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


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    I never follow recipes, but I followed this one to a T and wow am I glad I did! Thank you so much for this, I will definitely make it again. One question I have- I love garlic, and it is such a common ingredient that you must have deliberately left it out of this recipe. Can you offer some insight as to why you would not throw a few garlic cloves in the brine? I’d love to experiment, but 6 days and 5 pounds of meat is quite a commitment, so I’d much prefer an expert opinion.

    • 7

      I think so…you’ll probably need more brine to cover a cut that large. I think you’d want to keep the ratio of salt/curing salt/spices to water the same. Also, according to Cooks Illustrated, the brine cures the meat about 1/4 inch per day (per side, so 1/2 inch total). So 3 inches thick will need at least six days, 4 inches thick will need at least 8 days, etc.

  4. 8

    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?

  5. 9

    I am making the recipe from foodnet site, and it called for more h20, 10 days in the brine, and salt Peter (I bought food grade) -is this just an upgrade to the recipe? The reciews on it were all great too.

  6. 12

    Do you double the brine ingredients if you’re smoking a whole brisket? And for the rub, typically I use 50:50 salt-pepper mix, you probably don’t need the salt since it’s coming out of the brine, right? Also interested if you can do the brine without sugar (wife is on whole 30).

    • 13
      Michele Smith

      Brandon, I wouldn’t recommend skipping the sugar; however, it would probably still be good without it. I have done Whole30 a couple times, wish your wife success.

  7. 14

    I recently cured an entire plate. (cut into a 3lb flat and two 5Lb briskets after trimming) I wanted to use this recipe but none of the 7 grocery stores, grange coops and butcher shops in my area carry prague powder or even knew what it was. The only curing salts I could find locally was Morton’s Tenderquick. It would be cool if there were an alternate version of this recipe for use with Tenderquick.

    Still, They turned out great. And a heck of a lot cheaper than the store bought corned beef. ($29 for 5Lb brisket) Bought the entire plate for $50. Even after trimming off about 1Lb of fat and silverskin it was a very good deal. We also wet cured a ham… But, thats another recipe. (highly recommended)

    • 15

      I used Tenderquick the first time I made this recipe (way back soon after the GE episode first aired)–I don’t remember the ratios. I googled a lot to get as much info and feedback as possible and it turned out very well.

      Online sources for the pink/curing salt are spice companies and even sources which specialize in sausage making and related fields.

  8. 17

    Instead of slow cooking, can I put this on the smoker? I love the smoker corned beef. We smoke 3 a week. I would love to do one at home.

      • 19

        With the utmost respect, I beg to differ on the 2 meats. I have a totally different recipe for the pastrami. Pastrami, I already make from scratch. Basic same process, different ingredients. I’ll share if you would like.

        See you in April

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  10. 25
    Rogi Okie

    I can’t find the weight of the meat on this recipe. The amount of pink salt nitrite is really high 5 teaspoons!! Enough for 25 lbs of meat. Is this really safe?

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    Dannette Cornelison

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  12. 29
    Sergio Varela

    I wonder if that volume of water in 4. is enough to cook on high for 8 hours? O do we need to correct liquid volume from time to time?

  13. 30

    I have used pickeling spice for years on my corned beef and it is always great! Has most all the spices except ginger which I might try! And crock pot is the only way to go!! My question is flat vs brisket???? Which one and why?? I never figure red it out so I do both,!

  14. 33
    Steve V.

    I’m concerned with the amount of curing salt. The manufacturer recommends one teaspoon per 5 pounds of meat. Your thoughts?

    • 34
      Robert Barbeau

      It’s a concentration thing, since there’s 5 lbs of water. So the total concentration of pink salt is something like 1/2 teaspoon per pound of material after soaking a while. After rinsing and further dilution with veggies it shouldn’t be any issue.

  15. 35
    Vince Nylin

    Take this out of the brine. Rub it down with some nice cracked pepper mix, throw it on the smoker low and slow, you will have one heck of a pastrami. I make them for my wife periodically.`

      • 38
        Vince Nylin

        Not mesquite or mesquite charcoal! That is not suitable for smoking, only grilling for which it’s perfect for. 😉

        Any of the hardwoods, oak and pecan, etc. are good. I really like using apple with brisket. Peach works well too. I will toss a piece of apple wood into the firebox when I tend the charcoal (lump only!), and occasionally toss some apple slices and cloves of garlic in as well.

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