curing salt, also known as Prague powder, is a type of salt that is used in the process of curing meats and other food products. It’s a mixture of regular table salt and sodium nitrite, which gives it a pinkish color. Pink salt helps preserve meat by inhibiting the growth of bacteria, preventing spoilage, and preserving the meat’s color and flavor. It’s commonly used in the production of cured meats such as bacon, ham, and salami, as well as in pickling and preserving other types of food. The gorgeous red color of corned beef is due to this salt. Find it online here.
- adding sugar to the brine for corned beef can improve the flavor, texture, and appearance of the meat. Sugar is a natural tenderizer, and inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria.
- pickling spices
pickling spices for homemade corned beef brine
Could you use a readymade pickling spice blend? Yes, but this blend is so much better! And if you were following along the past few holiday seasons around here, you surely have most of these spices leftover from making my Slow Cooker Mulled Wine or Mulled Cider.
- black peppercorns
- mustard seeds
- coriander seeds
- hot red pepper flakes
- allspice berries
- ground mace
- cinnamon sticks
- bay leaves
- whole cloves
- ground ginger
how to cure corned beef, step by step
step 1. heat your brine
Mix water, salts, sugar, garlic, and pickling spices in a large non-reactive pot and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and let cool. Then refrigerate until fully chilled.
step 2. immerse brisket in the brine
You want all the meat to be completely immersed in the brine. You can place a plate on top of the brisket to keep it submerged, if necessary. If your meat is too large for your pot you can cut it in half. A turkey roasting pan is a good option, or you can purchase brining buckets specifically for this use.
step 3. refrigerate for 5 days
Leave it alone for 5 days in the fridge, just make sure the meat is submerged and the pot is well covered. When making homemade corned beef it’s important to be sure your fridge is at least 38°F (3°C) or lower to prevent bacterial growth.
step 4. rinse the meat
After curing the beef rinse it thoroughly to remove any excess salt or spices that may have accumulated on the surface.
step 5. cook your homemade corned beef
Your corned beef is ready to cook. While traditionally corned beef is slowly simmered on the stove top, I prefer the oven method. The heat of the oven is more even, and results in a more tender meat.
- TO COOK CORNED BEEF IN THE OVEN: preheat the oven to 300F. Put the meat in an ovenproof pot. Cover with fresh water and add 2 more tablespoons of the pickling spices. Add the carrot, onion, and celery. Bring to a boil on the stove, then cover and bake for 3-4 hours until tender.
- TO COOK CORNED BEEF ON THE STOVE TOP: Put your beef into a pot large enough to hold it. Cover with fresh water and add 2 more tablespoons of the pickling spices. Add the carrot, onion, and celery. Bring to a boil, then cover, lower the heat and simmer for about 3 hours, or until the meat is super tender.
- TO COOK CORNED BEEF IN A SLOW COOKER: cover with fresh water and add 2 more tablespoons of the pickling spices. Add the carrot, onion, and celery and cook on low for 8 hours.
- TO COOK CORNED BEEF IN THE INSTANT POT: Cover with fresh water and add 2 more tablespoons of the pickling spices. Add the carrot, onion, and celery. Set the Instant Pot to manual pressure cook mode on high for 90 minutes. When the cooking time is complete, let the pressure release naturally for 10-15 minutes, then manually release any remaining pressure by turning the valve to the venting position.
step 6. slice your corned beef
- Let the cooked corned beef rest for at least 15 minutes before slicing. This will make it easier to cut and will help keep the meat juicy.
- If your piece of meat is large, cut it in half before slicing and trim excess fat from the surface.
- Use a sharp carving knife or a slicing knife to cut the corned beef. A serrated knife can also work, but a smooth-edged knife will give you cleaner slices.
- Cut against the grain. Look for the lines of muscle fibers in the meat and slice perpendicular to them. This will make the meat more tender.
- Cut thin slices, about 1/4 inch thick.
- If you want very thin slices for sandwiches, chill the meat first.
- That color is real, folks ~ isn’t it gorgeous?
step 7. storing homemade corned beef
Don’t slice your meat until you’re ready to serve. If you want to make it ahead, the corned beef can be refrigerated for several days in the cooking liquid. Reheat in the liquid or serve chilled.
the history of corned beef
The exact origin of corned beef is not known, but it is believed to have originated in Europe, possibly in Ireland or Great Britain, during the Middle Ages. At that time, salt was used as a preservative to keep meat from spoiling, and beef was preserved by packing it in salt, which was known as “corning.”
Today, while corned beef is still produced and consumed in Ireland, it’s more commonly associated with Irish-American cuisine and St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.
Corned beef is also associated with Jewish cuisine in America, with the Jewish deli culture that emerged in the late 19th and early 20th centuries after Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe brought with them their own love of cured meats.
FAQs about curing corned beef
How long can you keep brisket in the brine?
Typically, corned beef is left in the brine for 5-7 days to allow the curing process to take place. After this period, the beef can be removed from the brine and cooked.
Do I have to cure corned beef in the refrigerator?
Yes, it is recommended to cure corned beef in the refrigerator at 38F or below to ensure that it stays at a safe temperature and prevents the growth of harmful bacteria.
What’s the difference between curing and brining?
While both curing and brining involve the use of salt and other seasonings, curing typically involves a longer process that is focused on preserving the meat and enhancing the flavor, while brining is a shorter process that is focused on adding flavor and moisture to the meat. So you cure corned beef, but brine a turkey.
Can I re-use the brine from curing corned beef?
Personally? I would discard the brine, it’s done its job and given over its flavors! But if you want to re-use it, it’s generally recommended to boil leftover corned beef brine for at least 10 minutes before reusing to ensure that it is safe to use. Boiling the brine will help kill any bacteria that may have grown during the curing process or while the brine was stored. Let the brine cool completely before reusing it to brine other meats, make sauerkraut, or use it as a marinade or soup base.
Is corned beef healthy?
I’m not gonna lie ~ overall, while corned beef can be enjoyed in moderation as part of a balanced diet, it’s not considered particularly healthy because of its high sodium and saturated fat content. For me, it’s a once or twice a year treat. I’ll enjoy it on St. Paddy’s Day, and maybe in the occasional deli sandwich.
more St. Patrick’s Day recipes
- Guinness Bread
- Guinness Cake with Irish Cream Frosting
- Guinness Beer Battered Onion Rings
- Dublin Coddle ~ a quick cooking Irish stew!
- Irish Oatmeal Soda Bread
- Instant Pot Irish Stew
- Authentic Irish Colcannon Recipe (Mashed Potatoes with Kale)
- Traditional Irish Leek and Potato Soup
Homemade Corned Beef
- large container with a lid for curing
- large oven safe pot with a lid for braising
pickling spice (you'll have extra leftover)
- 2 Tbsp black peppercorns
- 2 Tbsp mustard seeds
- 2 Tbsp coriander seeds
- 2 Tbsp hot red pepper flakes
- 2 Tbsp allspice berries
- 2 Tbsp whole cloves
- 1 Tbsp ground mace
- 1 Tbsp ground ginger
- 4 bay leaves, crumbled
- 2 small cinnamon sticks, broken into pieces
- 1 ½ cups kosher salt
- ½ cup sugar
- 4 tsp pink curing salt* , buy it here.
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 Tbsp pickling spice
- 5 lb beef brisket
- 1 medium onion peeled and cut in two
- 1 carrot peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 celery stalk roughly chopped
- 2 Tbsp pickling spice
make the pickling spice mixture
- Toast the black pepper, mustard seeds and coriander seeds in a dry pan for about 5 minutes until fragrant. Pulse a few times in a spice grinder to coarsely grind, or use the flat side of a knife to crack them.
- Mix all the spices together in a small bowl. Set aside.
make the brine
- In a non-reactive pot add 1 gallon of water, the kosher salt, sugar, curing salt, garlic, and 2 tablespoons of your pickling spice. Bring the pot up to a simmer, stirring until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Remove from the heat and let the brine cool to room temperature. Then refrigerate until it is completely cold. Note: I like to do this the night before, if I can.
curing the beef
- Add the brisket and the chilled brine to a container with a lid and make sure the meat is completely submerged, You can top it with a plate or other weight to submerge it, if necessary. Cover tightly and refrigerate for 5 days.
braising the beef
- Preheat the oven to 300F.
- Remove the brisket from the brine (discard the brine) and rinse well with cool water. Put the meat in a large oven safe pot that has a lid. Cover with water and add the onion, carrot, and celery along with 2 more tablespoons of the pickling mixture. Bring the pot to a boil.
- Remove from the heat, cover, and bake for 4 hours, or until tender.
- Remove the corned beef to a platter and let rest for 15 minutes. Strain the cooking liquid.
- Thinly slice the corned beef, against the grain, with a sharp carving knife. Serve with some of the cooking liquid on the side.
- Classic Corned Beef and Cabbage: Serve the corned beef with boiled cabbage, carrots, and potatoes, and a side of horseradish sauce.
- Reuben Sandwich: Layer sliced corned beef on rye bread with sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, and Thousand Island dressing, and grill until the cheese is melted.
- Corned Beef Hash: Dice leftover corned beef and mix it with diced potatoes, onions, and bell peppers. Fry in a skillet until crispy and serve with fried eggs.
- Corned Beef and Eggs: Slice corned beef and serve it with fried or scrambled eggs for a hearty breakfast or brunch.
- Corned Beef and Irish Soda Bread: Serve slices of corned beef with warm, freshly baked Irish soda bread and a dollop of mustard.
Questions and Reviews
Do you cook the cabbage separately or add it in the braising step?
When I make corned beef and cabbage I boil the veggies after the meat is done and resting. I do the carrots and potatoes first, then the cabbage after, all in the braising liquid.
Would it be ok to use a frozen, defrosted, brisket for this? I have a 2 lb. brisket, which would take 2 days to defrost in the fridge.
Yes, sure, as long as your thaw it first.
I have done Ruhlman`s recipe several times and particularly enjoy how he cooks the cabbage and potatoes.Searing the cabbage in bacon fat then adding cut potatoes with some of the C/B cooking liquid,cover until everything is tender.This homemade C/B is great.