How to Cure Corned Beef at Home

Corned beef is a salt-cured brisket that has been a staple in many cultures for centuries. The curing process tenderizes the meat and gives it a unique salty, tangy flavor that many people love. While you can buy corned beef at the grocery store, curing it yourself at home allows you to control the ingredients and customize the flavor. With just a few simple ingredients and a bit of patience, you can make delicious homemade corned beef.

What is Corned Beef?

The term “corned” refers to the corns or kernels of salt used to cure the meat. Salt aids in preservation and helps break down the meat fibers through a process called denaturation, resulting in a tender final product.

In addition to salt, corned beef is cured with nitrites, which impart that iconic pinkish-red color, and various spices that give it flavor. The meat cut most commonly used is brisket, but other cheaper cuts like round roast can also be cured into corned beef.

Benefits of Homemade

Curing your own corned beef has several advantages over store-bought:

  • Better taste: You can customize the spices to suit your preferences. Homemade often has a more pronounced seasoning than commercial versions.

  • No preservatives: Store-bought corned beef contains chemical preservatives like sodium nitrite and sodium erythorbate. Curing it yourself allows you to avoid these additives.

  • Cost savings: Doing it yourself is cheaper per pound. Brisket is an inexpensive cut.

  • Control over quality: You can select high quality brisket with good marbling.

How to Make Corned Beef

Making corned beef involves two main steps:

  1. Curing the brisket in a brine solution
  2. Cooking the cured brisket

Curing the Brisket

Curing forms the distinctive corned beef flavor and tenderizes the meat. It takes 5-10 days.

You’ll need:

  • 3-5 lb beef brisket
  • Curing salt (pink salt/prague powder)
  • Spices like peppercorns, allspice, etc.
  • Water
  • Optional: curing sugar, nitrite

The brine is made by dissolving the curing salt and spices into water. Some recipes also add sugar. The brisket is submerged in this mixture and refrigerated for 5-10 days, flipping occasionally.

Curing salt ratios are important, so follow recipe guidelines to prevent overly salty or undercured meat. Too little salt and the meat won’t preserve. Too much can make it inedibly salty.

After curing, rinse the brisket and you’re ready for cooking.

Cooking the Cured Brisket

Traditional preparation is boiling, but corned beef tastes great smoked or roasted too. Cook until fork tender – usually 2-4 hours.

To boil:

  • Place cured brisket in pot, cover with water
  • Add spices like garlic, peppercorns, bay leaves
  • Simmer for 2-4 hours until fork tender

To smoke:

  • Rub brisket with brown sugar, spices
  • Smoke at 225°F for 4-6 hours until tender
  • Finish by steaming for 1 hour

Tips for Making Great Corned Beef

  • Select the right brisket: Go for a flat cut brisket with good marbling. Avoid very thick cuts.

  • Trim excess fat: Too much fat prevents the cure from penetrating effectively. Trim thick areas.

  • Weigh down: Use a plate to keep brisket submerged during curing.

  • Curing time: 5 days is minimum, 7-10 days gives more tender, pronounced corned beef flavor.

  • Rinse well after curing. This removes excess surface saltiness.

  • Simmer gently: Low and slow cooking helps break down connective tissue. Avoid boiling rapidly.

  • Rest before slicing: At least 20 minutes, up to 1-2 hours. This allows juices to reabsorb for moister meat.

  • Slice against the grain: This yields more tender slices that don’t string out.

Ingredients & Equipment You’ll Need

For the brine:

  • 3-5 lb beef brisket
  • 1 gallon water
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 2 tbsp curing salt
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons pickling spices
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon Prague Powder #1 (optional)

For cooking:

  • Large pot for boiling
  • Instant read thermometer
  • Cooling rack
  • Carving knife

Popular Ways to Use Corned Beef

  • Classic corned beef and cabbage
  • Corned beef hash
  • Reuben sandwiches
  • New England boiled dinner
  • Corned beef brisket

The salty, savory flavor of homemade corned beef is hard to beat. With the proper method, you can cure brisket and turn it into a delicious family recipe to enjoy for years to come. The hands-on time is minimal, and the wait is well worth the extra flavor and quality you get compared to store-bought.

How-To Corn Beef | Making Corned Beef With Curing Salt | Fermented Homestead


How long does it take to cure a brisket?

It will take about 10 days to fully cure the brisket.

Is corned beef cured or uncured?

Corned beef is essentially beef cured in a salt brine, with some pickling spices for added flavor.

Is saltpeter necessary for corned beef?

The sodium nitrate is a curing salt that contributes to the pink color and cured flavor of corned beef. It also prevent the meat from spoiling or going rancid while it is curing. However, since the meat is cooked after it is brined it is not essential to use it.

What is the secret to best corned beef?

Simmering corned beef on the stovetop is a tried-and-true method that results in very tender beef. One of the keys to simmering corned beef correctly is the amount of water in the pot. When there’s not ample liquid to cover the meat, your dreams of tender corned beef may be replaced by a tough, chewy result.

Leave a Comment