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Jan 24, 2012 02:25 PM

Brining brisket for corned beef

I'm planning making some corned beef in a couple of weeks so I'm going to brine the brisket before the cook day. I've heard that it should be done for at least ten days before. However, I'm not going to be around for ten days before so I'm wondering if I could do it for 2 weeks before.

Would two weeks be too long for corned beef? What damage could I do to the meat?

Thanks in advance for your help.

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  1. two weeks sounds fine for a recipe that says "at least 10 days."

    1. Yeah, you'll be fine. You could make the brine a little bit weaker but frankly I doubt it matters much.

      2 Replies
      1. re: acgold7

        Actually, a stronger brine would be appropriate for this, as flavors tend to wane the longer they sit around; 'and 14 days will be perfectly fine as long as your refrigerator temperature is right. Remember, most restaurants' rule of thumb for aging beef is 21 days, so no worries; it'll be delicious, and your leftovers will be the very best part, for Reubens, and cb hash all crispy and golden brown, with a medium poached egg (whites DONE, yolk gently thickened....) resting happily on top. Bon Apetit!

        1. re: mamachef

          While that rule is generally true, it certainly isn't when you are talking about a brine. The meat gets saltier the longer it sits in the solution. That's why a quick brine is stronger than an overnight brine.

          Herbs and spices, sure, they decay over time. Salt, not so much.

      2. Are you adding a cure to the brine like Morton's Tender Quick?

        3 Replies
        1. re: scubadoo97

          I'm adding some Saltpeter to get that pink colour on the inside. I'm using the recipe from Alton Brown's website.

          It says 10 days but some others on there say it can go as long as 3 weeks so I think I should be good with 2 weeks. I might add a little more water just because of the longer exposure of the meat to the brine.

          Thanks for all of your input.

          1. re: golpher247

            You should be fine at 2 wks. That's only 4 extra days. Don't sweat it and report back with pictures

            1. re: golpher247

              Eventually the brisket and brine solution will come to equilibrium and the meat will no longer become saltier. For me, my mistake has been brining not long enough and ending up with a grey, bland layer in the thickest parts of the brisket where the salts have not yet penetrated. I think a few extra days is ok as long as your brine is not too intense. Do not use a stronger brine, it will just over cure your brisket.

              Saltpeter? Really? Can you still buy that? Just curious.

          2. Not enough information. How big's your brisket? What kind of cure are you using? Whole brisket, flat or point?

            I make Montreal smoke meat (a kissing cousin to orinary corned beef) and I dry-cure my full 12+ lb briskets for less than two weeks- there's no way any brisket of any size should need a 14 day wet cure, which penetrates quicker than dry cures (again, depending on the cure). Based on my curing experience, if you over-cure the meat, it'll turn dry as anything, no matter how long you boil or poach it.

            Porker would likely know more about wet-cures. You can find him through the MSM thread here:

            Best of luck!

            1. From a food safety standpoint, do you need to add pink salt (prague powder #1) to the brine?

              7 Replies
              1. re: schoenfelderp

                It is recommend from a food safety standpoint

                1. re: schoenfelderp

                  Be careful on the prague powder. it is sodium nitrate and a little goes lonnng way as far as the sodium content is concerned. Just FYI

                  1. re: actionwriter

                    Aside from the fact that this is an old thread, why should there be a concern as to the sodium content of Prague powder when we're discussing a SALTwater brine?

                    1. re: ferret

                      Well even this saltwater brine will be aided by a nitrite additive to enhance safety for long soaks and improve color of the final product. Cure#1/pink salt/sodium nitrite should be used in correct porportions and not just tossed in willy nilly

                      1. re: ferret

                        Because they will be curing the meat. The reason for the sodium nitrite is as an anti-microbial agent. Botulism is bad (unlikely, but not something you want to play russian roulette with).

                        If you want the correct amount of salt etc use Digging Dogs calculator to get the correct proportions for your wet OR dry cure. Weight of water is added to weight of the meat for calculation purposes if making a brine.


                        1 liter of water = 1 kg (for ease of conversion if you're eyeballing stuff)

                        1. re: Zalbar

                          His calculator is in my favorite list. Good resource

                      2. re: actionwriter

                        You want to be using sodium nitrite not nitrate. Nitrate is only used in longer cured meats such as salami, prosciutto, etc.