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Corned Beef with no spice packet?

  • h

I'm going to make corned beef and cabbage (and potatoes, carrots, onions and celery) for the first time tomorrow. I just bought a 3-pound corned beef and was surprised to find there was no “spice packet” included. The meat was packaged as “corned beef brisket” as opposed to just beef brisket, so I assume there has already been some kind of curing prior to packaging.

I have some garlic cloves, peppercorns and bay leaves in the house, but no allspice berries or cloves, etc.

Will I still get the traditional “corned beef” flavor I’m after or do I need to get some additional spices?



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  1. You can go to your local market and pick a small can of pickling spice and add s couple of teaspoons (more or less depending how much you like the flavor).

    We like the flavor it addes so we normally add more. This help the cabbage, carrots and potatoes which we cnnk in the corned beef water.

    1. j
      JK Grence (the Cosmic Jester)

      From the way it sounds on the package, it's already been corned, and shouldn't need more spices added in. Lop off a small chunk and cook it up, and decide from there. For additional spices, allspice would be a good idea, as would some thyme.

      Link: http://thecosmicjester.blogspot.com

      1. I don't know what part of the country you are in but the mexican food section in most grocery stores sells spices by the packet and they usually carry pickling spices. It is also pretty cheap. The stuff in the spice section in the bottles is better but if you need pickling spices once then the packets maight be the route to go.

        1. FWIW, the packet that comes with some brands of corned beef appears to consist of some mustard seed, coriander seed, bay leaf, and maybe some hot pepper. If you're slow-cooking most brands of corned beef, any of the above would be good additions, especially the coriander seed and bay leaf. I would also throw in some peeled and smashed garlic cloves, but then that's my favorite vegetable...

          1 Reply
          1. re: Will Owen

            the first actually helpful response i.e. some people like to do things from scratch. lol thank you

          2. I agree that pickling spices are the way to go, but last year I just added bayleaves and peppercorns in a pinch and it was okay.

            1. Yes. I've bought corned beef in the past and then been disappointed that there was no spice packet. But fear not, and press on. The meat has already been cured, so boil away! After skimming, I might add some peppercorns, hot pepper flakes and crumbled bay leaves.

              1. I just made some and added all of the items mentioned below, but I put only garlic and bay leaves in the pot by themselves. I always add the spices by putting them in a large tea ball and locking it tight. It keeps the little seeds from infiltrating the cabbage leaves and sticking to the meat.

                1 Reply
                1. I just made a pot of it and added all of the items mentioned below, but I put only the bay and garlic in my themselves. I put the spices in a tea ball to keep them from infiltrating the cabbage leaves and sticking to the meat. With corned beef, the more flavor the better.

                  1. Thanks for all of the great responses! I'll stick with what I have in the house...garlic, hot-pepper-flakes, mustard seed, pepper corns and bay-leaf.

                    Hopefully it'll taste great!


                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Hank

                      I always throw away the seasoning packet. I steam my
                      corned beef in a stackable Chinese steamer by placing
                      cabbage leaves on the bottom of the steamer and putting the beef right on top. After about 2 1/2 hours of steaming the meat, I add the second steam pan under the beef with the carrots and potatoes and steam them for 45 mins to an hour. I then cook the cabbage in the water in the bottom of the steam pan. All the flavor from the meat has seeped down into the vegeatbles and water so there is lots of flavor. The flavor is perfect and I don't have to be pulling those little pepper balls off of the food.

                    2. Personally, I must have cloves. And I use a LOT of garlic. Two whole heads - just cut across the equator, toss in as-is. Onions are also important. The packet also includes mustard seeds, so you might just add some prepared mustard to the water. Maybe a couple of tablespoons. Personally, I do use the packet but then add maybe 20 cloves, 4 bay leaves.
                      Oh, be sure to just simmer plain without spices for a half hour, drain & toss the water, add fresh water, your spices and continue to simmer until tender. Add carrots and cabbage for the last half hour.

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: Niki Rothman

                        Can I ask why you change out the water? In the 40 years I have been eating and then making corned beef, I have never simmered it plain first. Always seems to come out fine.

                        I add a bunch of extra pickling spice to the broth, along with the packet. Ideally in a tea ball, to keep it all together.

                        For those who are recommending baking or steaming: how do these techniques not produce incredibly salty beef? The one experiment I did with baking in the oven was just way too salty.

                        1. re: LizR=

                          We alwasy had the gray corned beef, along with the corned ribs. My mother always threw the water at least one time to get rid of some of the salt. I cooked a smoked shoulder a few weeks ago, and threw the water twice- it did cut down on the salt.

                          1. re: LizR=

                            This may well be a matter of taste. But why don't you try switching out the water after a half hour and then add your spices? What harm would it do? I've had it both ways, and I do enjoy salt so it's not salt phobia or something. But without switching out the water it is just way too salty even for me.

                            1. re: Niki Rothman


                            2. so i just made my first, with the packet, and i loved that the predominant flavor was coriander. and i didn't check the packet contents, but i did not add any salt before i put the meat in the crockpot and the meat was not salty at all. is it salty if you buy it pre-brined?

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: mariacarmen

                                It shouldn't be salty at all if you prepare it in a stockpot with sufficient water. I like to stick the corned beef at the bottom of the pan, then add a few halved onions, two bulbs of garlic, also halved, and some carrots and celery and a few bay leaves, peppercorns, and coriander seeds. (My butcher, whom I get the corned beef from a few times a year, insists that additional commercial pickling spice overwhelms the flavor of the meat - I've come to agree with him.) Then I just cover everything with water to about an inch over the top, and add some little red potatoes and cabbage at the right time so the potatoes are cooked perfectly and the cabbage doesn't get too sulfurous and overcooked. I'm getting hungry just thinking about it! :)

                                1. re: caravan70

                                  thanks for this .... i unknowingly bought a pre-brined one, and used the spice packet, covered it in water, and nothing else except some fresh dill. cooked it all day in the slow cooker. i will try brining one myself next time, but i actually really liked this one, chemicals and all.

                              2. Ok, so I've been brining the brisket for 48 hours and will continue for another 48. I'm using the usual salt, brown sugar, corriander, cloves, allspice, bay leaves.

                                My question is; do I need to spice or dry rub the brisket before I put it in the smoker? If yes, what do you recommend?

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: dynamicdazzo

                                  Sounds more like you are trying to make pastrami....

                                2. This could be; I've never brined a brisket before. I'm more of a dry rub, put it on the smoker. So should I use a dry rub or just rely on the brine?

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: dynamicdazzo

                                    Yes, what you are making is a pastrami, mostly. After you smoke it you refrigerate, pressed, then steam the next day.

                                    A smoked BBQ brisket is not brined at all and wouldn't use the sweet pickling spices you used. You'd dry rub it and then just smoke, then foil, towel, cooler.

                                    Lots of threads here on BBQ brisket, Deli brisket (Corned Beef), braised brisket (pot roast style) and pastrami.