Corning Your Own Beef


Pin It Yes, I am well aware that St. Patrick’s Day has come and gone and that this recipe is a little late.  But I’ve never been much of a plan-ahead blogger and I am always playing catch up on the holidays.  Besides, on the actual St. Paddy’s Day, I was not slaving over a bubbling cauldron of corned beef and cabbage.  No, no, my friends, I was wandering around the streets of New York City for the first time, stunned at the pure mass of humanity, the majority of which was dressed in green.  I wasn’t there because of the holiday, that was just an interesting side effect.  I was there to run the NYC half-marathon the next morning.  But I rather sheepishly admit that it was my first time in New York, and it was quite the introduction.  I loved it, all the hustle and bustle, all the little restaurants and hole-in-the-wall diners, all the people.  I am looking forward to going back to explore at my leisure some time.

Oh, and did I mention that I rocked my race?  There is nothing quite like turning out of Central Park onto 7th Avenue and running into Times Square with huge cheering crowds on either side.  If that doesn’t give you runner’s high, nothing will.  Officially, I beat my previous record for a half-marathon by 3 minutes and came in at 1:45:32 (Unofficially, I was even faster than that but had to make a small pit stop during the race).  It was an amazing experience.

Now, onto corning your own beef.  This was something I’d wanted to try for a while, after I’d seen mention of it in Cook’s Illustrated.  It sounded so simple, and a great way to avoid all the nitrates and nitrites in store-bought corned beef.  Since it needed to refrigerate for 5 to 7 days, I started the process a few days before I went off to NYC and we cooked it the day after I returned.  This isn’t, of course, my recipe at all, it’s straight out of my favourite reference cookbooks ever, America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook.  And even though it’s late in the season for corned beef and cabbage, I thought it was worth sharing.  Bookmark it for next year. Or do it now…after all, you can actually eat corned beef on days other than St. Paddy’s!

The Results:  It really is remarkably easy to corn your own beef, and I would say it’s worth it too.  The flavour was fantastic, and I would even dare to say it was better than most store-bought corned beef briskets.  Knowing that it wasn’t filled with chemicals certainly helped in that perception. It did not, however, take on that reddish appearance of traditional corned beef, and I have to say, trying to get appetizing photos of greyish boiled meat is not easy!  So, not a lot of pictures to share today, because I don’t want to scare you off the process.

The only thing I would do differently next time is to buy a brisket that was more marbled with fat throughout.  This became a little tough once it cooled, because all the fat was in one layer on the top, and the meat itself didn’t benefit from the moisture in the fat.  But I would definitely attempt this next year and see if I could get that great corned flavour with a better cut of meat.

Corning Your Own Beef
1/2 cup kosher salt
1 tbsp black peppercorns, cracked
1 tbsp dried thyme
2 tsp allspice
2 tsp paprika
2 bay leaves, crumbled
One 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 lb beef brisket

In a small bowl, combine salt and spices.

Spear the brisket about 30 times on both sides with a metal fork or skewer.  Rub each side liberally with salt mixture.  Place meat in a large ziploc bag and remove as much air as possible.

Lay brisket in a large baking sheet or pan and cover with another large baking sheet or pan.  Weigh top pan down with bricks or large cans.

Refrigerate 5 to 7 days, turning once per day.

Cook according to your favourite recipe.

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  1. says

    I tried corning my own brisket this year as well…with a bit more spice and a lager in the brine. And a salt/sodium nitrate product called instra cure to keep that lovely pink color. Sadly the only way to keep the color is to add such a preservative, but it is a good feeling to know you have full control over how much is added in your own kitchen!. I daresay I will NEVER go back to store bought, especially with the quality of cut I can get for the same price from my butcher. Well, worth the extra time. Yours looks amazing!

  2. says

    Congrats on the marathon success! I can't imagine running five years let alone what you did. I like the idea of corning my own beef and if it wasn't for the fact that I'm the only one that likes it, I'd do it. Imagine how many wonderful reubens I could make! I think your photos look fantastic. When I see how red store bought corned beef is, all I can think about is artificial colors. :)

  3. Emilyq says

    Thanks for the great idea! Do you think you could include how you cooked it once it was prepped? I can't say that I have a favorite recipe for that part of it either – I have never made corned beef..

  4. theharriedcook says

    Fabulous job on the marathon! :) Inspiring for sure… and I have never tried corning my own beef! Must try it… Looks great, Carolyn!

  5. says

    I'm so happy that you rocked your race!! Congrats! Sometimes I think of you as I'm pushing through the last half mile of my 2.5 :) It feels like I will never finish but then I think of my friends like you who inspire me. My official 5k training ends next week then it's up to me to kick my own booty!

  6. says

    I've been making my own corned beef for a couple of years now and the taste difference is well, remarkable. Makes the BEST Reuben sandwich ever!

    Though…I add pink salt (nitrites) to mine. I think managing your own cure and using a minimal amount worth it; not just for the more appetizing color but I've heard that with bacon at least there is also a taste difference.

    Beyond the food…wow, all I can think is 'You Go Girl!' Very impressed indeed.

  7. says

    Wow, what a great time in your race! I can imagine the high from the cheering crowds in New York – it would make the sprint to the finish that much easier. I'm stowing away this corned beef post for next year.

  8. says

    Great time on your race! I make corned beef a couple times a year and will have to give this a try.
    It is a shame brown meat doesn't photograph well, I always hesitate to post "brown" dinner recipes for that very reason, you have now made me rethink it, since I think practical recipes are needed along with the "photographic" ones :) LOL

  9. says

    I am bad with planning ahead, and making recipes for holidays:-) Honestly this recipe should be enjoyed all year long, it looks delicious:-) Hugs, Terra

  10. Noreen Wenger says

    As I’m cooking my own corned beef and cabbage this year (2013), I found your site. As far as the brisket goes – looks like you got a great piece …. you just need to cut it against the grain …. looks like you might have cut it with the grain. Against the grain makes all the difference. Thanks for you info and good luck!

    • Carolyn says

      Thanks! This year I actually bought a point cut brisket because they are more marbled with fat. I also made sure to corn it for the full 7 days. We will know tomorrow if those changes made a difference!

  11. melanie says

    Thanks so much for the how to, I made this corned beef today. I let it sit in my fridge for 7 days then cooked it in my crockpot on low for 9 hours with some home blended pickling spices, onions, carrots, and celery. So freaking good, I had to fight my husband off so he wouldn’t eat it all before it hit the table! My meat wasnt gray at all still retained a pinkish color. As you said, no need to wait till st paddy’s day to make this! Again thanks a bunch, will enjoy this lots in the future!

  12. Guinan says

    Hi Carolyn! I luvvv your site! It’s given me the courage I need to start a low carb diet (again…), now that I have all these great recipes :).
    About the Corned Beef, the only Corned Beef I know (I’m in the Netherlands) is the kind you buy in tins, and it’s all ready cooked and in chunks rather than a whole cut of meat. Also, I was always under the impression that it somehow involved corn.
    How does your way of making it compare to the tinned version? I’d love to try it but have no idea what to do with it after it’s been in the fridge for 7 days.
    Please educate me 😉
    BTW… I’m sorta a bit Canadian too, we lived in Ontario from when I was 5 till the age of 10. This was wayyy before you were born, but I still feel part Canadian.

    • Carolyn says

      Um, the tinned version sounds awful! :) Real corned beef is just a large brisket that is brined in salt, spices and peppercorns for 7 days. That’s where the word “corned” comes from. So it doesn’t involve corn at all. And it’s really easy, you just need to put it in a large ziploc bag and be sure to turn it over every few days. Then you cook it the traditional way, in a large pot covered with water and basically boil it for several hours. It’s delicious, especially with some cabbage!

  13. Sonya says

    Just wanted to vouch that this recipe is amazing! Like you we LOVED the flavor and look forward to using it in Corned Beef Hash and Reuben Sandwiches (also from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook). I also have a recipe from King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking for Reuben Strombolis that I like to do with some of the corned beef. Mmmmmmmmmmmm good, all of it!


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