Ellen Pease is the newest contributor to GrillGrrrl.com. She is an old friend I’m so happy to have reconnected with — we were camp counselors together in Rocky Mountain National Park back in our 20s! My how time flies. Now Ellen co-owns a sassy gourmet crepe food truck in the Denver area called CKrepes with her fiancé. Learn all about Ellen on the contributors page. Without further ado, Ellen shares her corned beef brisket recipe in time for St. Patrick’s day!
I love making just about everything that requires some aging— meat, kombucha, pickles, and more. Probably because making them is much easier than you think. All you do is let it sit around, then you’re surprised a week later with something amazing.
Many countries have used variations of salt curing meat over the past few thousand years, but I always think of it as an Irish dish. Hence why corned beef is so popular for St. Patrick’s Day! It’s made by using a combination of pickling spices and “corns” or grains of salt to preserve the beef. Curing beef can be broken down into three simple steps:
1. Making the brine.
2. Aging period.
Mixing the spice
When making the brine, you will need to decide if you want to make your own pickling spice or purchase a store bought mix. Both are good options.
There are some very good premixed blends out there that save a lot of time. My favorite is Penzey’s Spice Company’s Pickling Spice. For this recipe, I recommend purchasing the 4-ounce bag.
The great thing about making your own pickling spice is that you can get something that is unique to you and your tastes — just like barbeque rubs. I like to use more red pepper and mustard seeds and less cinnamon than traditional blends.
Pickling spice is also just great to have around for all kinds of things because it goes well with both sweet and vinegary sauces. I most commonly use it as the spice when pickling or canning onions, green beans, asparagus and beets.
Making the brine
Next, you will make the brine and prepare the beef brisket. There are a few specialty ingredients that you will want to acquire for the best tasting and looking corned beef: canning salt and pink curing salt.
Choose your base salt. I prefer pickling salt for curing because it is pure sodium chloride and dissolves better in brines, but Kosher salt is a good alternative. If you end up using this brine for pickles, then you will want to use the canning salt because other salts cause cloudiness or discoloring.
Pink curing salt is sodium nitrite and is also called Prague Powder #1 or DQ Curing Salt #1. It makes the beef that bright pink color and adds a bit of flavor. It is not totally needed if you cannot find it, but your beef will turn out a dull brownish color if you do not use it. I have only found it online and use the Prague Powder No. 1 Pink Curing Salt from The Great American Spice Company.
For the aging process, you will want to ensure the beef is completely covered by the brine. The best way to do this is by using plastic Ziploc freezer bags and squeezing out all the air before sealing it. It is good to store the bags in a shallow pan in the refrigerator in case there is a leak. You should rotate the bags every couple days to ensure even curing and to make sure no air has gotten inside.
Finally after a week of curing, your brisket is ready to cook!
I prefer the slow cooker, but you can cook on the stovetop in a large pot, too. I have also ambitiously cooked this in a cast iron Dutch oven when camping. Line the Dutch oven with foil, then use the same cooking process with coals underneath the Dutch oven to keep it simmering. Just keep rotating to maintain consistent temperature.
The corned beef is a versatile protein. It makes a great hash with pan fried potatoes and onions, which is how we serve it on the food truck. Or stack it high on rye bread with sauerkraut and thousand island dressing to make a killer Reuben sandwich.
I also like to reuse the remaining juices in the slow cooker for veggies. Just cut a head of cabbage in quarters with a couple carrots sliced up and put them in the slow cooker for 30 to 45 minutes for a tasty side dish. The perfect St. Patrick’s Day dish is corned beef and cabbage.
- 2 tbsp. red pepper flakes
- 1 tbsp. whole brown mustard seeds
- 1 tbsp. whole yellow mustard seeds
- 1 tbsp. whole allspice berries
- 1 tbsp. dill seeds
- 1 tbsp. whole cloves
- 1 tbsp. whole black peppercorns
- 1 tbsp. coriander seeds
- 9 whole cardamom pods
- 2 large star anise pods
- 1 tsp. whole juniper berries
- 1 tsp. mace blades
- 2 tsp. dried ginger (I use whole dried ginger and roughly grind)
- 1 stick cinnamon, crushed
- 8 large bay leaves, crumbled
- 1 gal ice cold water, divided
- 1¾ cup pickling salt (change quantity to 2 cups if using Kosher salt)
- 5 tsp. pink curing salt
- 3 tbsp. pickling spices
- 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 1 8 to 10 lb. beef brisket, the leanest available, not trimmed
- 1 tbsp. pickling spices
- 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
- 2– to 3-gallon size Ziploc freezer baggies
- Lightly toast everything (excluding the ginger, cinnamon & bay leaves) in a skillet over medium high to high heat in a skillet until the mixture becomes fragrant and the mustard seeds start to pop; only 3 minutes or so. Toasting adds a depth to the flavor, but is not necessary.
- Place spices in a mortar, let cool then roughly crush with pestle.
- Transfer to a bowl and add the ginger, cinnamon and bay leaves
- Combine ½ gallon of water and everything else in a large pot.
- Cover and bring to a boil for about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally to dissolve all the salts.
- Remove from heat and let cool for about 15 minutes.
- Add the second ½ gallon of cold water, then refrigerate until chilled (below 50 degrees is fine). I like to just add just ice instead of the cold water in order to chill it quickly and skip the refrigeration part.
- Cut meat into large pieces and place in bags.
- Pierce the brisket all over with a fork
- Fill bags with the brine.
- Squeeze out all of the air out of the bags, then seal.
- Store the bags inside the refrigerator for 5 to 7 days.
- Rinse the meat well under cold running water, discard the brine.
- Place brisket in a slow cooker and cover with 1 inch of water. If cooking on a stovetop, cover, bring pot to a boil, then reduce to simmer and cook for about 4 hours or until tender.
- Add 1 tbsp. pickling spice and 1 tsp. red pepper flakes.
- Cover and cook on low for 8 hours or until tender.
- Remove from slow cooker.
- Scrape off and discard the fat.
- Thinly slice against the grain for serving.
- Fill you belly with meaty deliciousness!
The corned beef keeps well in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks and in the freezer for 2 to 3 months — but I’ll bet you eat it all in a couple days!
Did you enjoy this recipe for corned beef? Try these other delicious ideas!