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How to Corn Beef Brisket

Youguysguesswhatnevermindstopguessing! I learned how to corn beef brisket! And it was DEE-RISH-US!
Sorry. Can’t talk good. Eating leftover corned beef.

It’s really simple, as long as you have a refrigerator, which I do. I followed the recipe here from Nils Hoyum on HowToCookMeat.com which is a cool site if you cook and eat meat, which I also do. I made one change – the addition of caraway seed – because as I was traipsing through the recipe, all light-hearted, doing ballet twirls as I tossed my spices and herbs into the brine, so confident that my pantry would supply me all I need, I found that I actually did NOT have any whole allspice. So I improvised and threw in a teaspoon of caraway seeds instead. And then guess what. I found the allspice. So my corned beef brisket had an extra spice! Crazy! I know!

But really all you need to know is that it’s easy-as-hell and here’s the one-two-three of it. If you want to make your own corned beef for St. Patrick’s day, you should think about starting this soon. It takes 10-14 days brining before it’s ready to boil. (Recipe for corned beef and cabbage here!)

Corned Beef Ingredients

4 pound grass-fed beef brisket, a bajillion spices, garlic, salt/sugar (not shown; use your imagination)

I cut my brisket into two pieces so I could fit it into the single gallon-sized Ziploc bag I own; the one I’ve been using since ’99. Then I dissolved the salt and sugar in 2 cups of hot water and added the spices. Put the beef in the bag and pour the brine over. Press the air out and seal. Since my bag is ancient, I went ahead and put the bag in a large bowl too, in case of leakage.

Corned beef in brine

This is what meat looks like in a bag of brine.

Then just put the damn thing in the fridge for 10-14 days. Oh right, I forgot to mention the Salt Peter Quandry. Usually corned beef is preserved with potassium nitrate (saltpeter) which is the thing that’s used in lots of preserved meats like hot dogs and bacon and also supposedly something that is bad for you. I’m not convinced it’s all so terrible (unless you’re eating bacon-wrapped hotdogs at every meal, which is not recommended by the surgeon general or anyone else) but I also didn’t and don’t want to bother having it around in my house, much less finding it, so I left it out. According to Nils, as long as you’re planning to cook it after brining and not trying to actually preserve it for the winter, it will be fine. It won’t be the rosy pink color of a store-bought corned beef, but mine still looked and tasted absolutely fab.

Back to the fridge. You do need to shake the bag up now and again. I just turned it over every time I went to the fridge to get a beer. So, like a hundred times a day. I kid. I’m sure a turn once a day is fine.

Here is what it looked like 12 days later, out of the brine, fatty side up:

Finished Corned Beef

Consider yourself corned, beef!

Looks good! Smelled corny. But then check this out:

Finished Corned Beef

WHY IS IT PINK??? (That’s a rhetorical question. Don’t bother yourself.)

So, evidently the brine wasn’t able to fully penetrate the areas of my two brisket-halves that were touching each other in the bag. Next time I’ll either buy another Ziploc bag and put each half in its own bag, or – what actually will happen – just flip them around about half-way through the brining so the inside sides are on the outside and vice-versa.

Anyway, I went ahead and cooked up one chunk with some cabbage and potatoes and it was amazing. I’ll post that recipe next week. The other half I returned to the brine for another day, drained most of the brine, wrapped it tightly and froze it to cook on actual St. Patrick’s day.

All in all, this was an exceptionally satisfying food experiment that turned out very well and I believe I shall do it again some time. Hope you try it!

29 Comments

  1. Great Stone Face on March 3, 2012 at 11:12 am

    Looks great! You’re ready to be a NY deli counterperson, if you can get a tad more attitude.

    Can’t wait to see the corned beef and cabbage. We’ve done St. Patrick’s Day feasts of it, but always with store-bought corned beef. (#1 Son is a St. Paddy’s Day birthday boy). For a real New England Boiled Dinner, you’ll need carrots, potatoes, and turnips in the pot, and boiled or Harvard beers on the side.

    Oh, for salpeter, you could always get some from the cook at a boys’ school, if you believe the rumors of what salpeter does to a guy’s libido.

    • Hilah on March 3, 2012 at 11:36 am

      Ooh, Harvard beets! I’ve been meaning to make some of those as well. But speaking of beers, I think next time I’ll try cooking the corned beef in beer. I meant to do it last night, but somehow forgot about that plan once I started cooking. I must be losing my mind!
      I’d never heard a thing about saltpeter: the anaphrodisiac. Very interesting.

      • Great Stone Face on March 3, 2012 at 12:30 pm

        Good idea. We’ve rinsed off sauerkraut, poured beer over it, then steamed franks in too.

  2. Great Stone Face on March 3, 2012 at 11:14 am

    Beets, not beers, although yeah, those too! Wicked, yeah!

  3. Daniel Delaney on March 3, 2012 at 11:26 am

    Before I knew you could smoke brisket, CBNC (can we call it that?) was my only exposure to the cut. Then came pastrami. Then using brisket in chili, and now barbecue. I think it’s an under appreciated cut, outside of The Lone Star State, of course. Anyway, I’m happy you put this up; I’m going to give it a go this year.

    • Hilah on March 3, 2012 at 11:38 am

      Thanks, Daniel! I think brisket and flank steak are both under appreciated outside of Texas. But if cooked right, they can be so good.
      WTH is CBNC???

      • Daniel Delaney on March 3, 2012 at 11:40 am

        Corned Beef N’ Cabbage

        • Hilah on March 3, 2012 at 11:55 am

          Oh. DUH. I was googling “cbnc” and coming up with all kinds of unrelated things – Certification Board of Nuclear Cardiology, Coyote Bay Night Club? I’m silly. 😉

  4. Bill Farthing on March 3, 2012 at 8:42 pm

    This looks awesome. I can’t wait to pork my own beef.

    • Hilah on March 4, 2012 at 5:20 pm

      You shall not be disappointed. It is very satisfying.

  5. Rocco on March 10, 2012 at 10:55 am

    I found your cutesy interjection to be unnecessarily sophmoric. Who cares if you danced around, etc., etc.? Stick to basics. I only just stumbled upon your sight.

    • Hilah on March 12, 2012 at 1:54 pm

      Ay caramba! If you thought that was sophomoric, I hope you don’t look any further into my site. You’re not gonna like it.
      However, this is the internet and I can write whatever I want to!!! And you don’t have to read it!!!

      !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Unnecessary Exclamation Points!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. Muppet's Mommy on March 17, 2012 at 4:33 pm

    Well, I just found your website and will be adding it to my favorites list 🙂 We just started getting grass-fed beef from a local farm. However, we purchased a corned brisket from the store this year. Decided to see how hard it would have been to do it from scratch – and now I see not so hard at all! Thanks!!

    And to Rocco – you are clearly NOT the life of the party! Seriously, loosen the sphincter a bit, pull the pole out and have some fun! Geesh!

    • Hilah on March 18, 2012 at 6:01 pm

      Hello! Thank you so much. I was always really intimidated by the idea of corning my own beef, too, but it’s so easy, I can definitely see myself doing it maybe once a month. And I’m with you on the grass-fed stuff.
      Thanks for writing!

      • Jason "Jason Yano" Yano on August 17, 2012 at 2:46 am

        Hiyah Hilah (yes im patting myself on the back for that one),
        So I went to the market to buy some “Bajillion” spices and all I could find under the “B”s were Black Pepper, Bay Leaves, and “Bee Stingers” (it was an ethnic market). Care to offer any insight with more sophomoric anecdotes/interjections/goodcoolyesholygod?

        Yours Truly,
        Homemade Corned Beef Hash, Jr.

        • Hilah on August 18, 2012 at 12:49 pm

          Oh, let’s see, Jason… how about “butt” and “booty” and “fart”. That sophomoric enough of me? 😉

          • Jason on August 18, 2012 at 12:59 pm

            Well I was only able to find those at the organic local food boutique, and so that was expensive as all get up. So I probably was trying to be funnier than I am at my own expense and jumbled up my question in between puns and jokes I plagiarized from a high school kids english paper… (there it goes again)… SO let me try to ask a normal humanoid question. Would you be so kind as to share what spices you used to corn your beef?! 🙂 Tanke.



          • Hilah on August 18, 2012 at 1:10 pm

            Oh. Sorry I didn’t get that.
            I really just used the recipe on the other site I liked to in the post: http://www.howtocookmeat.com/recipes/beef/how-to-corn-beef-brisket.htm except I added a teaspoon of whole caraway seeds, too. It was bay leaves, black pepper, allspice, mustard and coriander seeds, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, plus salt and sugar.
            Have fun with it! It was really good. I need to do it again.



  7. Mike on September 9, 2012 at 12:55 pm

    Hi Hilah. As a lover of all things “corned”, I always cook corny things with beer! Actually Stout to be specific, though a good brown beer works as well. Let’s see, off the top of my head, cooking Corned Beef I usually throw it in the pressure cooker with 2 bottles of stout, 2 onions, quartered, a couple tablespoons of minced garlic, a couple bay leaves, black pepper corns (I don’t know how many, just “some”), and enough water to cover. Cook on 10-15 pounds of pressure for an hour-hour and a half depending on size, etc.
    Another under appreciated cut is tongue and I used this same method for a couple beef tongues last night and added maybe a quarter cup of pickling spice. It is so good!

    • Hilah on September 9, 2012 at 7:08 pm

      Oh boy! Thanks so much for the instructions on pressure cooking, Mike! I’ve been wanting to use mine more lately.
      And tongue. Yes I’d heard of corned tongue but never have tried preparing it in any way. Thinking it’s time.

      • Mike on September 9, 2012 at 7:50 pm

        It’s not corning. Corning takes like a week in a brine solution with those spices as per your article, but it does give it a faint taste of corning and the aroma is definitely corning. Now the interesting thing is that I took the second tongue that we cooked and sliced it very thin (after a night in the refrigerator) and put the sliced tongue in a gallon zip bag (mine is a recent purchase I don’t reuse them! I HATE fridge messes!) and put enough of the “juice” in to cover completely, removed the air and put it in the deep freeze. It will be interesting to see what happens in a frozen state.
        But, your article (and others) have convinced me that I definitely need to corn a brisket soon. In So Cal (San Diego area) I find I can get just about any cut of meat I need from a good Mexican butcher. All the traditional butchers seem to be gone, but the big Mexican grocery stores have great butchers that have the more under appreciated cuts of meat! They also carry brisket which I just cannot find elsewhere! Love my Mexican markets! 🙂

        • Hilah on September 11, 2012 at 8:47 am

          I hope you do try corning a brisket. It was fun and really delicious. And yes, the Mexican groceries are a great place to find more unusual cuts, along with fresh chorizo formed into a pig head shape. 😉
          When you prepare tongue, do you blanch it and “peel” it first? I’ve only read recipes, never made it myself as I said, and what I’ve read makes it seem tricky or finicky or something.

          • Mike on September 11, 2012 at 10:38 am

            No I leave it as is. I know some say to blanch and peel, and if you were going to shred it and use it for tacos or something that would probably be the way to go, but I find that if you cook it for 1.5 hours under pressure or about 5 hours boiling not under pressure, pull it out, let it rest on the breadboard for like 10 minutes or so…long enough so you can handle it without burning your fingers, it pretty much peels itself. The “peel” has the consistency of a medium-weight rubber like you might find in a tennis shoe sole. In fact…..nah…never mind! 🙂 Be sure to strain the juice, then pop the meat back in there after you slice it to allow it to fully absorb the flavors!



  8. cutchswife on September 29, 2012 at 1:06 pm

    Dear Hilah,
    English fan here! Love your video’s on youtube and your great personality. Please could you do a video of this recipe, I prefer vids!

    Love from good ol’ Blighty 😀

    • Hilah on September 30, 2012 at 12:43 pm

      Thank you so much! I should do a video on this for St. Patrick’s Day. I’m happy you like the show. I love you English folk – I spent a couple weeks in London in 1999 and met so many nice, funny people. I need to go back for a visit!

  9. nora on January 27, 2013 at 10:30 am

    Since I live in France, where corned beef is nonexistant, I’ve got to give this a try right away. Tried it years ago, but somehow had forgotten. Thanks

    • Hilah on January 28, 2013 at 11:43 am

      Oh yay! It’s an easily forgotten thing, but really very good. Hope you try it, Nora.

  10. Vivian Hearne on October 30, 2019 at 11:46 am

    I’m one of those Texans you were talking about. Question… The 2 gal bag I was using sprung a leak & I’m only 5 days in. To change bags, do I need to alter the brine recipe?

    • Hilah on October 30, 2019 at 2:52 pm

      Hi Vivian,
      I’m not sure what you mean. Are you asking if you need to remake the brine when you transfer it to a new bag?I think as long as all the brine leakage was captured in a bowl, you could just dump it all into another bag

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