Curing meats such as bacon, ham, or pastrami is fun and the results are often better than store bought. But curing is very different from any other recipe because you are using a preservative, sodium nitrite. You must read and thoroughly understand my article on the Science Of Curing Meats before attempting to cure meat or before you ask any questions regarding this corned beef brisket recipe.
Your first question has to be “Why bother?” And the answer is simple: Our homemade corned beef brisket recipe is better than anything you could ever pick up at your local grocery store.
Why? The commercial stuff, especially the cheap stuff mass marketed for St. Patrick’s Day for Irish wannabes, is usually made by taking shortcuts that result in odd flavors and gelatinous textures.
The homemade stuff from this corned beef recipe can also be cheaper. And it’s easy. And you can customize it. Once you’ve had the real deal, you can’t go back. It just takes time. So start now.
Corned beef has no corn. OK, maybe the steer ate some corn, but no corn is harmed in the process of corning beef. Actually, to be precise, corn was the old British name for grain before corn on the cob was discovered in North America and usurped the name. “A corn of salt” was as common an expression as a “grain of salt” is today. So corned beef is really just another name for salted beef.
Corned beef was a World War II staple among civilians in Great Britain and among the troops in Europe because fresh meats were hard to come by. It came in a can. Sliced corned beef is especially popular in Jewish delicatessens where it is a sandwich staple, but you can make it even better with our corned beef recipe!
So corning has become another name for curing or pickling. Yes, we are pickling the meat in this corned beef brisket recipe. These are ancient processes invented for preserving meat by packing it in salt or soaking it in a concentrated brine, long before refrigerators. In recent years, curing is also done by injecting meat with salt. The process was probably discovered when some ancient hunter speared a deer and it fell into the ocean and washed ashore a couple of weeks later. Surprisingly instead of bloating and turning foul, the meat had been preserved, and tasted pretty good.
A vital part of the process for this corned beef recipe is your selection of the meat. Corned beef is usually a section of the brisket. It is sometimes made from navel, but that cut is so fatty and sinewy that I cannot recommend it. The waste is great and the and eating experience is inferior. I have seen other muscles used, but not very often. Brisket is cut from the pectoral muscles, a pair of thick muscles from the steer’s chest, and a whole “packer” brisket is a large hunk of meat made of two muscles and can weight 12 to 18 pounds. It can be bought whole, but is usually cut near the middle and sold as flat or point.
These are heavily worked muscles and are tough cuts. Making them into corned beef is a great way to tenderize and flavorize this otherwise lesser cuts, and a great way to preserve meat in the days before refrigeration. Do it!
Since this corned beef recipe uses beef brisket, which is thicker at one end than the other, we recommend you separate the two muscles, the point and the flat, if they are not already separated when you buy the meat. This will leave you with slabs no thicker than 3-inches and will speed the curing time and insure that the cure penetrates all the way to the center. While you’re at it, remove the copious amounts of fat from between the two muscles. It does nothing to enhance flavor, in fact, it tastes yucky, and it impedes movement of the cure.
Now before you get started, note that this page is only about making raw corned beef. The next step is cooking it. Options include traditional corned beef and cabbage boiled dinner, corned beef hash, or even a Reuben sandwiches. If you want, you can add a barbecue touch with two extra steps, smoking it and steaming it to turn it into incredible pastrami.
Serve with: Guinness.
Published On: 2/11/2014 Last Modified: 4/20/2021