If you haven't stretched your cooking fingers into the world of home curing yet, this is a great place to start! Corned beef is simple, safe, and super versatile. Not to mention there are entire blogs and websites dedicated to the art and science of home curing for extra reading. I like to use it in tacos, corned beef hash, and (of course) Reuben's! Which happens to be my favorite sammich.. so I make corned beef a few times a year.. tweaking the recipe ever so slightly until it was perfect. Enjoy!
The Supply List
- 1 tablespoon whole mustard seeds
- 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
- 1 tablespoon whole allspice berries
- 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoon whole peppercorns
- 1 tablespoon juniper berries (opt)
- 2 teaspoons whole cloves
- 8 whole cardamom pods, crushed
- 5 bay leaves, crumbled
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1-2 sticks cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground mace (optional)
- A small jar to store your blend in, a mortar and pestal or a spice grinder.
- 1 gallon warm water
- 300 g Kosher salt (1 cup 3 1/2 tablespoons of Morton's Kosher Salt) Different salt has different densities, its important to weigh it or look online for conversion rates
- 5 teaspoons pink curing salt
- Half the pickling spices
- 1/2 cup (90 g) brown sugar
- A large container or 2 - 2.5gallon zip storage bags
Note on the Pink curing salt: or sodium nitrite is available online and at sporting stores (like Academy) It is NOT the same as pink sea salt or Himalayan salt.. no matter what the grocery clerk says. It is also known as Prague Powder #1, curing salt #1, and insta-cure #1.. Do not buy insta-cure #2, which is used for uncooked air cured meats (like salumi) Concentrated Sodium Nitrate (curing salt) cannot be ingested directly, that’s why they dye it neon pink. It’s safe for using indirectly and in much diluted brining process. You also need to be precise in its usage for the curing process to “do it’s thing” curing meat is just as much a science as it is an art. If you don't have it or simply prefer not to use it, you can still make “corned” beef, but it is what provides the trademark texture and vibrant pink color in the meat. Otherwise it would be shades of grey.
You can either used store-bought pickling spices but I prefer to make my own! If you’re spending 5 days curing meat you may as well get to play with the flavors a bit. First, toast your whole spices in a pan over low-medium heat until fragrant. Reserve the bay, ground ginger, and mace(if using) as they don’t require toasting. Keep a close eye on and a spatula slowly moving on your spices because they can burn easily. You just want to open up the flavors.. also, just like in science class, wafting is probably advisable.. toasting red pepper isn’t something you want to stick your face into. Remove from heat and place in a mortar and pestle to crush the spices. If you don’t have one, a couple of quick pulses in a spice blender will work. You want the mixture course, not powdered. remove to a small bowl and stir in the crumbled bay leaves, ginger, and mace if using.
Add half of the spice mix to a gallon of water in a large pot, along with the Kosher salt, pink salt and brown sugar. Bring to a short boil, then remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Then refrigerate until well chilled. Don’t rush this step. Adding meat to a warm brine can encourage bacterial growth as it tries to cool.
Brine the beef for 5-7:
Place the brisket in your zip bag or flat container fill with the brine. The brine should fully cover the meat. In a container your meat may float so may want to weigh it down with a plate. The first time I cured I used a giant flat dish that I then had to work around in my fridge for the next week. From then on I went with the double bag method so I could move it, flip it, inspect it, rub on it.. whatever throughout the week and even put it one of the drawers. As long as the meat is fully submerged in the brine.
You may not need to add all of the brine to the bag, maybe half or three quarters. As long as the beef is covered. Squeeze out all of the air and seal the bag. Then placed the sealed bag inside of another bag in case of any leaks. Place in the refrigerator and chill from 5-7 days. Turn the meat daily to ensure equal penetration of the curing solution.
It’s time to cook!
At the end of the cure, remove the brisket from the brine and rinse off the brine with cold water. I don’t like a super salty corned beef. So when I dump the brine I refill the bag with cold water and give it a good rinse, running my hands over it. Before dumping again
NOTE if you’re headed on into the world of pastrami making, this is where you detour to the seasoning and smoking.
Corned Beef: Get a large pot that just fits around the beef, I have been known to cut it in half if necessary. Fill with cold water to cover the beef with at 1-2” of water. The Beef will float up so just use your best judgment and add more water while its cooking if needed Add the remaining pickling spices to the pot and bring to a boil. Once you’re boiling, reduce to a very slow and low simmer, uncovered, cook 3-4 hours, until the corned beef is fork tender.
For the most succulent corned beef: After boiling, place your beautiful pink beef on a cutting board. And let it rest for 5-10 minutes. Inspect it to see which way the muscle fibers run and make nice thin slices across the grain. If you are using a meat slicer.. You will get a much cleaner cut with chilled meat.