Homemade corned beef brisket sort of defines Saint Patrick’s Day. And if you’ve heard of it but not experienced it, or maybe downed a few sandwiches of it but still aren’t exactly sure what corned beef is, it’s essentially brisket that’s lingered in a brine solution of corned beef seasonings for a few days. It’s similar to your favorite pastrami recipe but has a unique flavor and texture. It becomes a little salty and redolent of spices and, as it turns out, may be good for you.

See, its brine solution is essentially a pickling liquid. And you’ve certainly heard the buzz in recent years about how healthful pickled things are, yes? Ergo, the only logical thing to do is pickle and consume copious quantities of corned beef. Right?! Or if you don’t buy that, consider that we’re all Irish once a year. Kindly note that you’ll need to start the corned beef five days before you intend to sit down at the table. #worthit

david caricature

Why Our Testers Loved This

The testers were “astonished” at how easy it was to make this corned beef recipe. Julie Dreyfoos described it as the “best corned beef she had ever experienced,” while Larry Noak proclaimed that he’ll “never buy corned beef again.” Yes, it’s that good.

What You’ll Need to Make This

  • Kosher salt–This makes up the foundation of your brine, allowing the meat to retain moisture and become tender, ensuring perfect corned beef. To avoid making a brine that’s too salty, you must weigh your salt. Crystal sizes can vary from brand to brand, significantly changing the salt level in the brine when measured by volume.
  • Sugar–Using sugar in the brine helps to tenderize the meat and add flavor.
  • Pink curing salt–This gives the meat its pinkish hue, but its purpose isn’t merely cosmetic. This salt, which contains sodium nitrite, stops bacterial growth during the lengthy curing process and helps to preserve the meat’s flavor and texture. Don’t even think about omitting it.
  • Beef brisket–For best results, make your corned beef with first-cut or “flat-cut” brisket. It is leaner than point-cut brisket. If you do make it with point-cut, be sure to trim away any excess fat.

How to Make Corned Beef

A person stirring a pot of brine with pickling spices; the brine at a boil.
  1. Toast the peppercorns, mustard seeds, and coriander seeds in a skillet, then use the flat side of a large knife to smash them. Mix them with the remaining spice blend ingredients. Combine 1/2 gallon of water, kosher salt, sugar, pink salt, garlic, and 2 tablespoons of pickling spice in a large pot.
  2. Bring the brine to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the salt and sugar.
Brine being added to a tub of ice water; brisket submerged in the brine.
  1. Combine the brine with 1/2 gallon of ice and water in a container large enough to hold the brisket.
  2. Add the brisket to the cold brine.
A person using a plate to weigh down brisket in a tub of brine; a person covering the tub.
  1. Submerge the brisket in the brine.
  2. Cover and chill for 5 days, flipping the brisket occasionally.
A piece of corned beef in water in a large Dutch oven; a person sprinkling brisket with a spice mixture.
  1. Drain and rinse the brisket. Place the brisket in a pot large enough to hold the meat and add enough water to cover it.
  2. Add 2 tablespoons of pickling spice, cover, and bring to a simmer. Cook until fork tender, replenishing the water, if needed.

Common Questions

What is first cut brisket?

First-cut brisket, sometimes called the “flat cut,” is the leaner, flatter portion of a whole beef brisket. It boasts a relatively even thickness, making it ideal for slicing against the grain after cooking. The “second cut,” aka the “point cut,” contains more fat, or deckle, and sits on top.

Two images: left the first cut of brisket, the right the second cut of brisket
: Kōsh

What is pink salt?

Pink salt is a curing salt containing nitrite. It preserves corned beef’s color, flavor, and freshness and, most important, prevents harmful bacteria growth. Look for it under names like Tinted Cure Mix, Prague Powder #1, or Curing Salt #1. Don’t confuse it with Himalayan pink salt, which is a regular salt.

☞ And don’t confuse this pink salt with Himalayan pink salt, which is entirely different.

Pink Curing Salt : Jes

How can I make this into corned beef and cabbage?

To make corned beef with cabbage and potatoes, render the fat from some bacon that you’ve cut into matchstick-size strips in a pot over medium heat. Toss in some large wedges of green cabbage and cook, turning as needed, until the edges are lightly browned. This will impart a little extra flavor oomph to the cabbage.

Add some of the reserved cooking liquid from the corned beef to the pot. Then toss some chunked potatoes and the sliced corned beef in with the cabbage, cover, and cook until the cabbage is tender. (If you prefer the potatoes not pick up any cabbage flavor or color, boil them separately in salted water.)

That steaming liquid transforms into a lovely sauce. If you like, stir in a tablespoon of Dijon mustard for a touch of richness.

A white plate with corned beef and cabbage : Brent Hofacker

How can I cook this in a slow-cooker?

Nestle your brined brisket into the slow cooker and add enough water to cover it (if it’s too big, simply cut off a smaller portion!). Toss in 2 tablespoons of your corned beef seasoning mix and cook on low until fork-tender, about 7 hours. Reserve that flavorful cooking liquid for serving if you like.

Slice the corned beef and enjoy warm, or cool, wrap, and refrigerate for up to a week.

Want more slow-cooker tips? Check out Jackie G.’s comment below – she turned her leftover brisket into homemade pastrami!

Video: How to Make Corned Beef

Helpful Tips

  • If you find it difficult to keep the brisket submerged in the brine, place something heavy (a plate of a few canned goods are great for this!) in a sealed plastic bag and set it on top of the brisket to weigh it down.
  • If your brisket is too big to fit into the brining container in one piece, cut it in half.
  • This homemade corned beef recipe is suitable for gluten-free and dairy-free diets.

Storage & Reheating

Corned beef can be stored, tightly wrapped in plastic or aluminum foil in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. For longer storage, freeze individual portions tightly wrapped in plastic or sealed bags for up to 6 months.

How to Serve Corned Beef

There are many ways to enjoy homemade corned beef. For a traditional meal, serve it sliced with cabbage and potatoes, or enjoy it in a reuben sandwich, made with rye bread, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and Thousand Island dressing.

It’s also terrific with potatoes in corned beef hash, or added to twice-baked potatoes.

A pot filled with a chunk of corned beef, three carrots, cabbage, and potatoes.
Jamie Aragonez

More Great Homemade Cured Meat Recipes

Write a Review

If you make this recipe, or any dish on LC, consider leaving a review, a star rating, and your best photo in the comments below. I love hearing from you.–David

I make corned beef for my husband. I personally do not care for it. This recipe has totally changed my mind!

The meat was so tender and so flavorful. I will never make corned beef a different way. Looks like we will have a new tradition in our family!

Alison M
A black pouch of Leite's Culinaria Corned Beef Cure and Cook Kit.

My newest Spice Kit

Corned Beef Cure + Cook Kit

Several slices of homemade corned beef in a sandwich on a wooden table.

Homemade Corned Beef

4.90 / 65 votes
Homemade corned beef is crazy easy to make. It's essentially brisket that's given a makeover by letting it linger in an easy brine with spices and then slowly braised until falling-apart tender. Here's how to make it (including a slow-cooker variation above).
David Leite
Servings10 servings | 4.5 lbs
Calories309 kcal
Prep Time30 minutes
Cook Time3 hours
Total Time5 days 3 hours


  • Slow cooker (if following the slow cooker method)


For the pickling spice

For the brine solution

  • 1 gallon water
  • 2 cups Morton kosher salt, (or 3 1/3 cups/450 g Diamond Crystal kosher salt)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pink salt, (see FAQs)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons pickling spice (above), (see above recipe or use store-bought)
  • One (5-pound) well-marbled (first-cut) beef brisket


Make the pickling spice

  • In a small, dry skillet over medium heat, toast the peppercorns, mustard seeds, and coriander seeds until the spices are lightly toasted. Carefully turn them onto a cutting board and carefully smash them using the flat side of a chef's knife to crack them, being careful to not let the seeds roll all over your counter and onto your floor.
  • Scrape the cracked spices into a large plastic container or glass jar or other nonreactive container and add the remaining ingredients. Stir until completely combined. Cover tightly.

Make the brine solution

  • In a pot that's just large enough to hold the brisket, combine the water, salt, sugar, pink salt, garlic, and 2 tablespoons pickling spice.
    A person stirring a pot of spiced brine.
  • Bring to a simmer, stirring until the salt and sugar dissolve.
    Spiced brine boiling in a large Dutch oven.
  • Remove the pot from the heat, let the brine cool to room temperature, and then refrigerate until the brine is completely chilled. For a quick chill: Bring 1/2 gallon of water to a simmer, add the brine ingredients, and stir until dissolved. Slide the pot off the heat and add 1/2 gallon of ice and water. Make sure the water is cool before adding the brisket.
    A piece of brisket in a tub filled with brine and ice cubes.
  • Place the brisket in the chilled brine and weight it with a plate to keep it submerged. Refrigerate for 5 days, flipping the brisket once or twice.
    A person placing a plate over a piece of brisket to submerge it in brine.
  • Remove the brisket from the brine solution, discarding the brine. Rinse the brisket thoroughly under cool running water. (Don't worry, you're just rinsing the brine solution from the surface of the brisket. The brine will continue to permeate the beef and work its considerable magic.)

Cook the corned beef

  • To make the corned beef in your slow cooker, see the Slow Cooker Variation in the FAQs above.
    To make the corned beef on the stovetop, reach once again for a pot just large enough to hold the brisket. Place the brined brisket inside and add enough water to cover the meat. Add 2 tablespoons of pickling spice and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover, and gently simmer for about 3 hours, or until the brisket is fork-tender. You want to make certain that there’s always enough water to cover the brisket. You may need to occasionally replenish the water if it gets too low.
    A person adding a spice mixture to corned beef in a Dutch oven.
  • When the corned beef is done, remove it from the cooking liquid, which can be reserved, and place it on a cutting board. Slice the corned beef and serve it warm, with cabbage and potatoes if desired (see the Variation in the FAQs) or cool it, wrap it, and refrigerate it for up to a week to use in this Reuben sandwich. It's also not too shabby in corned beef hash. You can dribble the cooking liquid over the cabbage and vegetables or cover and refrigerate the liquid and rewarm it along with your leftover corned beef.
Charcuterie Cookbook.

Adapted From


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Serving: 1 portionCalories: 309 kcalCarbohydrates: 1 gProtein: 23 gFat: 23 gSaturated Fat: 7 gMonounsaturated Fat: 11 gCholesterol: 84 mgSodium: 1898 mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2005 Michael Ruhlman. Photos © 2015 David Leite. Photos © 2024 Jamie Aragonez. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

I decided to make the “real thing” for St. Patty’s Day this year and brined a 6-pound, well-marbled, first-cut beef brisket.

After its bath in the corned beef seasoning brine for 5 days, I decided to cook the brisket in our slow cooker instead of on top of the stove. I couldn’t fit the entire brisket in my 5 1/2-quart slow cooker, so a 3-pound chunk went into the slow cooker and the rest went back into the fridge.

At first, the brisket was submerged under the water. When I checked to see how it was doing after 1 1/2 hours, the meat had curled up and was sticking out of the water. I pushed it down, but wasn’t terribly concerned because brisket tends to shrink quite a bit. Sure enough, after 30 more minutes, the brisket was, indeed, covered with liquid.

The brisket cooked for a total of 7 hours on low. I suggest you check to see how the meat is doing along the way, even though some folks warn that you should never lift the lid of a slow cooker. I find that it does not add much cooking time at all. For me, and this particular piece of meat, at that 7 hour mark, the corned beef was tender.

Alongside the brisket I served a casserole of chopped potatoes, cabbage, and onion, which I’d sautéed in bacon fat and then finished in the oven with some Comté cheese on top. As much as we enjoyed the brisket on the first night with the casserole, we enjoyed the leftovers even more. I made this wonderful corned beef hash twice and served it with poached eggs.

So, what to do with the other remaining brisket that didn’t fit in the slow cooker? There was no question. When life gives you brined brisket, make pastrami.

I will never buy corned beef again after making this recipe. Turns out, pickling even substandard brisket with this astounding potpourri of aromatic spices will change your life forever!

I was very concerned that my brisket was going to be not good enough because when I got it home, I realized that it was graded select. I made the recipe anyways but put a layer of plastic wrap on top of the brine and brisket and then added the plate to hold it all together. I was surprised at the ease with which this came together and truly astonished at the final result.

I found the simplest way to acquire the pink salt was on Amazon. For around $10, you’ll secure enough for many, many pounds of homemade bacon and corned beef.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    This is the two-pound venison roast we did yesterday for St. Patricks Day. On the smoker for two hours, finished in the oven to 150°F. Too cold here yesterday to finish outside on the smoker. I’ve done this before and it always comes out great. If you’re looking for something to do with the tougher cuts of venison other than grinding it up, this is a definite crowd pleaser.

    1. Corned venison and corned lamb, David? You win the St. Patrick’s Day Cook of the Year 2024, hands down.

  2. 5 stars
    We made corned leg of lamb and corned venison for St. Patricks Day. If you have never thought about corning any meat other than beef, please reconsider. The leg of lamb was fantastic, as was the venison. I brine dense meat for 10 days using this recipe. I just cut the kosher salt in 1/2 for a 10 day brine. Ten days ensures the brine gets through the whole piece of meat.

    1. David, I’m blown away! I’ve never considered corning lamb, but this looks amazing. I think I know what’s going to be on my Easter table this year. Thank you for this.

      1. The lamb was 4 hours on the smoker last Thursday. Took it off at 140F. Cooled in fridge and wrapped in a foil cocoon. Put in the oven yesterday to 165F. Juicy and delicious. The rendered lamb fat with smoke was like butter to me. You’ll love it.