How to Make Corned Beef from Scratch

Corned beef is a salt-cured brisket that’s simmered until fork tender. The brining process gives it a characteristic pink color and seasoned flavor that sets it apart from regular cooked brisket. While you can easily buy pre-brined corned beef, it’s surprisingly simple to make your own from scratch. Homemade corned beef has fantastic texture and tastes better than store-bought versions.

Overview of the Process

Making corned beef from scratch involves just three main steps:

  1. Make the curing brine – A mixture of water, salt, spices, and curing salt packs flavor into the meat.

  2. Brine the brisket – The brisket soaks for 5-7 days to absorb the brine.

  3. Simmer the brisket – Slow cooking tenderizes the meat into succulent corned beef.

With a bit of hands-off time for brining, you can have better-than-store-bought corned beef using this easy process.

Step 1: Make the Curing Brine

The salty brine mixture gives corned beef its preserved texture and seasoned taste. Here’s what you’ll need:

Water – Cover the brisket completely. A gallon of water brines a 3-5 lb brisket.

Salt – Dissolve 1/2 to 1 cup salt into the water. Kosher or pickling salt works best.

Sugars – For flavor and to balance saltiness, add 1/4 to 1/2 cup brown sugar.

Spices – Pickling spices like peppercorns, mustard seeds, and allspice berries.

Curing salt – Optional for color and tang without nitrites. Use 1 tsp per 5 lbs meat.

Bring the mixture to a boil to dissolve the salt and sugar. Then chill completely before using.

Step 2: Brine the Brisket

Submerge the brisket in the cold brine. Use a large container or bag, weighing down the meat if needed to keep it fully immersed.

Refrigerate for 5-7 days, flipping the brisket daily. The brine will penetrate the meat, seasoning it throughout.

Step 3: Simmer the Brisket

Once brined, rinse the brisket and place in a pot. Add enough water to cover the meat by 1-2 inches.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 2 1/2 – 4 hours until fork-tender. Skim any scum during cooking.

The low gentle cooking will fully tenderize the brisket into perfect homemade corned beef!

Choosing the Right Brisket

Select a 3-5 lb beef brisket, ideally the flat cut which is leaner. The meat should have nice marbling but not excessive fat. Well-marbled brisket stays moist during simmering.

Untrimmed brisket works well since the fat cap bastes the meat. Simply trim excess fat after cooking. Avoid brisket slices or smaller cuts which may fall apart.

Brine Ingredients to Customize Flavor

One benefit of homemade corned beef is tailoring the brine to your taste. Consider adding any of the following:

  • Whole spices: bay leaves, cloves, juniper berries, ginger, cinnamon
  • Seeds: coriander, mustard, caraway
  • Peppercorns: black, red, green, white
  • Dried chiles or chili powder
  • Garlic, onion, or leeks
  • Orange or lemon peel

Troubleshooting Tips

  • If the raw brisket floats, weigh it down in the brine.
  • For less sodium, use less salt and soak after brining.
  • Check doneness with a fork rather than timing.
  • Let rest 15 minutes before slicing for juicier meat.

Serving Suggestions

  • Try classic corned beef and cabbage.
  • Make Reubens with Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and Russian dressing.
  • Slice thin for corned beef hash with potatoes and onions.
  • Pile high on rye bread for tasty sandwiches.

In Summary

Preparing corned beef from scratch takes just a few easy steps but beats store-bought versions hands down. The brisket gets incredibly moist and tender from the brining and simmering process. With the ability to customize spices, you can create a uniquely flavorful homemade corned beef to enjoy any time of year.



What cut of meat do you use for corned beef?

What cut of beef does corned beef come from? Beef brisket is the cut used to make corned beef. A primal cut, it’s a large piece from the breast or lower chest of beef cattle. Brisket is a tough cut with connective tissue throughout, and a whole brisket typically weighs 10 pounds or more.

What is the secret to 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.

Is it cheaper to make your own corned beef?

Home made corned beef can be cheaper than store-bought. And it’s easy. And you can customize it. Once you’ve had the real deal, you can’t go back.

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