Amazing Corned Beef From Scratch

Corned Beef From Scratch

Have you ever made corned beef from scratch? I’m not talking about those plastic-sealed pink pouches in the grocery store. I mean, really homemade corned beef.  How about making your own corned beef brine? It’s simpler than you think and the beef brine recipe only requires a handful of ingredients and a little patience.

Corned beef and cabbage is arguably THE traditional St. Patrick’s Day meal and one that my family enjoyed every March 17th.  So you’d think I’d have a few corned beef from scratch options for you on this site, but when I looked back through my “St. Patty’s” posts I found recipes like lamb stew, stout braised chicken, stout beef carbonnade, corned beef hash, a tasty Irish banger skillet even a luscious stout caramel sauce.  All very good, however, I was shamefully lacking the most obvious recipe.  I know why.

beef brisket in a pan.

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Corned beef is kind of a no-brainer… you buy the package of bright red beef at the market, stick it in your crock pot with vegetables and that special “pickling packet” and let it simmer until the beef and vegetables are tender.  That’s when I realized — I’d never made corned beef from scratch.  Until now.

Before I got myself in over my head, I referenced Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn’s all encompassing guide, Charcuterie, The Craft of Salting, Smoking & Curing. (shameless affiliate link herewith)

Ingredients for beef brine recipe.

If you’ve ever wondered how to make your own corned beef brine, you’ll be surprised at how straightforward it is. The only ingredient you might not be familiar with is the Instacure, but we’ll get to that in a second.

Ingredients for Corned Beef Brine

  • Salt – (Morton’s Kosher salt — do not use Crystal because the weight and flake size are different and it would be very easy to oversalt the meat).
  • Sugar
  • Garlic
  • Pickling Spice
  • Instacure


Instacure or prague powder in a prep bowl.

What Is Instacure?

  • Instacure or Prague powder is a curing mixture of 93.75% table salt and 6.25% sodium nitrate.
  • Salt acts as a preservative and through the process of osmosis, it not only pulls the water out of the cells of the meat it also pulls out any bacteria and kills it.
  • Sodium nitrate prevents the growth of bacteria, so this double whammy will keep this traditional St. Patrick’s Day treat a safe meal to enjoy.
  • Instacure is also known as Prague Powder, curing salt, pink salt, tinted curing mixture, TCM or tint cure (a rose by any other name, right?)
  • The pink coloring is added so that it won’t be confused with table salt, but that color is also responsible for giving our corned beef it’s distinctive hue.


Making corned beef brine in a large pot.

How To Make Corned Beef Brine

  1. To make the beef brisket brine, pull out a large stock pot and combine all the ingredients, right down to the pickling spice.
  2. Simmer on the stove until the salt, sugar and Instacure are dissolved.
  3. Let the corned beef brine cool to room temperature.
  4. Chill it in the refrigerator.
  5. When the mixture is cold, you’re ready to begin the brining process.


Beef brisket submerged in corned beef brine in a large receptacle.

What Do I Put The Brine & Brisket In?

Probably the most difficult part is finding a receptacle large enough to hold the gallon of corned beef brine and the five pound beef brisket.  I pulled out all of my containers, pots, tupperware — YOU NAME IT, but they were all insufficient.  So, I made an investment at a restaurant supply house. (Click on the photo for affiliate link to product).

This plastic container with lid holds 12 quarts.  Plenty of room for my brisket and the corned beef brine (or a turkey, or ham). Don’t worry, it’s gonna get used.

Another Option:

You could also use an extra large stock pot like this one. (Click on the photo for affiliate link to product).

Place the brisket in whichever container you choose and add the beef brisket brine.  Seal it  up and refrigerate for 5 days, turning every day or so to make sure it’s getting good coverage.


Adding pickling spices to corned beef before cooking.

How To Make Corned Beef From Scratch

  1. Rinse the brisket under cold water.
  2. Discard the corned beef brine.
  3. Place the brisket in a dutch oven (can also use a crock pot or Instant Pot according to manufacturer’s instructions).
  4. Place the pickling mixture into the center of a cheesecloth and tie it tightly with kitchen string. (This is where I made my mistake but I’m warning you in advance.  I sprinkled the pickling mixture over the brisket and into the fresh water.  That was a bad move because when I added the vegetables later, the pickling spices got tangled up in the cabbage and stuck to the corned beef.  It was a process removing them before serving.)
  5. Add the spice sachet to the pot.
  6. Bring the pot to a boil, reduce the heat to simmer. Place the lid slightly askew on the pot so some steam can escape.
  7. Simmer for 3 hours until the corned beef from scratch is tender.
  8. Add the vegetables to the pot and simmer just until they are tender.
  9. Remove the spice sachet and discard.


vegetables to be added for a corned beef and cabbage.

The photo above shows all the pickling spice mixture that clung to the corned beef and vegetables.


Corned beef from scratch in a large dutch oven.

At this point, I had to strain the liquid several times and pull peppercorn and spices out of the folds of the cabbage, etc., but if you make that spice sachet, you can avoid that hassle.


Slicing corned beef against the grain on a cutting board.

Slice Against The Grain

Wait. What?

I’ll let Kenji Lopez-Alt explain in his article about Slicing Meat Against The Grain. Suffice to say that  slicing in the right direction will do your corned beef from scratch justice and slicing it the other way will be like a poke in your eye.


Serving corned beef and cabbage in a bowl with potatoes and carrots.

Serve in shallow bowls with vegetables and a bit of the broth spooned over the top.  Ta-da.  Corned Beef From Scratch.  Happy St. Patrick’s Day!


corned beef from scratch in a shallow white bowl.

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4.64 from 11 votes

Corned Beef From Scratch

Skip the packages of corned beef and make  your own from scratch. You just need some space in your fridge and a little patience. Corned Beef From Scratch will ruin you for the store bought stuff.
Author: Lisa Lotts
Course Main Course
Cuisine Irish
Keyword brisket, corned beef, st. patrick's day
Dietary Restrictions Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours 20 minutes
Total Time 3 hours 40 minutes
Servings 6


For The Brine:

  • 2 cups Morton's kosher salt
  • 1 gallon water
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons pickling spice
  • 4 teaspoons pink curing salt (prague powder)
  • 3 cloves garlic minced

For The Corned Beef:

  • 1 5 pound beef brisket
  • 2 tablespoons pickling spice
  • 1 6-inch square piece of cheesecloth
  • 6-inch piece of kitchen string

For Corned Beef and Cabbage:

  • ½ pound small red potatoes
  • 1 head cabbage cut into eighths, vertically through the core
  • 1 large onion peeled and sliced vertically, root to tip in 1/2" strips



  • In a large pot, combine all the ingredients for the brine and simmer until the salt and sugar are dissolved.  Cool to room temperature and refrigerate several hours until cold.


  • Place the brisket in a pot or receptacle large enough to hold both the brine and the meat. (I purchased an industrial restaurant container with a 12 quart capacity -- and it filled it about half way up). Pour the chilled brine over the meat and refrigerate for 5 days.  If the meat isn't completely submerged in the brine, place a plate on top of it to push it into the liquid. Flip the meat every day or so.


  • Remove the brisket from the brine and rinse well under cold running water.  Discard the brining solution.
  • Place the brisket in a large, heavy pot or dutch oven and cover with cool water.  
  • Place the pickling spice in the center of the cheesecloth, bring the ends together in a bundle and secure it tightly with the kitchen string.  Add the pickling spice to the pot.  Bring the pot just to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cover with the lid slightly askew.  Cook for 3 hours or until beef is very tender.
  • Remove the pickling spice bundle from the pot and discard.  Transfer the corned beef to a cutting board and slice thinly to serve.


  • To make the corned beef with cabbage and vegetables -- proceed with cooking the corned beef as described above, but only simmer the meat for 2 hours and 15 minutes -- then add the vegetables to the pot and continue the simmer with the lid tightly secured for an additional 45 minutes or until vegetables are very tender.
  • Remove the pickling spice bundle.  Transfer the corned beef to a cutting board and slice thinly.  Arrange a few slices of meat in a shallow bowl adding potatoes, carrots and a wedge of cabbage.  Spoon the liquid over the beef and vegetables to serve.


YouTube video


Calories: 151kcal | Carbohydrates: 37g | Protein: 3g | Sodium: 1200mg | Potassium: 521mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 23g | Vitamin A: 170IU | Vitamin C: 62.5mg | Calcium: 142mg | Iron: 1.6mg

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Instead of store-bought, make your own corned beef brine. The easy beef brine recipe makes the best corned beef from scratch. Perfect for St. Patrick's Day! #cornedbeeffromscratch #cornedbeefbrine #beefbrinerecipe

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  1. 5 stars
    I did a trial run of this recipe with a 2lb chuck roast and homemade picking spice. It’s impossible to find pickling spice at our local groceries this time of year, but my homemade one was pretty good. I used regular salt (with much deliberation on whether I should) but I used about 1/3 of the proportion as kosher. I brined it for 2 days. The beef was awesome, true to color, texture, and flavor, and I’m making my real St.Patrick’s day corned beef with a bone-in 2.5lb roast. Fingers crossed it’s just as good or better than the first attempt!

    1. That sounds amazing Selena! Good luck and Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

  2. Mark Leonardi says:

    I have an 11lb brisket. How should I adjust the brine recipe. Thanks.

    1. You can double or even triple the brine, but the bigger concern is finding a receptacle large enough to hold the 11 pound brisket and keep it refrigerated. As long as the brisket is submerged in the brine, that’s fine. You may need to cut your brisket in half depending on whether or not it fits in your receptacle.

  3. Howard Green says:

    5 stars
    I used this recipe for brine and spices directions. Started with a 3.7 lb. beef “arm roast” (pretty lousy cut of meat) Carefully boned it and removed all fat to a net weight of 2 lbs. Tied the pieces tightly into a 2″ thick flat piece. Reduced brine contents to match the weight difference between the recipe and my 2 lbs. except pickling salt reduced per instructions found on Amazing Used homemade pickling spices per the same source. Cured 4 days in fridge. Cooked 1 hour in pressure cooker but like a dummy forgot the spice packet. Disaster? Heck NO. The meat was WONDERFUL! I doubt that we’ll ever buy corned beef again. Plan to try it with a rump roast next.

    1. That is fantastic! So glad it turned out well for you! I think brining your own is a game-changer!

  4. 5 stars
    Just finished cooking this, and had to leave a comment. Purchased a large 6 lb brisket on sale-and decided to try this recipe. Already had the curing salt, since I had planned to this a while ago. I usually bake it in the oven, even though the recipe calls for boiling. After 6 1/2 hours, it was done-but still salty. Put them (had to cut in half) in a large pot, and simmered for another hour. Took a lot of the saltiness away, but it’s now just falling apart. That’s fine-less “chewing”. Tender, great flavor. We now have enough to eat, along with another couple of pounds to put in the freezer, for the next time the cravings hit!

    1. I envy you having more in the freezer — it didn’t last that long in our house — of course, you had a bigger brisket!

  5. 5 stars
    I love corned beef. This is such a great recipe. Perfect to feed a crowd, and great to celebrate St. Paddy’s Day. Seriously I would eat this all year long. Great sandwiches with leftovers too.

    1. I haven’t even gotten to the sandwiches… yet…

  6. 5 stars
    I love how easy it is to turn brisket into corned beef!! And I didn’t know curing salt wasn’t just salt!!! As a scientist I should know this!
    Your finished dish looks sensational, I just want to grab a slice of that beef!!!
    Honestly you are making me hungry and it is almost midnight here!!!

    1. Glad you like it, Claire! It’s really a simple process — just takes time — and a large receptacle for the beef and brine.

  7. 5 stars
    This post was a wealth of information Lisa! I learned so much – pink salt = prague powder being chief of them! And the amount of time and love that goes into making corned beef. No wonder people are so possessive of their versions!

    1. Yes Pink Salt = Prague Powder — that one’s important.

  8. 5 stars
    That looks perfect and I love the addition of veggies with it. It would make a great weeknight meal and transition into yummm leftovers 🙂

  9. 5 stars
    This is awesome. I absolutely love corned beef, but am always disappointed that it seems I can get it this time of year. Silly me, I never considered making it from scratch! And this looks so easy! I’m def going to try this!