Last Updated on November 9, 2022 by Carne Diem
Origin: Irish (sort of), European
Method: Brining and StovetopJump to Recipe
With St. Patrick's Day just around the corner, we figured what better time than to share our made from Scratch Corned Beef recipe and technique. Corned Beef and cabbage has become almost as synonymous with St. Paddy's Day in the U.S. as turkey is with Thanksgiving. Interesting enough, corned beef and cabbage as we know it is not really an Irish culinary import. It is actually a Jewish creation that became popular among the Irish immigrate community in the United States. Regardless, it is delicious and still popular among the Irish-American community today.
For this post we will show how to go from a full packer brisket to the most flavorful plate of corned beef and cabbage you have ever had. The process of making corned beef is a bit labor intensive and will require a large amount of space in the fridge while it brines and a large container or bag in which to brine the meat. Be sure to plan ahead. The recipe can also be halved or adjusted for smaller pieces of meat, but be certain to adjust the curing salt correctly.
Making the Corned Beef
Preparing the meat
For this recipe we break down an entire prime packer brisket. We will be using the point to make our corned beef. We chose an entire packer, because it is more economical to do it this way. You can then smoke the brisket flat to make some delicious BBQ, or you can brine both sections and use the flat to make more corned beef or pastrami. We will be doing the latter, and will have our pastrami recipe posted a little bit later this year. The recipe that follows, however, would be for 12 pounds of corned beef.
Unlike a smoked BBQ brisket, where fat is flavor, for corned beef you will want to trim off most of the excess fat. This allows the cure to reach all of the meat. Cut along the vein of fat running between the point and the flat to separate the 2 pieces of brisket.
Making your Homemade Corned Beef Brine
Prepare your pickling spice
We are providing one of our favorite pickling spice blends. Please feel free to modify it and make it your own, that is half of the fun with doing things from scratch. We are curing an entire brisket so we are using ½ cup of pickling spice. If you are brining just a point or just a flat, you will want to decrease the spice mix to ¼ cup (4 tablespoons).
For our corned beef brine we like to use a little bit of beer and a ginger beer for extra flavor. Use a lager or light beer for the brine. An Irish Red also works really well.
Measure out the remaining ingredients for your brine and set aside.
Choosing the correct amount of cure
Whenever you are curing meat it is always important to use the proper amount of curing salt and water, based on the weight of the meat you are curing. We use a cure #1 which is also referred to as Prague Powder or Pink Cure #1. This is NOT the same thing as pink Himalayan salt so do not use them interchangeably. Cure #1 is used for foods you intend to cook after curing. Cure #2 is used for meat curing over a very long period of time. They are not interchangeable, so make sure you are using the correct cure.
While most of the other ingredients can be easily adjusted in the brine by simply halving or quartering the recipe based on the size of the brisket, the cure needs to be adjusted with a cure calculator.
Amazing Ribs has a fantastic article on curing meat and includes a curing calculator so you can be sure you are using the proper amount of cure. https://amazingribs.com/tested-recipes/salting-brining-curing-and-injecting/curing-meats-safely. We use this calculator any time we are wet curing meat.
For the Homemade Corned Beef recipe we described, we had 12 pounds of brisket to cure after trimming and used 3 gallons of liquid. At 175ppm of cure this resulted in a need of just over 47 grams of pink cure, or about 3 tablespoons. If possible, we recommend weighing this out as it is far more accurate.
Heat the brine
Add the beer, ginger beer, and about 1 gallon of distilled water to a large pot and heat over high heat. Stir in the salt, sugars, Prague Powder, and honey. Stir frequently to dissolve the sugar and salt.
Once the granules are dissolved add in your pickling spice. Bring the brine to a boil then add your minced garlic. Reduce to a simmer and cook for about 5 minutes then remove from the heat. Allow the mixture to cool. You can start adding in the rest of the distilled water to speed this along if needed.
Brine the Brisket
Place the brine in a large, heavy duty brining bag or a brining bucket. If you are doing the full recipe as described you will need something capable of holding at least 5 gallons. Add the brisket to the brine and seal. Make sure the brisket is completely covered in brine. Place in the refrigerator for 5-7 days.
If you are looking for more great brined or marinated meat recipes that be sure to check out our Authentic Sauerbraten. In the mood for something quick and easy? Check out our Philly Cheesesteak Stuffed Peppers.
Cooking your Scratch Corned Beef
At the end of your brining period, strain the brining liquid and remove the brisket. Rinse the meat well under cold water for a couple minutes. Rinse and reserve about 4 tablespoons of the pickling spice. If preferred, you can make some fresh pickling spice for this step.
If you are cooking the entire brisket as corned beef, you will need a very large pot to do this or you may need to divide the recipe into 2 pots or crock pots. In the photos below we were only preparing the point as corned beef and reserved the flat for making pastrami so we were able to fit the recipe in a large crock pot. If you are only doing a half recipe, then reduce the number of veggies by half.
Prep your veggies
Quarter the yellow onion(s) and place them in the bottom of the large pot you will be cooking the corned beef in.
Peel and cut the carrots and parsnip(s)into 2-3 inches long and about ½ inch wide pieces.
Cut the yellow (or red) potatoes (unpeeled) into halves or quarters if they are a little bit bigger. Slice the end off and quarter your cabbage, cutting out the center.
Cook Your Corned Beef Nice and Slow
We find it best to halve your brisket pieces instead of cooking the pieces whole. This will help it cook a bit quicker and more evenly. Be prepared - your brisket is best cooked slow and it will take at least 6 hours to cook the meat thoroughly but can take up to 8 or more hours depending on your crockpot and how much meat you are cooking. Pour one bottle of light beer over the onion.
Place your brisket over the beer and onions. Then distribute the reserved pickling spices over the brisket.
Next, pour enough water to just cover the brisket (for this brisket point we ended up needing 7 cups of water but it will vary greatly depending on the size of the pot and amount of meat). You will need space in the pot later to add your vegetables. You may need to flip the brisket once during the cooking if it isn't quite staying covered with liquid.
If using a crockpot, cook the brisket on high to get the temperature up for about an hour and then turn to low for about 3 hours. If cooking in a pot, heat over medium heat until just boiling then cover and reduce to a simmer. After 4 hours total, flip the brisket and add in the potatoes and all of the vegetables except the cabbage.
Continue to cook for about another 2-3 hours. The brisket can cook for a long time on low so that it is very tender. Don't rush it or you will have tough meat.
When you are 45 minutes to an hour from wanting to eat, place your quartered cabbage into the crockpot with the corned beef and the rest of the vegetables.
Once the cabbage is tender, you are ready to eat!
Slice and Serve your Homemade Corned Beef
When the cabbage is wilted and tender, pull the corned beef out. On a cutting board, cut the corned beef against the grain. Serve up the melt in your mouth slices of meat with your perfectly cooked veggies and raise a toast up to St. Patrick!
Homemade Corned Beef from Scratch
- 12 Pound Packer Brisket weight after trimming
- 1 Head Green Cabbage
- 8 Carrots peeled and chunked
- 2 Parsnips peeled and chunked
- 2 bottles Light Beer
- 2 Yellow Onions quartered and separated
- 3 Pounds Yellow Potatoes unpeeled, halved to quartered
- 3 Gallons Distilled Water We replace some of this water with 2 bottles of beer and 1 bottle of Ginger Beer, so subtract accordingly
- 2 Cups Morton's Kosher Salt
- 1 Cup White Sugar
- 1 Cup Brown Sugar
- ½ Cup Honey
- ½ Cup Pickling Spice See below
- 10 Garlic Cloves minced
- 3 Tab Prague Powder #1 47 grams
- 2 Tab Black Peppercorns
- 1 Tab Whole Coriander
- 1 Tab All Spice
- 1 Tab Mustard Seeds
- 1 Tab Crushed Red Pepper
- 1 tea Cloves
- 1 tea Mace
- 1 tea Celery Seed
- 1 tea Juniper Berries
- 1 tea Crystallized Ginger
- 1 Bay Leaf crumbled
- 1 Cinnamon Stick broken into pieces
Brine the brisket
- Combine your pickling spice in a small bowl. This should make ½ cup of spice mix.
- Trim your brisket, removing most of the outer fat. Separate the point and the flat from along the large vein of fat.
- In a large pot, add the beer, ginger beer, and 1 gallon of water. Heat over high heat. Add the salt, sugars, Prague Powder, and honey and stir until dissolved. Add the pickling spice. Brink the mixture to a boil then reduce heat, add the minced garlic, and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Remove the brine from the heat and cool. Combine with the remaining distilled water in a large brining bag or bucket. Completely submerge the brisket (point and flat) in the brine.
- Place in a refrigerator and brine for 5-7 days.
Cooking the Corned Beef
- Remove the brisket from the brine and rinse well for several minutes.
- Strain the brine and reserve 4 tablespoons of the pickling spice.
- Placed the quartered onion pieces in the bottom of a very large pot. Add the beer, then add the brisket. We like to halve both the point and flat in order to speed cooking and help the meat cook more evenly.
- Top with the pickling spice, then add just enough water to cover the meat completely. Heat over medium heat until the liquid begins to boil (typically about 45min-1 hour) then reduce the heat to a simmer and cover. Cook for 3 more hours.
- After 3 hours, flip the brisket pieces over and add in the prepared vegetables except the cabbage. Continue to simmer for 2-3 more hours.
- About 45 minutes before you are ready to eat, add the quartered cabbage.
- After 45 minutes the cabbage should be tender and you should be ready to eat.
- Slice the brisket and serve up with the vegetables, potatoes, and cabbage.
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