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Feb 6, 2009 09:22 AM

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 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

        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.