A Homemade Corned Beef Recipe
Now that it’s March, the warmer weather has me thinking about traditional foods for the season. One of those that we always make in early spring is corned beef and cabbage. You can make your own delicious version to avoid chemicals and preservatives found in the store-bought corned beef.
What is Corned Beef?
There is no actual corn in corned beef. The name comes from Great Britain and means “small chunks,” referring to the salt pieces that were used in the curing process. You can certainly use rock salt, although I use Himalayan Pink Salt for the flavor and the nutritive value.
Delicious Homemade Corned Beef Recipe
My main secrets to good corned beef are 1) toasting the spices, and 2) using good cuts of meat. I get most all of my beef from a local farm that specializes in hormone free, pasture raised, organic beef.
- 1 Tbsp peppercorns, whole (find organic peppercorns here)
- 1 Tbsp coriander, whole (find organic coriander seed here)
- 1 Tbsp allspice, whole (find organic allspice here)
- 1 Tbsp mustard seeds, whole (find organic mustard seeds here)
- 1 Tbsp cloves, whole (find organic cloves here)
- 1 Tbsp red pepper flakes (find organic red pepper flakes here)
- 1 Tbsp cardamom pods, whole (find organic cardamom pods here)
- 5 bay leaves, crushed (find organic bay leaves here)
- ½ hand fresh ginger, sliced (about ⅓ pound)
- 1 cinnamon stick, crushed (find organic cinnamon sticks here)
- 1 gallon filtered water (find high quality water filtration systems here)
- 2 cups Himalayan Pink Salt, coarse grind (find it here)
- ¼ cup pink curing salt OR 1-2 Tbsp beet root powder (find curing salt here or beet root powder here)
- see “A Few Tips” below for more information
- ½ cup organic cane sugar (find it here)
- 3 Tbsp of the Spice Mix (above)
- 1 beef brisket, about 5 pounds
- Make the Spice Mix. Toast all the spices (except ginger) in a pan for just a few minutes. Be sure to have your fan on or windows open as the fumes can be quite harsh if over heated. Let cool while you do the next step.
- Combine all the ingredients for the Brine. Bring to a boil, then simmer until all of the sugar and salt is dissolved. Cool, then refrigerate until very cold.
- Place the brisket in a large 9×13 pan, or larger if needed. Use enough brine to fully cover the brisket. This could be the entire gallon, but may be more or less depending on the cut of meat. The meat may want to float. If it does, fill a clean quart jar with water and place on top of the brisket. You may need more than one jar depending on the size of the brisket.
- Cover and place in the refrigerator for 5-7 days. Turn it over every day to be sure the brine is getting to all sides.
- When the brisket is fully cured, no more than 7 days, it’s time to cook it. Rinse off well and place in a stock pot or another large pan. Cover with clear water and 1 tablespoon of the Spice Mix from the recipe. Either simmer OR bake on low (about 300°F) for 2-3 hours, or until cooked through. It should pull apart easily with a fork.
A Few Tips…
The curing salt is not totally necessary as a curing agent since you are cooking the meat, but it does help create that cool pink color. Without it, your meat will be a dull gray. However, you will notice that most pink curing salts contain red dye. If you’d like to skip the curing salt, you can use 1-2 tablespoons of beet root powder to turn the meat a light pink color.
You can use almost any type of sugar. You could also use stevia, since the sweetness is only for flavoring and not actual curing. Again, the meat will be cooked, not open-air cured.
Any type of salt will work. Just be sure to adjust your recipe if using a finely ground salt; use about half as much. You could also omit part of the salt and use soy sauce. Salt is essential to curing, and must be used in some form. If you don’t want as much of a salty taste later, you can change the water partway through the cooking process and eliminate some of the final salt.
Corned beef is really easy! Have you ever made it from scratch?