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    International Food Blogger Conference 2011 NOLA

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    Creating the Best Corned Beef ever. It's so easy an 8 year old could do it.

     This month's Charcutepalooza challenge called for brining beef brisket to make corned beef, and that makes me very happy. You see, I happen to have some experience in the Corned Beef Department, and I'm going to show you how simple it is to do it yourself.

    All the beef brisket really needs is 5-10 minutes of your time prepping in the kitchen, a few days in the brine, and a few hours in a crock pot. That's it. I swear. Even the last step - slicing the corned beef for sandwiches - is effortless. A 3rd-grader could do it with a plastic knife. 

    Joking aside, a child could manage this entire process except for the boiling of the brine liquid. An adult should be present to oversee the brine-making process since a stove is involved.

    C'mon kids...let's make meat!


    In the past when I have made corned beef at home, I usually do larger pieces, about 8 to 10 pounds each. This time I opted to do 2 fairly small pieces of brisket. In fact, one piece was just a 1.8 pound slice of a whole brisket which made this project even easier.

    All you need to brine beef brisket are 5 ingredients, plus water.


    Starting at the top, and going clock-wise:

    1. Pink Salt*. No, not Himalayan Pink Salt, but salt containing 6% sodium nitrite. The pink color prevents a person from mistaking it for something else, like table salt. That would be bad.
    2. Pickling spice blend. The one I used for this project happens to be a wonderful pre-mixed blend from a place in Olympia called "Buck's Fifth Avenue". I could make my pickling spice blend from scratch, but I am trying to keep it simple this time. I want you to try this, and the easier I make it, the better my chances are that you will. 
    3. Oh, and garlic cloves, pictured amongst the pickling spice. You need those.
    4. Kosher salt. It's important that you don't use regular old table salt with its added anti-caking agents. 
    5. Brown sugar. You could use white sugar, or honey. Just add a lil' somethin' sweet please.

    *Note: The "pink salt" also known as Speedcure, is optional. To create delicious corned beef from brisket, you really only need the last 3 ingredients, and they should be easy enough to find at a grocery store. 


    NOTE: These step-by step instructions are for a 5 pound beef brisket. Adjust the ingredient amounts according to the size of the brisket(s) you'll be brining.

    Mix your ingredients together in a large stockpot:

    • 4 tablespoons of pickling spice (bought or home-made), divided
    • 1-1/2 cups kosher salt
    • 1/2 cup brown sugar
    • 1 gallon of water
    • If using optional Pink Salt, add 4 teaspoons
    • Also optional, one or two fresh garlic cloves

                        Mix 3 tablespoons pickling spice, sugar & salt in water and bring to a boil, stirring until sugar & salt have dissolved.

    Turn the heat off and let the brine cool completely.

    Put brisket in a crock, bowl, bucket or 2 gallon Zip-Loc bag, depending on the size of your brisket, and pour your cooled brine over it.

    This small chunk fits nicely in a zip bag. Be sure it's submerged in the brine at all times!

    If you have a bigger piece of meat, place it in a large crock, bowl or bucket. It's very important that the meat is submerged in brine at all times, so if it's in a bucket, you might want to hold it down with a plate or saucer, then put a "weight" on top to hold the plate or saucer in place.I like to use a baggie full of brine for my weight. You'll see what I mean in a second...

    4 pound brisket in a gallon-size Pyrex beaker

    Don't just fill a baggie with tap water. If the bag should leak, you want it to leak the same briny solution you are using for the meat. Plain water will dilute the brine, which would potentially compromise your project.

    Baggie full o' brine

    Let your brisket sit in the brine for 5-14 days. You need to check it daily to make sure it's submerged in brine. It's also a good idea to flip the brisket over to keep spices & garlic evenly distributed.

    On the 5th day, I decided my small piece was brined adequately. I took it out of the zippered bag, and put it in a crock pot, then I covered the meat with fresh cold water and add reserved tablespoon of pickling spices.

     Raw brisket, after brining but before cooking.

    For a piece of brisket this size, I cooked it on the High setting for 3 hours. I tested it with a fork to be sure it was tender, and boy, was it ever! So far I have only spent a few minutes making this lovely piece of corned beef. Time spent in the fridge brining and in the crock pot cooking required practically nothing from me.

    3 hours later: fork-tender Corned Beef. Our house smelled like Carnegie Deli!

    So grab your tongs, pull it out of the cooking liquid, and move the corned beef to a cutting board. It's good to have your sandwich ingredients assembled in advance, of course.


    For my sandwiches I used pickled cabbage, dilly zucchini slices, and Russian dressing on rye bread with melted Swiss cheese, of course.

    This is the smaller 1.8# piece of brisket. As you can see, it is very moist & tender.

    I wish I could convey to you how incredibly delicious home-made corned beef sandwiches are. Once you try this at home and realize how simple it is  you will NEVER buy that awful over-salted preservative-filled commercially-produced corned beef again.

    The biggest compliment I get when I serve this to guests? When someone says "I didn't think I liked corned beef until now!" 

    Give it a try. I promise you won't be sorry.

    It's so simple to do at home that I think you'll be tempted to make it all year 'round. At least, that's what I'm hoping you'll do.

    Sandwich condiments, serving suggestions and pickled cabbage recipe, Bon Appetit, March 2011

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    Reader Comments (11)

    I agree. Once you corn your own beef ~ or seitan for your vegetarian partner ~ you'll never go back to OPCB (Other People's Corned Beef). Pick your own cut is also an attraction. Make it spicier if you wish. Endless options, if you wish. YUM!

    And the Charcutepalooza challenge is just plain fun ~ even for those of us who don't blog.

    March 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTerry


    Do you live in the Seattle area, by any chance? We could add you to the party next time we do a Corned Beef Cook-off. No, it doesn't have to wait until next St Patty's Day either. I am so intrigued by your idea of making "corned seitan". Sounds like you might have made a few batches of Corned Beef/Seitan and I am sure we could benefit from your experience :)

    Thank you for taking the time to add to my blog post...I really appreciate your feedback and comments!

    Have a wonderful day ~


    March 17, 2011 | Registered CommenterBrook Hurst Stephens

    Lovely post. Thank you so much for participating with such gusto!

    March 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMrsWheelbarrow

    Again, great meeting you yesterday and love your blog. This is a great post too, making your own corned beef - YUM!

    March 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDelishhh

    Awesome! I haven't quite gotten around to corning my own beef yet, but I did once smoke a corned beef to make pastrami. Corned beef hash is my favorite breakfast of all time, and not many restaurants serve it here in ABQ.

    I have also been doing a little charcutepalooza but not blogging about it (because my blog is about vegetables). Made duck prosciutto and confit last week, bacon and pancetta this week. Too cool!!

    I love your site! I am from Seattle too, originally.

    March 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAmy

    Hi There! I am a new reader and enjoying discovering your blog. this looks amazing and I want to do it but I have a question for you. Do you have any rough recommendations for proportions of these ingredients for the brine per how much meat you are doing? Like, say you are doing a 4 lbs piece, how much of each spice ingredient would you use? Also, if I cant find the pink salt, do I increase the proportion of the kosher salt in the mix? Ive never done any brining so Id love any input. Thanks!

    April 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNicole

    Hi Nicole. Sorry I am late getting back to you; I was out of town all weekend and spent yesterday playing "catch up", plus I had school :)
    I have an older blog, where I talk about the Corned Beef recipe, and I DIDN'T use Pink Salt for that recipe. The results? Delicious! The meat just doesn't have that characteristic pink tinge you find in commercially produced Corned Beef briskets. Please click this link for my original Corned Beef recipe:
    The recipe here, on Learn To Preserve, does have Pink Salt, aka Speedcure. I found it at Emerald Market Supply in Seattle. It's inexpensive and makes a big difference in bacon-curing. You don't want to add more kosher salt....this stuff is salty enough as it is ;)

    Note: I have heard that IF it does get too salty, you can always blanch the bacon before frying it or using it in a recipe. That seems to help immensely, but I've never actually needed to do it myself.

    I am going to add the recipes for my Corned Beef AND my Canadian Bacon to THIS blog soon...maybe later today.

    Thanks so much for your interest!

    Please let me know if you decide to make your own Corned Beef. You can do it any time of the year and it's always such a treat!


    April 12, 2011 | Registered CommenterBrook Hurst Stephens

    HI! I'm so excited to make this! I have been wanting to make this for a few weeks but am waiting for some recent pickles to do their thing. I made pickled red onions and garlic which I want to be able to add to my sandwiches.

    Have you ever frozen your meat for sandwiches later? I'm thinking about making a larger quantity to freeze.

    Also could I use a metal bowl? Would that add weird metallic flavors?

    Thank you for all your writing. Its fun reading your posts especially as another Seattleite (I"m W. Seattle) so when you say something is in season I KNOW I can find it! lol.

    March 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNerissa

    Hi Nerissa,

    I'm sorry I haven't responded yet. I think something is wrong with my website comment alerts, because I wasn't notified of your comment until a little while ago. Darn it!

    I HAVE frozen it once, and it was really good. I think it will be best if you freeze it with a little bit of the cooking liquid, and reheat the corned beef in it, for added moisture.

    You can definitely use a metal bowl as long as it is stainless steel. Do you have a big stainless steel stock pot? That would work well too. Easy to work with because it would have handles. Or you can use a plastic bucket too!

    Anyway...I HOPE you are still planning on making this. I just picked up 20 pounds of beef brisket at Costco and I'm going to start brining it tonight; it will be perfect by Sunday, March 18, the day of my St Pat's Party.

    I'm flattered that you read my blog. So fun to have another Seattleite here...someone who knows about our "seasons", even if some of them are pretty short. Sad face.
    Doesn't it make you crazy when you read a blog about someone making a delicious dessert with fresh-picked fruit right out of their garden, and then you realize they live thousands of miles away?
    And by crazy, I really mean crazy-jealous!

    Thank you for reading my blog fellow 206'er! :D

    March 4, 2012 | Registered CommenterBrook Hurst Stephens

    What are the ratios of all these things? I have a 2.25 lb piece of brisket, and I'm not sure how much brine to make... or how much salt/sugar/spice to water = brine. Suggestions?

    Hi Elizabeth.

    I have updated the blog post with the ingredient amounts. I can't believe I missed that before! Gee whiz.

    The recipe is for a 5 pound brisket, so just halve the amounts of everything and you'll be all set.

    A 2.25 pound piece is a really nice size -- easy to work with but plenty to start with for sure.

    Have fun!


    March 6, 2012 | Registered CommenterBrook Hurst Stephens
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