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This brine recipe is my secret weapon for making all sorts of cured meats, including homemade corned beef.
What is corned beef brine?
Corned beef brine is a liquid solution with salt, sugar and water that is used to cure meats. In addition to the water, pickling spices are added to give it that authentic corned beef flavor.
Pink curing salt is also added to corned beef brine. It is the key to the preservation stage, which allows you to wet cure meat for several days. It’s also what gives the cooked meat its pink color.
How to properly use curing salt
This corned beef brine recipe uses pink curing salt #1, which is also referred to as prague powder # 1. It is a mixture of table salt and sodium nitrite.
The reason the salt is dyed pink is so that you don’t confuse it with regular table salt because by itself, it’s harmful. That’s why it’s important to understand how to properly use curing salt. You only need a small amount.
It is safe to use 1 teaspoon of pink curing salt #1 for every 5 pounds of meat when using it as a dry brine.
If you’re making a wet brine like this recipe you can use 2-3 teaspoons of pink curing salt #1 for every gallon of water, which should be enough water to cover 5-7 pounds of meat.
PRO TIP: Pink curing salt #1 is sodium nitrite, which is commonly used to cure meats, like corned beef brisket, for a few days. Pink curing salt #2 is sodium nitrate, which is used to make cured meats, like salami, which takes several weeks to months to cure.
- Water: The ratios for all of the ingredients are based on using 1 gallon of water. If you use more or less water, you must adjust the other ratios. 1 gallon equals 16 cups of water.
- Kosher Salt: It’s really important that you use kosher salt in this recipe. If you use table salt, you will need to cut the amount by at least half, because it’s way more dense.
- Brown Sugar: You can use light or brown sugar. I almost always use dark brown sugar in recipes, because I like the added molasses.
- Pickling Spices: Purchase pre-mixed pickling spices or make my Homemade Pickling Spice, which includes mustard seeds, coriander seed, allspice, cloves, black peppercorns, cardamom pods, cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, red pepper flakes and orange zest.
- Pink Curing Salt #1: This is a combination of table salt and sodium nitrite.
See the full recipe card below for servings and a full list of ingredients.
How to make corned beef brine
Once you create this basic brine recipe, you can use it to make any kind of cured meat or homemade pastrami.
- STEP ONE: Heat the water in a large stock pot on the stove over medium to medium-high heat. Add the remaining brine ingredients. Cook for 5-10 minutes, until the sugar and salts are dissolved.
- STEP TWO: Allow the corned beef brine to cool to room temperature before adding it to any meat. It’s important that you have cool water, so you don’t start to cook the meat.
PRO TIP: As your brine cools, that’s a great time to trim your brisket.
How much brining liquid do I need?
When making a corned beef brisket, a brisket can weigh anywhere from a few pounds to 20 pounds. Plan on 1 gallon of brining liquid for every 5-7 pound brisket. So a 10-lb brisket would need two gallons.
You want enough liquid, so you can cover the meat with at least one inch of water.
Pour the cooled brine into the bag over the meat. Once the meat is submerged, twist the top of the bag to remove the air and tie it in a knot.
How long you need to refrigerate the meat will vary, depending on the protein and how large the meat is. I brine corned beef brisket for 5-7 days.
After the meat is cured, you can add Homemade Pastrami Rub and smoke it, roast it or cook it in a slow cooker or instant pot until the meat is fork tender.
You can make the corned beef brine in advance and store it covered in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use it. For the best freshness, I try to use it within a month.
Do not use the brine more than once.
GCG Pro Pitmaster Tips
- Use 2-3 teaspoons pink curing salt per gallon of water for 5-7 pounds of meat
- Heat the water to dissolve the sugar and salt
- Cool the brine completely before adding your meat
- Make sure the meat is fully submerged as it wet cures in the refrigerator
Frequently Asked Questions
Corned beef brine is made with water, kosher salt, brown sugar, pickling spices and pink curing salt. It’s important to get the measurements accurate because too much curing salt can be harmful.
That’s completely up to you. Rinsing the brine off can help remove the pickling spices and excess salt. I generally don’t rinse it off when I make corned beef brisket because it can hold up to the salt, but I do rinse it off when I use the brine with pork, poultry or seafood.
Assuming you’re brining a large cut of meat like a beef brisket or beef chuck roast, plan on brining it for 5-7 days. If you use the brine with large pieces of pork or poultry, 3-5 days is enough. For smaller pieces of meat or seafood, brine for 1-2 days.
Turkey brine does not contain pink curing salt. Turkey brine helps add moisture to the meat, but it is not meant to cure the meat. Corned beef is a salt brine that is used for curing.
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Corned Beef Brine
- Heat the water in a large pot. Add the remaining ingredients. Cook for 5-10 minutes, until the sugar and salts are dissolved. Cool completely.
- Use this brine to wet-cure meat according to the recipe instructions. Brisket should be cured your 5-7 days. Other meats and cuts may vary.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.