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How to Make Corned Beef from Scratch

Curious about how to make your own corned beef? Our test kitchen takes you through the process step-by-step.

By Nicole Doster, Digital Associate Editor and James Schend, Food Editor

corned beef slices into pieces on a wooden cutting board

Corned beef has been a staple of old-school diner menus and Irish-American diets for decades. You might find it mingling with sauerkraut in a tasty Reuben sandwich or next to potatoes at a St. Patrick's Day supper. Sure, you can buy it canned or already cured in a store, but nothing beats the flavor, and feeling of total accomplishment, of bringing your own. So how do you make corned beef from scratch?

The Taste of Home Test Kitchen has found the best way. Follow along with our expert tips and methods below.

A quick heads-up: This recipe requires multiple days. But don't let the time scare you. The steps are simple and the flavor payoff is second to none. It'll take about 10 days to brine the meat, so if it's for a big event, schedule it into your calendar early.


What You'll Need:

Ingredients

  • 1 gallon water
  • 1-1/2 cups kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup mixed pickling spices, divided
  • 4 teaspoons pink curing salt
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 fresh beef brisket (4 to 5 pounds)
  • 2 large carrots, chopped
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 2 celery ribs, chopped

Supplies

  • Large stockpot
  • 2 oven roasting bags
  • Dutch oven
  • Enough room in your fridge to store the brisket for 10 days

Pro Tip: As a shortcut, you can buy pickling spices at your local market, but we recommend going the extra mile with our Homemade Pickling Spice recipe. It's simple to make, and you might have the ingredients already in your pantry.


large metal pot filled with water and seasonings

Step1: All About the Prep

In a large stockpot, combine water, kosher salt, brown sugar, 2 tablespoons pickling spices, pink curing salt and garlic. Bring the brine to a simmer and stir until salt and sugar are dissolved. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Refrigerate until chilled.

Pink Curing Salt?

Not all pink-colored salts are created equal. Unlike Himalayan pink salt, or other rosy salts on the market, pink curing salt is made using sodium nitrate, which prevents food from spoiling while being stored for a lengthy time. Curing salt is often dyed red so it's not mistaken for standard table salt.


beef in an oven bag with brine being poured onto it from a measuring cup

Step 2: Let's Wrap

It's time to play Russian nesting doll with your oven-roasting bags. Open them both and place one inside the other. Tuck the brisket into the innermost bag and carefully add in the cooled brine. Be sure that it pools over and around the brisket. Then seal both bags. Try to press as much air out as possible before sealing. Before placing in the fridge, turn the meat a few times to evenly coat it.


Step 3: The Waiting Game

Clear a special place in the fridge for the brisket to live. Keep it refrigerated for 10 days so that the meat can properly soak in all the spiced flavor. Be sure to turn the brisket over occasionally so that it remains evenly coated.


corned beef being turned over with tongs in a Dutch oven

Step 4: Time to Cook

The corned beef is almost ready. Wake up the brisket from its chilled slumber by removing it from the brine. Give the cut a thorough rinse and place it in a Dutch oven with enough water to cover. Add in carrots, celery and the remaining pickling spices and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat, cover and add water if necessary to keep brisket covered. Cook for about 3 hours or until meat is tender.


corned beef cut in half on a wooden cutting board

Step 5: Let's Dig In

At long last your corned beef is ready to serve, hot or cold. Use a sharpened knife to cut the brisket into thin slices. Slap it onto a sandwich or serve with additional vegetables simmered until tender.

To eat the beef at a later date, refrigerate it in the cooking liquid. It'll keep for several days. Reheat in that same liquid when you're ready to serve.

Looking for more creative dishes to serve? Find inspiration with our collection of recipes to make using leftover corned beef.