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Corn my own beef?

I plan to corn a beef brisket for a St. Patrick's Day dinner I am hosting. I've done my homework and have what appear to be the right recipes, etc. But now I am looking for some advice from others who have already done it. Tips and suggestions, please?

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  1. I have been corning my own for several years and have converted many friends to that method. I don't think there is any magic to it, but the first thing I noticed that the meat isn't that funky red color that I was accustomed to seeing in the store-bought stuff. So the meat is kinda gray, which is to be expected. I have read that you can buy some stuff to keep the meat pink, but I can't imagine using it.
    I put the corning liquid in a big zip lock bag...you can get the 1.5 or 2 gallon size bags in some stores. Then I add the beef, squeeze the air out and put the bag flat in a 9"x13" pan or whatever size will fit. I put a smaller pan on top to weight it down so there's no floating. I don't think you can really screw up.

    4 Replies
    1. re: pcdarnell

      pcdarnell would you mind sharing your recipe?

      1. re: TDEL

        My home computer is in the shop and I meant to bring the recipe to work today but forgot. I'll get it together in a day or two. I have no problem sharing.

        1. re: TDEL

          Better late than never!
          Home Cured Corned Beef
          3 cup salt (kosher)
          7 quarts water
          1 6-9 lb brisket
          3 garlic cloves, peeled
          20 whole peppercorns
          20 whole cloves
          1 bay leaf
          6 sprigs thyme, or 1 tsp. dried thyme

          Dissolve salt in water. Add rest of ingredients. Place in large zip lock bag with beef. Place in another container (for support) and weight it down. Turn meat occasionally. Let it sit 5-12 days. Rinse before cooking as usual.

          I use a smaller brisket and let it sit 5 days. I reduce the liquid and salt in proportion.

      2. I too follow the ziplock plastic bag routine, sans the nitrites that keep the meat pink, but I usually corn pork instead. I follow Julia Child's recipe, and I dimly remembered responding to a similar question once before:

        Julia Child's recipe for corned beef or pork is one I like, but I warn you, you need to cure it for at least two weeks, up to a month. You use kosher salt, a little sugar, cracked peppercorns, powdered allspice, thyme, sage, paprika, bay leaf for both; for beef ou add minced rutabaga, onion and carrot and minced garlic, and for pork you use crushed juniper berries. The recipe is in Julia Child and Company. You corn the meat inside a sturdy ziplock bag in the refrigerator, with a weight on top, and you turn and massage the bag every day. Then you soak it before cooking. It's a commitment. (see http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/366201)

        1. This is something I'd like to do too.


          3 Replies
          1. re: Davwud

            Thanks for this. I've been reading some recipes but there's nothing like this kind of advice. Curiously, some of the things I've read say corn the meat only for a few days (3-5 days) and others say, as above, that it should be kept in the brine for at least a coupla weeks. I like the longer-is-better approach. Regarding the "stuff" to keep the meat pink, I think it is salt peter (potassium nitrate). I'd appreciate any thoughts about this.

            1. re: Ichabod

              If you want the pink color just pick up some Prague Powder or Morton's Curing Salt. Either of these are easier and probably safer to use than saltpeter.

              Also...3-5 days is definitely not enough time for the sure. I use 2 weeks minimum, and even longer is better.

              1. re: Ichabod

                It's impossible to be specific, since meat thickness, fat content, and temperature (and brine strength in a liquid cure) play major roles, but both statements are correct - though incomplete.

                If you soak the meat completely submerged in a liquid brine, it can take less than a week. Injecting brine into the meat accelerates the process.

                If you dry cure the meat (spice rub, no liquid), it can take 10 days to four weeks to cure a brisket.

                As to red colour, saltpeter works but is an archaic method. The most common consumer product is Morton Tender Quick. The standard commercial product is Prague Powder #1 (called pink salt in the US). These are toxic, and you must follow reliable recipes scrupulously.

                The nitrite curing salts don't seem relevant to making good corned beef, though they do give you that pretty red colour. Brined corned beef is prone to turning gray, though it tastes fine. Dry curing without nitrite can also come out gray though, as foodie jane mentions, it can also look more or less like cooked beef. There's no safety issue, since you can't get botulism (the main reason for nitrite curing) from a freshly cooked corned beef.

                If you spice and smoke a brisket "corned" without nitrites, you won't get pastrami/smoked meat. You'll get smoked corned beef (not the same thing). The cure seems inherent to the taste of "pastrami".

            2. Some good advice on corning your brisket. Make an extra one and coat it in cracked black pepper and corriander seeds then smoke and steam it for some home made pastrami

              1. The last couple of years, we/ve gotten our Corned Beef from Whole Foods. It is outa site, and extremely tender and tasty. I know the guy who does the "corning", and he tells me it takes about 3 weeks to properly "corn" the beef. They do it in 5 gallon buckets and/or in big plastic containers that will hold several briskets.

                We've been wanting to do our own, and I've seen recipes in our America's Test Kitchen cookbook, and then these on this forum. The "massaging" and stuff sounds like a good thing to do, especially since it's in a ziploc.

                As far as "salt peter", not such a good idea I think? It's been used in the past in boot camps to help keep the male population from having nightime problems.

                5 Replies
                1. re: jclarke

                  I've used the ATK recipe and it came out great!

                  I've got a whole brisket in the fridge now waiting to be broken down and corned.

                  And the meat isn't "grey"at all, it's brown, like all cooked beef. I like the fact that it's not so overpoweringly salty. Juuuust right.

                  1. re: toodie jane

                    To avoid copyright issues, can you paraphrase the ATK recipe and post it here?

                    1. re: Scagnetti

                      The dry rub is so simple. Take about 1/2 c kosher salt, add some herbal seasonings. You can vary the spice components to suit your tastes.

                      for 1 whole 4-6 pound beef brisket(both the 'poin't and 'flat' cuts before separating), I use:

                      1/3 c kosher salt
                      1 tsp crushed coriander seed
                      3 bay leaves, crushed into bits
                      1T. coarse cracked black pepper
                      2 tsp paprika (I used smoked, all I had on hand)
                      2 tsp whole dry thyme
                      1-2 tsp ground allspice (I like 2)
                      pinch ground cloves
                      2 tsp mustard seed

                      You can also buy Pickling Spices already mixed at the grocery store. The one I get for pickling vegetables has whole cloves in it and some red pepper flakes, which I think would work fine.

                      Mix flavorings in a jar. Pat meat dry and remove any silverskin. Pierce on both sides with a fork (or knife tip on the fatty side) a couple dozen times per side. Rub the spice mix into the meat with fingertips. Give it a good ol' massage. Place the neat in a large gallon size zip (or any heavy plastic bag) and press out the air. Get as much air out as possible. Seal bag tightly and place in a shallow dish or pan. Find something heavy (a brick, etc) and wrap in a plastic bag, place it over the meat to press it down. Place in fridge.

                      Cure for 5 to7 days, depending on the thickness of the brisket, turning every couple of days.

                      Rinse the cured meat and place in a covered dutch oven with about 2-3 cups liquid (broth or water) and cook in the oven for about 4 hours at 215-225. You don't really want the liquid to boil, just want the surface to shimmer. Just like with a dry roasting of tough meat, you want low-and-slow for best texture and juiciness. Test near the end of estimated cooking time for tenderness

                      You can add some peeled potato and carrots chunks the last 40 minutes, and cabbage the last 20 minutes for the so-called (...?...) Irish Boiled dinner of corned beef and cabbage. (I don't really know if this is an old-country dish, or something from the Irish-American immigrants--anybody know?)

                      Slice against the grain on a slight diagonal.
                      Don't forget to save some to make some hash!

                        1. re: Scagnetti

                          just to emphasize, the cooking time is approximate. Depends a lot on the thickness of the brisket. You just have to test. I've done it overnight at about 215 degrees and had good luck, meat still slices nicely. But allow yourself more time if it is needed.

                2. Theres an outfit in Houston that has everything you could ever need for home meat processing. Their on the web, just punch in Allied Kenco, it's fun just to look at their catalog.

                  1. once you corn the beef how do you cook it? Is it baked, grilled, smoked, etc?

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Bengaliwife

                      Typically simmered, but can be steamed or baked in a tightly covered pan. Smoking and grilling don't produce what most of us would think of as "corned beef".

                    2. I've been making this corned beef for years. It's incredible. Here's a link to the recipe:


                      5 Replies
                      1. re: hankstramm

                        In this recipe, being that the meat is only brined for 5 days, do you still get the full brine taste in the meat?

                        1. re: Scagnetti

                          This comes from one of the premier authors of home curing of meat in the country--Brian Polcyn and Michael Ruhlman--food writer. The recipe is better than anything you'll get in a store--I'm no hack cook--I cure a lot of my own meats and this is 1st class. My local butcher--one of the tops is San Francisco cures his a week, so I'm not sure about the 12 week cure.

                          Bruce Aidell has a very similar recipe with about the same time frame.

                          1. re: hankstramm

                            I use the Cook's Ill. cure recipe, and inadvertantly let it go about 3 weeks. Very salty and dry, which has never happened before.

                            I'd love to try the Pastrami recipe--may have to check out this book.

                            A Sicilian friend's family --the Turcos--used to make Pastrami every year (with old family recipe) and sell it at the Santa Clara Co (CA) fair every year. Those sandwiches were soooo good, on good San Jose Italian bakery bread rolls. It was juicy and moist, not too salty. Heaven!

                            That might have been my very first Chowhound experience. A group of us pre-teen girls always went to the fair, and I'd make a beeline to the Turco's booth. Had to have my Pastrami sandwich. G'friends thought I was nuts, as we were invariably on our way to the carnival rides. Didn't bother me!

                        2. re: hankstramm

                          Haven't tried the corned beef recipe out of the Charcuterie book, but everything else I've made from that book is excellent.

                          I am currently corning beef with a recipe from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's book The River Cottage Cookbook. It's my first attempt, so we'll see.

                          Alton Brown has a recipe as well. http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/al...

                          1. re: elekta

                            That corned beef was way too salty.

                            I did end up making pastrami from Charcuterie, and it came out great.


                        3. I made 2-3 recipes for 5 days, no good. Made the rest of the recipes for 12-weeks. Very good. Honestly whole foods is great. Even my grocer has one that is good. I love to do it, just not worth it. No room, no time. But it is a great flavor. Honestly I can't tell the difference and neither could the chef at a very fine restaurant from here. So I gave up. Sometimes I think a lot is in perception, but that may be me I got some kobe beef for a very elite party. All were chefs and restaurant people. They shorted me 5 steaks, The five who got the regular beef said they could definitely tell the difference and that was the best beef they ever had and they would never go back. I never told. 2 who got the meat were the head chefs, 2 were the soux chefs. So much for quality wins. Ever since then I don't worry. And in the same event, my stove broke, I used premade made hashbrowns and made my own potato cakes and sauteed spinach over a grill and a side burner. So I have learned taste some times is fueled by expectations and talk and not so much taste. I eventually told the chef and the price was altered, but they never knew.

                          So I love good corned beef, but honestly, it for me is not worth the effort and less you are just doing it for fun.

                          10 Replies
                          1. re: kchurchill5

                            KChurch--I guarantee the recipe that I listed is great--five days and all. Try it and if you don't like it, send me the bill...That site Letia's Culinaire is full of great recipes. I actually use the recipe directly out of Ruhlman & Polcyn's Charcuterie--which is my bible for curing meats...Been using it for years and it has Eric Ripert's and Thomas Keller's seal of approval.

                            1. re: hankstramm

                              I might try never had one in five days. I had fun, just never really had time or room, but 5 days I could manage.

                              1. re: kchurchill5

                                If your brisket isn't too thick, five days in a brine cure should be enough. I've never made the Ruhlman recipe, but it sounds reasonable. With a very thick double brisket, though, you might need more time.

                                One thing you can do is to inject some of the brine. Then soak the brisket as usual. Commercial injectors with hundreds of needles can cure a brisket in a couple of days - sometimes in a few hours. That's obviously not feasible at home, but injecting clear brine (all spices and other grit must be filtered out) into the center of the meat - especially in thick areas - will get the job done faster. These needles cost as little as a few dollars, though really cheap plastic ones don't last long.

                                If you cure without nitrites (e.g., do NOT use the "pink salt" called for in the Ruhlman recipe), you can accelerate the cure by increasing the salt concentration of the brine. I can't recall the proportions vs time, but the info is widely available if nobody posts it here. I can't tell you what spice adjustments, if any, would be needed.

                                1. re: embee

                                  I've always cured retail sized cuts from the butcher or supermarket--nothing more than 2, perhaps 3 inches thick at the widest. I never tried anything thicker than that--actually, I didn't even know they existed.

                                  I think having it very brined is not that important, since if you read the recipe, you use quite a bit of the pickling spice in the cooking process too which permeates the beef with the flavor. Having the flavor of the fresh spice is what matters the most--not having it totally transformed to a mutant cut--this is what I imagine would happen after 12 weeks--was that a typo that really meant 12 days?

                                  1. re: hankstramm

                                    I've always done at least 12 days, that is why I am leary at 5 days. I may try, but I don't have 12 days, I'm busy before so I have very limited time and usually not home and can't get to the store until Friday so ... you can understand my predicament ... why I don't usually do long things like this. Just too busy

                                    1. re: kchurchill5

                                      Don't worry, 5 is enough. A lot of curing or brining things depends on the salt concentration. I'm not sure what your salt to water ratio is in the 12 day recipe, but this one is pretty concentrated.

                                    2. re: hankstramm

                                      At twelve weeks, whatever the curing method, the meat would not be edible to anyone with a remotely normal palate.

                                      1. re: embee

                                        We both said we days 12 ... not weeks

                                        1. re: kchurchill5

                                          Just replying to hankstramm's Mar 4 - 10:58 post about a possible typo, which we all agree it must have been.

                                          1. re: embee

                                            I hope typo or I should plan for next years St Pattys Day :)

                            2. Using Morton's quickcure seems to do the job well. I have been doing it dry . just following the suggested recipe on the package. About 1/2 tablespoon to a pound for the dry rub. I add a good amount of pickling spice that i bought in a large sort of McCormack's seasoning BJ's sized container. Trim a 6-8 pound piece of BJ's brisket of the top fat and fiber and just rub both sides. I have a wide flat plastic container that I put the brisket in,refrigerate at about 35 degrees turn the meat every three days or so and have corn beef in about a week to ten days depending on the size. I am still experimenting with soaking after rinsing to lower some of the salt content but I like some saltiness in the meat. I steam the brisket in a wide steamer ftted into a braising pan keeping a heavy pan cover right on the meat inside the steamer. Three hours and it's cooked corn beef very close to the kosher styke I grew up with in the G&G in Dorchester,Mass. in the 40's and 50's.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: bob tichell

                                Bob, very interested in your recipe as I too am a lover of kosher corned beef. Couple of questions:

                                - what do you mean by BJ's brisket? Is it a flat, 2nd cut or whole brisket? I am assuming BJs is some kind of warehouse type store (we have Sam's club & Costco).
                                - trying to figure out how to improvise a large enough steamer. Would this work in the oven with a large turkey roasting pan, big rack and foil to cover? Think I would be better off boiling it? I do have a 16 gal stock pot and cover.
                                - can I freeze the corned beef? There is no way I can eat all the corned beef, even in a week. If I freeze in small packages, I would be much more amenable to doing this.

                                Thanks for your help! Please share your comments.

                                1. re: Diane in Bexley

                                  BJ's is a warehouse store out of Natick,Ma.Their briscuit is a flat cut ,, sometimes with the smaller upper muscle attachedby a fatty ,fibrous layer. The rub doesn't penetrate the fat well so that is why I do both sides. I have improved the rub with granulated garlic and some brown sugar. I just mix it in with the the Morton's cure and pickling spices and put in on , about half on each side, using about a tablespoon of each. I dab a bit on my tongue to get an idea of the flavor but the final product seems to always be good. I find steaming time, to 195 degrees , is about 90 minutes. A friend of ours , from the south, said it was the best he ever hd.

                                2. re: bob tichell

                                  I used Morton's tender quick in a wet brine for 10 days. I also used pre-packaged pickling spice in the brine. The result was wonderful, with a nice pink color. One weird thing was that the very middle 1/2 inch was gray. No impact on taste or texture. Cooked it for 3 hours and it was perfect.

                                  1. re: mkleinbart64

                                    Interesting, sounds like the TC didn't get to the middle.

                                3. This year I am going to go traditional and skip the corned beef (tired of my Irish friends laughing at me).
                                  I am going to cure a pork butt instead of a beef brisket. Same process and procedure, just a different (and by most accounts, more flavorful) end product.

                                  1. This is totally artificial, but I like to have some degrees of separation between corned beef and pastrami, otherwise pastrami just becomes smoked corned beef, and vice versa. I like Craig Claiborne's corned beef recipe and James Beard's pastrami recipe.

                                    Corned beef: wet brine with lots of garlic and traditional Northern European pickling spices: pepper, cloves, bay leaf, thyme, mustard seeds. A sprig of fresh dill is nice.

                                    Pastrami: dry cured with garlic, pepper, and ginger in the cure. Rinsed, rubbed with ginger, ground coriander, and black pepper, then cold smoked before braising or simmering.

                                    The ginger in the pastrami cure is brilliant, but consider the source.

                                    Obviously, you can mix and match, but that's how we do it at the Sling Garbo Memorial Test Kitchen.


                                    5 Replies
                                    1. re: carbonaraboy

                                      Now...is the brisket in brine kept in the refrigerator?

                                      1. re: carbonaraboy

                                        Smoked corned beef is roughly speaking Montreal Smoked Meat.


                                        1. re: carbonaraboy

                                          Pastrami basically IS smoked corned beef.
                                          It gets brined the same way, but gets the coriander and pepper coating before the smoking.

                                          Also, after being smoked, good pastrami should neither be braised nor simmered...it is at its best when it gets a _long_ steambath.

                                          1. re: The Professor

                                            If you dry cure, you pretty much have to simmer or braise to get out the excess salt. By "braise" I mean put on a shallow rack in a deep roasting pan, add water or beer half way up the meat, seal well with HD Al foil, bake at 350, turn meat halfway through.