Corned Beef Brisket

Corned Beef Brisket
Corned Beef Brisket

Brisket is hearty cut of beef. It’s cut from the pectoral muscles of a cow, which are found directly over the front shank and under the large chuck cut at the front of a cow’s chest. The pectorals support up to 60% of a cow’s weight as it moves, so this is meat that is laden with tough collagen that needs to be broken down during cooking. The best way to do this is by low and slow cooking; this versatile and much beloved cut of meat can be oven-braised with onions for holiday fare, brined and smoked for pastrami, or coated in a dry rub and smoked to make down-home Texas barbecue. We opted to brine our brisket for a few days in a spicy pickling mix and then give it a long braise on our stovetop to make Corned Beef, a long-standing springtime favorite.

To give our Corned Beef a spirited flavor, we chose French Spicy Pickling Mix as the primary seasoning mix. This blend is full-bodied and aromatic, fragrant and almost floral with bay leaves, coriander, and cloves, and spiked with white peppercorns and pepper flakes. Is there a kick from the pepper? Yes, a little. Is it really spicy? No. We pair this blend with the sweet, woodsy depth of Vermont Maple Sugar to balance the spice and the amount of salt required to bring this brine to life.

Kosher Salt was our salt of choice here, with an assist from a bit of curing salt, Prague Powder #1. Historically, Corned Beef was made with chunks of rock salt that resembled seeds or grains; the word “corn” is derived from an old Germanic word, kurnam, which meant “small seed”. When you “corned” the meat, you were just adding salt to it. Using large chunks of kernel-sized salt often overbalanced the flavor of a food so it had a heavily salty taste, but we wanted the flavor of our brisket to be enhanced, not overwhelmed. Kosher Salt helps extract moisture from the meat, allowing the flavor of the beefy, seasoned brine to soak in. Prague Powder #1 brings antimicrobial properties to short-term brining projects, and the nitrates in the Prague Powder bonds with hemoglobin in the meat and gives Corned Beef the lush, pink color we’ve come to expect.

The Corned Beef is ready to cook once it’s been fully brined, and for that you just need time. It’s a big, tough piece of meat, so it needs four or five days—four is good, five is better—for the salt to work its magic and the flavor to seep in. Keep it covered and in your refrigerator during the brining process and turn it once, but other than that, leave it alone. When it’s time to make the Corned Beef, remove it from the brining liquid and put it in a large pot. We did not rinse the brisket, but if you feel like you need to, you certainly can do that. Throw away the brining liquid and cover the brisket with fresh water. Turn the heat to medium-low and cover the meat. Let it cook at an active simmer for the next three hours, checking occasionally to add more water if it boils off during cooking. The lower, steady, prolonged heat will break down all the tough collagen and connective tissues in the brisket and turn the meat tender.

Let the Corned Beef rest for 10 minutes so the meat’s inner juices can redistribute, and then slice it against the grain. When you look at a cut of meat you can see the way the muscle fibers run. If you were to cut along the grain—in the same direction as the muscle fibers—you keep those long, ropy fibers intact and make an otherwise tender meat, rubbery. When you cut against the grain you sever the fibers perpendicularly, which lets the meat come apart with each delectable bite.

Serve this with boiled potatoes, cabbage, and carrots for a traditional Corned Beef Brisket dinner. Turn leftovers into corned beef hash, and stock up on grainy mustard and a hearty loaf of bread for unforgettable next-day sandwiches.

 Print Recipe

Prep Time: 45 min.
Cooking Time: 180 min.
Category: Beef, Newest Recipes

1. Combine French Spicy Pickling Mix, Kosher Salt, Vermont Maple Sugar, Prague Powder #1 curing salt, beef broth, and heads of garlic cut in half, and bring to a boil.

2. Adjust heat to low and let the mix of seasonings simmer for 10 minutes. Allow to fully cool. Cold water can be added to speed up the cooling process.

3. While the liquid is cooling, trim excess fat and sinew from the brisket.

4. Put brisket in a large pot or deep tray. Pour in brine so it fully covers the brisket with an extra inch or two of liquid over the top of the meat, adding water if necessary.

5. Cover and refrigerate brisket for 4 to 5 days, turning once half way through.

6. Discard brine. Put brisket in a wide pot; cover with water and cook over medium to low heat for 3 hours or until tender. 

7. Remove corned beef. Allow to rest for 10 minutes, then slice across the grain of the meat to the thickness you desire.