Corned Beef

Corned Beef

Piled high on rye
with kraut no doubt
worth the wait
’cause it’s freakin’ great

Corned Beef

  • 1 quart water
  • 12 ounces kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 4 teaspoons pink salt (see note)
  • 1 stick cinnamon broken into several pieces
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seed
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 8 whole allspice berries
  • 12 whole juniper berries
  • 2 bay leaves (crumbled)
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 3 pounds ice
  • 1 4-5 pound beef brisket trimmed
  • 1 small onion (quartered)
  • 1 large carrot (coarsely chopped)
  • 1 stalk celery (coarsely chopped)
  1. Place the water in a large 6-8 quart stockpot along with salt, sugar, pink salt, cinnamon stick, mustard seeds, peppercorns, cloves, allspice, juniper berries, bay leaves and ginger. Cook over high heat until the salt and sugar have dissolved.
  2. Remove from the heat and add the ice. Stir until the ice has melted. If necessary, place the brine into the refrigerator until it reaches a temperature of 45 degrees F. Once it has cooled, place the brisket in a 2-gallon zip-top bag and add the brine. Seal and lay flat inside a container, cover and refrigerate for 5 days. Check daily to make sure the beef is completely submerged and stir the brine. I like to flip the bag and give the brine a quick massage everyday, but that’s just me…
  3. After 5 days, remove from the brine and rinse well under cool water.
  4. Place the brisket into a large slow cooker, add the onion, carrot and celery and cover with water by 1-inch (about 2 quarts). Cover and cook on high for 8 hours.
  5. Remove from the pot and thinly slices across the grain. Store any uncut leftovers in the cooking liquid.
  6. Pink salt aka Prague Powder #1, aka DQ Cure is a combination of sodium chloride, sodium nitrite and a bit of pink dye (supposedly to prevent it being confused for regular salt) is readily available via the webernet, but may also be procured from your local butcher shop or kitchenware store. Technically, you can make corned beef without it, but I’d sure miss that color.

Complete the meal: Get my Corned Beef and Cabbage recipe.

Alton Brown's Corned Beef and Cabbage Recipe


Add yours
  1. 1

    I a thinking of curing 2 briskets at one time, Will the second one freeze well, and not loose flavor when thawed and cooked a few months later. Anyone have any experience on this?? Look forward to any comments offered.

  2. 2
    James L

    I’ve been making Alton’s corned beef for years, since the good-old days when the recipe called for food-grade saltpeter instead of pink salt (Prague Powder). This was the first year I made the switch, and it still comes out perfect. I have never been able to get anything close in any restaurant, so now I do not even try. I make a big brisket around St. Patrick’s Day, and I make it once or twice a year otherwise when I feel the hankering for a quality reuben beginning to build. 10 days is a long time to wait, but it is sooooo worth it! Thanks AB!!

  3. 4

    Wow. So salty. I used a slightly small piece of meat but this was bracingly salty. Serving atop unsalted mashed opposites and spicy mustard made it edible but I would not repeat. Also, came out more flaky than juicy, sliceable beef.

  4. 5

    when I use too buy corned beef in the stores I wasn’t sure how salty it was going to be. One time it was so salty that it was unedible it went to the trash.

    But about ten years back I tried to corn my own with Alton Brown recipe with salt peter. It was great comparing what we got in the supermarkets. Ever since then I corn my own beef. I followed Alton Brown newer recipe now That he use pink salt instead of salty peter. My husband, I, our grown children and our young adult grandchildren love this recipe

  5. 6
    Curtis Litten

    You can order Praque powder from, had it shipped to store for free and was the cheapest place even knowing it comes from another vender.

  6. 7

    Hi first off I do not have 3 pounds of ice so added 3 pounds of ice cold water hope this was OK …. next how long can I keep my corned beef after it is cured or do I have to cook it right away?

  7. 9
    Amilaa Anderson

    This recipe calls for pink salt, but in Good Eats 3: The Later Years, you write, “[M]any charcuterie-ists add a product called ‘pink salt’ to their various cures, but this contains nitrites and I wouldn’t touch them if you paid me.” Have you changed your mind?

  8. 10

    I notice that this recipe calls for a 5 day soak while the embedded recipe states 10.
    Missing from both is any mention of the thickness of the cut which is the critical
    dimension determining diffusion time. Using empirical salt diffusion rate in meat
    the characteristic e-folding time is:

    t = 3.75 (d)**2 days

    where d is the meat half thickness in inches. The brining time would be 3 – 5 times
    this so a 2 inch thick brisket would require 2 weeks, Note that the time scales with
    the square of the thickness. Also note that a simple rinse is nowhere long enough
    to remove any salt from the outer portion of the meat (I use 2 days soak in clear
    water for every 5 in brine.) If you have difficulty deriving this formula try doing it
    with heat diffusion instead and show that the cooking time of a roast scales with
    the 2/3 power of weight.

    A final note: I find all of AB’s recipes far too salty for my taste. (non est disputandum!)

  9. 11

    Alton, I did mine in a crock pot for eight hours but on low. Is that why it was tough? Is a higher heat necessary to break down some of those connective tissues? I always just heard low and slow but I was so disappointed.

  10. 13

    People should know that the purpose of the curing salt is NOT to give a pink color or a certain flavor, but to prevent the growth of botulism.

  11. 15

    Alton, 4 tsp of Prague Powder #1 (also called Cure #1) is about 3x the amount you need (or want) on this recipe. I remember seeing your show when you used straight sodium nitrate, and it was so much I curled up into my seat and checked the obits. I was terrified. This recipe is much better as it uses the diluted form of sodium nitrite and a much more reasonable amount. But it’s still too much for proper curing.

    The proper amount for all curing (and it’s mandated by the USDA to prevent overdosing), is 0.25% of the weight of the meat + brine of Cure #1. With 1 qt of water and 4 lbs of meat, that’s about 6 lbs total. The proper amount of Cure #1 for 6 lbs is around 1-1/4 tsp, not 4 tsp. You will still get all the pink color and cured flavor, and minimize the (albeit small) risks of excess nitrites.

    • 16
      Keith Ragan

      I appreciate you being thorough. This was my concern as well. However, Alton also uses 3 pounds of ice, which adds… 2 quarts of water? 3?

        • 18

          A pint is a pound the world around, but only if your country’s pint is the same as other country’s. In the UK and Northern Ireland, a pint can be 20 imperial ounces, which is 1/8 of an imperial gallon. In the US, our pint is also 1/8 of a gallon, but we don’t use imperial gallons. Our gallon is smaller than an imperial gallon. One imperial gallon is 1.2 US gallons.

    • 19
      Dan Kirkpatrick

      I believe you have your math wrong. If you have 5lb of brisket, that will equal 2267grams. 4 tsp of salt is equivalent to 22 grams. Thats .01% of the weight. If going by your .25% rule the salt is 1.5 times less than that.

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