This brine recipe is my secret weapon for making all sorts of cured meats, including homemade corned beef.

corn beef brine ingredients in large pot.

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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. 

Ingredients

corned beef brine ingredients.
  • 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.

Pastrami Guide. pickling spice, brine and rub recipes
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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.

  1. 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.
corn beef brine ingredients in large pot.
  1. 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.

brisket in bag of corned beef brine.

When brining meat, I find it easiest to place the meat in a plastic oven bag or brining bag. Then, place the bag in a large container. I usually use a large tub.

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.


Storage

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

What is the brine for corned beef made of?

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.

Do you rinse the brine off of corned beef?

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.

How long does it take to brine corned beef?

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.

What’s the difference between corned beef brine and turkey brine?

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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5 from 2 votes

Corned Beef Brine

If you want to make delicious corned beef from scratch, start with this easy homemade corned beef brine recipe.
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Servings: 256 tablespoons

Ingredients 

Instructions 

  • 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.

Notes

The recipe makes around 1 gallon of brine. The nutritional facts are based on 1 tablespoon of liquid, but this brine is not meant to be ingested. It is only to be used as a brining solution and then discarded. 

Nutrition

Calories: 2kcalCarbohydrates: 0.5gProtein: 0.01gFat: 0.01gSaturated Fat: 0.003gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.003gMonounsaturated Fat: 0.001gSodium: 470mgPotassium: 2mgFiber: 0.02gSugar: 0.4gVitamin A: 1IUVitamin C: 0.04mgCalcium: 2mgIron: 0.01mg

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

Additional Info

Course: Brine
Cuisine: American
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Hey BBQ Family

I’m Christie, the head cook and award-winning competitive pitmaster for Team Girls Can Grill. I have won multiple grand championships and top 10 category finishes. I’m an expert grill reviewer for BBQ Guys, and I have appeared on the Food Network and Ninja Woodfire Grill infomercials. I established this website in 2015 to share my BBQ tips and recipes.

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Recipe Rating




15 Comments

  1. Love this recipe! I do add a cinnamon stick mostly because in another brine recipe I’ve used in the past they were insistent on the cinnamon. That was my go to recipe until I found yours.

  2. came out fantastic this time. so recipe was 1 gallon water, split, 1/3 cup pickling spice, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1 cup kosher salt, 1 tablespoon pink salt #1.
    added ingredients to 2 quarts of the water, brought to boil stirring often. once salts and sugar dissolved took off heat, added 2 quarts of water. let cool to room temp. drained pickling spice off and put pickling spice into 2 gallon baggie, added beef and water from pot to cover beef. twusted tight and tied off. into fridge for 7 days.
    after 7 days, rinsed off beef, put into pressure cooker, added 1 tablespoon of pickling spice, added 4 cups beef broth. set pressure cooker to 40 minutes. great flavor, and tender. made a nice mustard sauce to serve with it. thanks for the help. will be doing this for 20 people in 2 weeks.

  3. ok round 2. this time i went with 1/3 cup pickling spice. everything else is the same. boiling 2 quarts of water with that then adding another 2 quarts water to cool down faster. then i will drain pickling spice off the liquid into another pot. put the pickling spice in a 2 gallon baggie then add 2 quarts of the cooled liquid to cover the 3 pound beef and brine 7 days. will see how it goes.

    1. Sounds like a plan. Are you using the pink curing salt? It’s important that you use that instead of regular table salt or kosher salt.

      1. yes. number 1, along with kosher salt. we get the pink color. just lack of flavor except for salt. i am very new at this so its trial by fire. but i will get it figured out. i was able to get top round roast for 1.97 a pound and thats what i am using. i also work doing food demos for Boars head meats and they have a corned beef round which is just top round made into corned beef but they smoke it. i dont have a smoker. family reunion mid feburary here in mesa and t hey are all irish and want an irish dinner and corned beef is what they want so i am trying to figure it out before then. you are welcome to come here and make your trademark corned beef for us to save my butt. LOL. thanks for the help.

  4. my corned beef came out bland. i brined it 5 days. it was 3 pounds. used your brine. i then put it in a pot, covered with water and put 1 tablespoon pickling spice in the pot. it simmered a couple hours. plenty of salt taste but nothing else. too much water? first time i made it. wondered if i could pu it in a pressure cooker with water and spices to try to get some flavor in it.

    1. Sorry to hear that. I have never boiled corned beef. I usually smoke it to make pastrami, and I use a heavy coating of my pastrami rub on the meat to add flavor. I recommend adding more pickling spice to the water if you’re going to boil it. Also, adding some onion, carrots and/or cabbage to the pot will also add flavor.

  5. if i am brinning just 3 pounds of beef do i need to lessen the pink salt in the one gallon brinning recipe? and should i just brine it 3 to 5 days?

    1. I still recommend making the full amount of brine. The water to curing salt proportions will be fine with a smaller cut. If you have extra brine, you can toss it out or play around with brining something else like chicken or pork. I think 5 days will be perfect.

    1. At the bottom of the post. Or from the top, you can tap on the button that says recipe and it will take you straight to the ingredients and quantities.