Corned beef has been a staple of old-school diner menus and Irish-American diets for decades. (Just like many of these classic Irish recipes.) 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 making 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.
How to Make Corned Beef
- 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
Editor’s 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 stockpot (Like this one from our new line of cookware and bakeware.)
- 2 oven roasting bags
- Dutch oven
- Enough room in your fridge to store the brisket for 10 days
Step 1: Get Prepping
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.
Editor’s Tip: 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.
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: Keep it Cool
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.
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.
Step 5: 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.