Corned Beef

Total Time:
243 hr 20 min
20 min
240 hr
3 hr

6 to 8 servings

  • 2 quarts water
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons saltpeter
  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken into several pieces
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 8 whole allspice berries
  • 12 whole juniper berries
  • 2 bay leaves, crumbled
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 pounds ice
  • 1 (4 to 5 pound) beef brisket, trimmed
  • 1 small onion, quartered
  • 1 large carrot, coarsely chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, coarsely chopped

Place the water into a large 6 to 8 quart stockpot along with salt, sugar, saltpeter, cinnamon stick, mustard seeds, peppercorns, cloves, allspice, juniper berries, bay leaves and ginger. Cook over high heat until the salt and sugar have dissolved. 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 place in the refrigerator for 10 days. Check daily to make sure the beef is completely submerged and stir the brine.

After 10 days, remove from the brine and rinse well under cool water. Place the brisket into a pot just large enough to hold the meat, add the onion, carrot and celery and cover with water by 1-inch. Set over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and gently simmer for 2 1/2 to 3 hours or until the meat is fork tender. Remove from the pot and thinly slice across the grain.

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    108 Reviews
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    It's wonderful and so doable! I have made it for my annual St. Patrick Day party two years now. The flavor is incomparable, it's so fresh - I am unable to eat commercially corned beef now. This year, there was only time to brine the beef for 8 days - it still had plenty of good flavor. And it makes the best corned beef hash and Reuben sandwiches with the leftovers.
    Can anyone tell me if they have tried this with a leg (or any other cut of lamb). I recently stopped eating beef and the corned beef is something I cannot find a comparable substitute so I would like to try making myself. What spices would I adjust or sub.
    I did it for 8 days with good results.
    Will reducing the curing time to 5 days still produce the desired result? I made this last year and forgot it required 10 days when I purchased my brisket this week.
    This comes up under "Alton Brown pastrami" searches. But I have found it is a tad too salty if you aren't performing the boil step like you would for a corn beef. I'm going try a two do rinse in ice water before smoking this time.
    This recipe is a keeper for me. I just cooked my beef Thursday, it was delicious. I thought the seasoning was perfect. I didn't use the saltpeter so the meat did look dull, but I was expecting that and it's not an issue for me. Now I'll search for a corned beef hash recipe for Sunday's breakfast!
    Lots of harsh food powder ingredients to make corn beef wow ! i will reduce the harsh food powder ingredients and add dry sweet brooms with a little bit of apricot mmmmmmmmmmmmm it will taste much better awesome!!
    What in God's name are you talking about??
    @ Kevin French + jimmyfizz88- she's talking about the saltpeter I imagine. Won't get the pretty pink colour by removing it from the ingredient list but it'll still taste yummy.
    Came out great. I got the pink salt off Amazon. I made the recipe except for the spices I just used pickling spice. Then I did add a couple of sticks of cinnamon. The cinnamon is really good in this recipe. I cured mine for a week and cooked it- came out great. I weighed mine down with a canning jar I filled with water. Worked great. Much better than pre-made. Then I just cooked mine in a wee bit of water after i drained it in the crockpot. After it was done, I added the cabbage for about 15 more minutes on high. I didn't use celery b/c I didn't have any.
    I tried this recipe. It tasted great but the meat turned out grey instead of pink. Is this because i didn't include the saltpeter?
    Yep. Saltpeter will keep the nice pink color.
    I read somewhere that Saltpeter was not good for you?.can you tell me what it is?
    This recipe is very good. I did however, leave out a bit of the salt, cinnamon and saltpeter. I got the saltpeter on amazon. I get the rest of the spices at Whole Foods. I only get just what I need. Whole Foods is great, because if you only get just a small amount of each spice, it doesn't weigh enough and they give it to you for free! I don't like salty foods, but this recipe is wonderful. Before I cooked it, I rinsed it and put it in my crock pot with homemade, unsalted chicken stock and left it for about 10 hours.
    I have made my corned beef this way without the saltpeter for 3 years now and it is fabulous! Barely enough leftovers for hash.
    Excellent corned beef recipe! Makes a lot so it's good for a crowd. If there is leftovers you can make the best corned beef hash you will ever have, and of course it makes an awesome Ruben sandwich. Because I make my own sausage, all types (will never buy at store again I have Insata Cure #1 on hand which is much more reliable than Saltpeter, its what gives that classic pink color you find in corned beef, don't use red food coloring for goodness sake. You can get at The Sausage Maker online or see if you can get your local sausage maker or butcher to sell you some.  
    What does Insata Cure #1 in it?
    Sodium Nitrite, used for the same reasons as saltpeter, but a bit more reliable.
    Great recipe. Did this as an exercise, to just be able to say that I had tried it from scratch. But to be honest, it came out so nice, I would be happy to do it at least once a year for a psuedo-Irish meal. 
    I was able to find sodium nitrate at my spice shop being sold as "curing salt". As a matter of fact, it was only by accident that I learned it was nitrates. I was making gravlax (cured salmon and asked if curing salt would help. The shop owner got all freaked and said it was only for bacon (which also sometimes uses nitrates. Just mentioning to give others another label to look for.
    Are nitrates bad for you? 
    This is a great recipe for corning beef, so unlike the mass produced corned beef you find in supermarkets. It had an excellent flavor and texture. But Alton, darling, where in the world did you get the idea that a 5-pound brisket could feed 7 hungry men? I made two and there were no leftovers. 
    Excelleng recipe. Came out exactly as I had hoped. Difficulty in finding potassium nitrate was solved by obtaining sodium nitrate from the butcher's. Fantastic!
    Very amazing flavor the aromatics were a perfect blend, the only problem I had was getting my hands on potassium nitrate in Madison Wi. So I purchased the "already corned beef", and used the recipe above along with 2 bottles of beer instead of so much water. I left it in the fridge fully immersed. It turned out AMAZING! Thanks Alton for a great recipe.
    I followed Alton's brine recipe exactly for the curing process. I added red food dye to the second. The first time I found the meat an off color purplish pink on the inside and the exterior gray. I did not get the meat as tender as I'd hoped either. This time I altered a couple of things which worked. I was pleased with the outcome. My discovery was adding red food coloring to the brine. I can't tell you the difference it made in appearance. I cut the amount of Salt Peter in half....since I wasn't trying to preserve the meat. I was a little worried about that but the end result was a wonderful color inside and out. It looked just as great after cooking as throughout unlike my first attempt. I was not disappointed. The other change I made was to rather than boil I brazed the meat at about 250 until it reached 180 degrees. I can't tell you how tender the meat was. I added cabbage and potatoes after I was finished cooking. Tasty? What did you think?
    Braising vs boiling had more to do with the color difference, than adding food coloring and dropping the saltpeter amount.
    Potassium nitrate (saltpeter can also be found at a compounding pharmacy - a special type of pharmacy that creates unique formulations of medications for patient specific needs. The only rub here is that you may need a prescription for it depending on where you live.
    Super Easy recipe, if you are considering making it. I have made the brine recipe five times now but I cook it in the oven low and slow as a braise. Concerning the Saltpeter, I did a lot of research online and it seems Pink Curing Salt works just as well and is better for you. I just 1tsp pink curing salt per 5lb and my corn beef turns out nice and pink. Again, Alton has spoiled me and I can't eat regular supermarket corn beef anymore.
    Best corned beef you're going to have! Love the flavor the vegetables take on in this dish... Truly a recipe you will be glad you made. I have made it with prepared corned beef and placed in the oven and it just wows the crowd every time! Making it tomorrow and can't wait!!! Giggity!!!
    Absolutely fantastic, despite not having saltpeter (I couldn't find a corned brisket here in Bulgaria, let alone a specialized seasoning/spice... must confess to having to order juniper berries on amazon as well. Corned the beef for 12 days and the spices were just right, not too salty. Served with colcannon (combined Tyler's Ultimate recipe and the one from Paula Deen's show. Leftovers will be great on a sandwich tomorrow!
    This was super easy and turned out perfectly. I used a locally-grown piece of beef. 
    I was pretty confident I could find all the ingredients in Madison, WI, and I was wrong. So I am very appreciative of the reviewers who suggested creative alternatives (many of which I also could not find. What is this world coming to? 
    In the end, McCormick Pickling Spice and a trip to the sporting goods store three blocks from my house for the curing salt (thank you person who went to Gander Mtn ended the hunt. I followed the directions on the cure packet and will use the rest of the seasoning for something else. The product was from Hi Mountain Seasonings. 
    The biggest challenge with this recipe was not eating all of it in one sitting.  
    Superb results when you follow the recipe exactly. 
    I couldn't help but notice some misinformation and miscalculations regarding "curing salts" in some other posts. To clarify, the curing salts below ARE NOT INTERCHANGEABLE (without proper calcuations because of the differences between nitrite and nitrate and the different concentrations within each curing salt. 
    *Potassium Nitrate (a.k.a. Saltpeter = 93.75% potassium, 6.25% nitrate 
    *Sodium Nitrite (a.k.a. Instacure #1, Prague Powder #1, Pink Cure/Salt #1 = 93.75% sodium, 6.25% nitrite 
    *Sodium Nitrate (a.k.a. Instacure #2, Prague Powder #2, Pink Cure/Salt #2 = 14.36% sodium, 6.25% nitrite, 4.0% nitrate 
    *Morton Quick Tender = 99.0% salt + sugar + propylene glycol, 0.5% sodium nitrate, 0.5% sodium nitrite
    Living in Texas it is difficult to find true deli corned beef however we have plenty of brisket. I corned my first brisket using Alton's recipe let it soak for 14 days and it was incredible! I served it to several friends from NY NY and they were amazed as well. I purchase another brisket which I'm currently corning and can not wait. However I would like a pastrami recipe since I believe that pastrami is corned the same but smoked rather than boiled.
     Thank you very much Alton!!
     John Saxton
    We just had a stew using the last of our supply from the freezer. I am ready to start marinating another batch. Just wonderful and well worth the trouble.
    good recipe but its ridiculous to think about seasoning it for 10 days. If you season this in the morning and cook it the next day it is pretty close to the 10 day wait.
    Excellent!! used McCormick Pickling Spice
     Use many of Alton's recipe but this corned beef prompted me to write my first review.
     I had two corned beef briskets from the local grocery store and was looking for a good way to prepare them when I thought I would try Alton's method. I got discouraged by the 8 juniper berries and saltpeter. Found them mail order but I didn't want to buy a 1lb of berries to get 8.
     I went back to my local grocery store and found McCormick pickling spice. It has all the ingredients on Alton's list.
     I added 2-3 tsp to the brine and results are excellent.
     Again Alton hit another home run!
    Just finished my brine. Added a touch of Worstechire powder, and used Pink Curing salt instead of saltpeter. Now I wait I guess. Judging from all of the rave reviews, I think I won't be dissapointed. Thanks everyone.
    This was the best recipe ever! I made it for St Paddy's Day. I could not find saltpeter in time to brine so I used 1 cup Morton's Tenderquick instead of the salt and the saltpeter. bought all my spices from Penzeys Spices for around $20 if you don't live by one go to their website. Excellent, Excellent, Excellent!
    Had this on St. Patrick's day! It was SOOO good! Will definitely make again! I followed the recipe exactly (was able to get all of my spices from myspicesage- added bonus of free shipping in the US and free gift with $20 purchase- and got the food grade saltpeter from pennherb, but my meat was no where near done in 2.5 hours. Had to improvise and threw 1/2 in the pressure cooker for 1/2 hour. Was not able to continue boiling it because everyone was here for dinner and all sides were done! Other than that, it was delicious and absolutely worth the effort! Leftovers made GREAT Ruben Sandwiches! YUM!!
    Amazing recipe! I omitted the juniper berries - next time I may add a shot of gin as another chef suggested. Instead of saltpeter, I added 2cups of celery juice. I cut salt in the final prep in half - from 2tsp to 1tsp. My only regret was that I made a smaller piece of beef since this was the first time. Delicious!
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