You may be surprised to know how easy it is to make homemade corned beef. All you need is a bit of time—about a week to brine and an afternoon to cook with almost no work in between. A brisket is enough for an ample family dinner plus leftovers to thinly slice for sandwiches the next day, plus some to chop up and turn into corned beef hash.
This recipe calls for pink salt, a curing salt with nitrite added to it. It gives corned beef its characteristic color and flavor. Pink salt is not absolutely necessary to use, so if you choose to steer clear of it due to the nitrates, know that the final corned beef will still be delicious but will be gray, not the more familiar red color.
- One 5-pound brisket
- 12 ounces (about 1 1/2 cups) fine sea salt
- 1/2 cup sugar or brown sugar
- 1 ounce (about 5 teaspoons) pink salt (curing salt)
- 1 recipe pickling spice, divided
- 16 cups water, divided
- 4 cloves garlic, divided
- 2 carrots
- 2 stalks celery
- 1 onion
- Rinse off the brisket and pat it dry. Trim off any excess fat from the meat, if you like. Set the brisket aside.
- In a medium pot, bring the sea salt, sugar, pink salt, half of the pickling spice, and 4 cups water to a boil. While it heats, mince 3 cloves of the garlic and add that to the pot.
- Once the mixture boils, reduce the heat to a simmer and stir the mixture until the salts and sugar fully dissolve. Transfer the mixture to a bowl or pot large enough to hold the brisket (but small enough to fit in the fridge) and add 12 cups of cold water.
- Let the mixture fully cool and then submerge the brisket in the brine. Use a plate or other kitchenware to weigh down the brisket so it stays under the brine. Cover the vessel with plastic wrap, chill, and let the brisket cure in the brine for at least 5 days and up to 10 days. (You can check on it if you like, but there really isn't any reason to—just let it sit and have the brine work its magic on the beef. This is the "corning" part of corned beef.)
- When you're ready to cook it, lift the brisket out the brine (you can discard the brine) and rinse it thoroughly with cool running water. Put the brisket in a pot and cover it with water. Add the remaining pickling spice and bring to a boil.
- While the water comes to a boil, clean and trim the carrots and celery stalks and add them to the pot. Peel and quarter the onion and mince the remaining clove of garlic and add both to the pot.
- After it boils, partially cover and reduce heat to maintain a steady simmer. Cook the brisket, more or less undisturbed until it is fully tender—you should be able to pierce the brisket with a fork very easily—between 3 and 4 hours.
- When the brisket is done, transfer it to a cutting board. You can cover it to keep warm while you finish other elements of the meal. When ready to eat, slice the corned beef against the grain (the short way across the brisket) and serve hot or warm.
Tips and Side Dish Suggestions
Using organic, grass-fed beef in this recipe adds extra flavor, and the sometimes more assertive taste and texture of grass-fed beef is a good match for the salt, spice, bringing, and slow cooking that makes a good corned beef.
The liquid in which you cooked the brisket will be delicious, although very salty broth. It is too salty and intense to use as a base for soup, but it is just about perfect for boiling potatoes. If you plan on slicing the corned beef thinly for sandwiches or other recipes, let it come to room temperature after cooking and then chill before cutting.