Brine for Corned Beef and Pastrami

Corned beef and pastrami sandwich
Hungry Dudes/Flickr
  • 25 mins
  • Prep: 15 mins,
  • Cook: 10 mins
  • Yield: 1 gallon
Ratings (8)

If you love deli corned beef and pastrami but have never been able to duplicate the flavor at home, now you can with this recipe because it's all about the brine.

This particular brine recipe is perfect for making corned beef or pastrami from beef brisket but there are other brine ​recipes out there suited to other types and cuts of meat and poultry. 

What You'll Need

  • 1 gallon water
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Prague powder
  • 12 cloves garlic (crushed)
  • 3 tablespoons pickling spices
  • 8 bay leaves

How to Make It

  1. Bring the water to a boil in a large, stainless-steel or other nonreactive stockpot.
  2. Remove from heat and add the salt, sugar, and Prague powder. Stir until the ingredients are completely dissolved. Allow to cool to room temperature.
  3. Stir in the garlic, pickling spices, and bay leaves. The brine is now ready for use.
  4. Transfer it to a stainless steel or plastic container with a tight-fitting lid (plastic wrap also will work) large enough to accommodate up to 5 pounds of meat and 1 gallon of brine. 
  1. Submerge the meat in the brine, cover tightly, place a weight on top to keep the meat under the brine, and refrigerate for up to five days (turning once a day if you like but this isn't necessary).
  2. Remove the meat from the brine, pat it dry with paper towels, and let it come to room temperature.
  3. Using your favorite recipe, roast the corned beef or smoke it to make pastrami.

Note: When brining, always use a non-reactive, airtight container like plastic or stainless steel.

Why Brine?

In the old days before refrigeration, pickling (essentially what brining is) was done to not only meats and poultry but also to cheese, vegetables, and fruit as a means of preservation.

Today, brining meats acts as a marinade of sorts to add flavor, texture, and moisture to tough cuts of meat before they are cooked especially if subjected to a long, slow smoking.

A lot of today's meats have been injected with a saline solution to make them tender. Since your meat essentially will be soaking in a saltwater bath (the brine), you don't want a pre-salted piece of meat so make sure to check the label.