I want to make corned beef, completely from scratch. How do I:

  • Select the cut of beef to corn?
  • Corn that cut?

I'm well aware of how to prepare corned beef after that process, but I'd like to start from scratch.

Is this possible to do at home with basic equipment? If so, how?


5 Answers 5


You are about to enter the wonderful world of Charcuterie, the preserving and curing of meats.

The traditional cut of beef to turned into corned beef (or pastrami, which has a similar preparation) is a well-marbled brisket. I'd imagine that a flank steak or other similar long-and-moist cuts would work out too.

The curing process involves soaking the brisket in a brine of pickling spices (for flavor) and Sodium Nitrite, which will preserve (cure) the meat and provide that wonderful pink color. You'll have to plan ahead, as the process takes about five days. I've used the recipe detailed in this forum post with fantastic results before. I think that it comes from this book, which you might think of picking up if you have future dreams of sausage, pastrami, and other feats of meat.


Ooh. I've just done this recently. It's really easy, and very tasty. Basically, you rub salt and spices on a 4 pound or so brisket, and leave it in your fridge in a ziplock for a week. You don't need the saltpeter/nitrate; that just makes it pink.

After that, you boil it in water for a couple of hours, and it's corned beef!

I used the Cook's Illustrated recipe - but I found a version of it online for free:



  • 4
    It's a little bit hasty to say 'you don't need the nitrate' without having some a good idea of when botulism risks set in. I don't have a good idea, so I can't comment here, but I think anyone brining their own meat which will then be left in the fridge for some time should be encouraged to read up on it.
    – Peter V
    Jul 21, 2010 at 17:03
  • 1
    The purpose of using sodium nitrite is not to color the meat, it is to inhibit the growth of bacteria. You do need it to properly cure the meat. Feb 17, 2011 at 19:54

No, you do not need sodium nitrite, "pink salt," or saltpeter. Yes, their primary purpose is not preservation, but to prevent the meat from changing color. Yes, they do also inhibit bacterial growth, but that is also the purpose of the salt, so if you use enough salt, you don't need them. Look up recipes to make sure you're using enough salt. Of course, there's nothing wrong with using the nitrite, if you'd rather get cancer than have to eat gray meat.


I would not use Saltpeter. If you want to use a preservative other than salt use Nitrates. The usage of Saltpeter in charcuterie has largely been made obsolete.

Sodium Nitrate is the compound in found in Saltpeter than gives it it's preservative qualities. So there is no need to use Saltpeter.

That being said Sodium Nitrates although not necessary do add a wonderful smokey flavour and add a wonderful pink hue to your meat. It definitely has some purpose in a brine but yes it is not necessary.

Remember to use at least 8 percent salt solution in your brine. Although I tend to use a 10 percent salt solution to be safe. That means 100 grams of salt for every liter of brine.

Although kosher salts are the norm for charcuterie I have found when brining that a finer salt works better and is easier to dissolve in the liquid.

Don't bother with adding any other spices to the brine. It is unlikely to impart any noticeable flavour.

Brine 3 - 5 days, Smoke and cook very slowly until the meat is tender and delicious.


Well, you need a brisket. Then you need a set of pickling spices. Then you need a safe procedure for corning, which is essentially pickling.

Looks like basic materials are salt and saltpeter, and you can bag it up and stick it in the fridge for three weeks.

I've not done this, I just did a bit of googling for you.

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