Brining your own corned beef is easy to do at home.
A brine is a simple infusion of water, salt, spices, and sometimes sugar. When making corned beef, fresh beef brisket is soaked in this brine until it has absorbed the flavors from the spices.
The salt in the brine is essential — it pulls water from the meat, leaving behind the space for infusion to occur. Salt also breaks down the muscle and tenderizes the beef.
The results are an incredibly tender and flavorful cut of meat.
What Cut of Beef Should You Use for Corned Beef?
The traditional cut of beef to use for corned beef is brisket. Brisket has a good marbling of fat and connective tissue. That marbling gives the cooked meat the classic shredded corned beef texture.
Side Dishes To Serve With Freshly Brined Corned Beef
Adding Vegetables to the Corned Beef Cooking Pot
You can cook vegetables like onion, cabbage, potatoes, and carrots alongside your corned beef.
To do so, add several thickly sliced onions or shallots to the pot when starting the cooking.
Add the softer quicker-cooking vegetables like thick-chopped cabbage, halved or quartered potatoes, and quartered carrots to the pot one hour before removing it from the heat.
- 1 gallon cold water (16 cups), divided
- 1 cup salt
- 2 tablespoons juniper berries
- 2 tablespoons black mustard seeds
- 2 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tablespoons black peppercorns
- 2 tablespoons granulated garlic
- 1 tablespoon fennel
- 1 teaspoon whole cloves
- 4 to 5 pounds fresh grass-fed brisket
Making the Brine and Brining the Beef
- Place 1/2 gallon (8 cups) of water in a large pot and bring it to a boil.
- Stir all the salt and spices into the boiling water and remove it from the heat.
- Let the mixture cool to room temperature.
- Add the other 1/2 gallon of cold water and stir well.
- Find a container big enough for your brisket and pour the brine over the fresh meat.
- Cover this container and place it into the refrigerator for at least 5 days. Flip the brisket over several times throughout the brining process. I let mine brine for about a week, but no more than 10 days or it will get too salty.
Cooking the Corned Beef
- Drain the brine from the beef, reserving about half of the spices and both bay leaves.
- Place the meat and reserved spices in a large pot.
- Cover the beef with fresh water.
- Place the pot on the stove and bring it to a gentle boil.
- Cover the pot with a lid but leave the lid askew so some steam can escape.
- Turn the heat down to a simmer and cook the beef for 3 to 4 hours or until fork tender.
- Remove the beef from the cooking liquid and let it rest for 15 minutes before slicing.
Adding Vegetables to the Corned Beef Pot
You can cook vegetables like onion, cabbage, potatoes, and carrots alongside your corned beef. To do so, add several thickly sliced onions or shallots to the pot when starting the cooking. Add the softer quicker-cooking vegetables like thick-chopped cabbage, halved or quartered potatoes, and quartered carrots to the pot one hour before removing it from the heat.