Homemade Corned Beef

Note that the title of this post is “Homemade Corned Beef” not “Home Cooked Corned” because this is about turning a slab of brisket into corned beef. Later on I will post recipes for using the corned beef you made including how to make some of it into pastrami. As you can imagine there are hundreds of recipes for corning beef online. I adapted this one at Michael Ruhlman’s web site. I recommend measuring the salt by weight as I have done.

A note about the pink salt (sodium nitrite): it is not essential for safety if you keep the meat refrigerated but it does add to the corned beef’s unique flavor. There seems to be some confusion online about exactly what pink salt is an how much to add to the brine. I used Instacure #1 I ordered online from The Sausage Maker in Buffalo. There is no real evidence that sodium nitrite is harmful used in the recommended quantities but if it worries you just leave it out, but be sure to increase the amount of kosher salt to compensate. And expect the meat to come out grey rather than red.


  • 6 quarts cold water
  • 7 ounces kosher salt
  • 3 ounces Instacure #1, optional
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup pickling spice (see below)
  • 1 Tbsp. hot red pepper flakes, optional
  • 4 to 6 cloves garlic, peeled and mashed
  • 5 to 10 pounds well-trimmed beef brisket in one or two pieces


Mix the cure ingredients into the water in a large preferably non-aluminum pot, bring to a boil, and simmer until the salts and sugars are dissolved. Cool to room temperature then refrigerate until cold (or just put the pot out in the snow on the deck as I did).

Put the meat into a non-metallic container large enough to hold it but that will fit on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator. Pour the chilled brine to cover by an inch or so. Cover with a weight to keep it submerged (I use a plastic cutting board). Refrigerate for five days, turning each day.

Remove the meat from the brine and rinse well with cold water. Cook immediately or refrigerate for up to 5 days or freeze for up to a month. If you wish to freeze it longer, cook it first, according to USDA.

Pickling Spice

  • 1 Tbsp. black pepper corns
  • 1 Tbsp. mustard seeds
  • 1Tbps. coriander seeds
  • 1 Tbsp. whole allspice
  • 1 Tbsp. juniper berries
  • 1 Tbsp. whole cloves
  • 1 small cinnamon stick, about 1-inch
  • 12 bay leaves, crumbled
  • 1½ tsp. ground mace
  • 1½ tsp. ground ginger

Combine the peppercorns, mustard seeds, and coriander seeds in a small dry frying pan over medium heat. Toss or stir constantly until they become fragrant and the mustard seeds begin to pop. Be careful not to let them burn. Place in a mortar with the rest of the whole spices and the cinnamon. Bruise with the pestle. (Or you can crush them with the flat side of a heavy knife on a cutting board.) Empty into a bowl and add the bay leaves and ground spices. Mix well and store in a sealed glass bottle or plastic container.


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