How to Cook Corned Beef Brisket

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cooking corned beef brisket
Photo by Luis Santoyo on Unsplash

It’s a classic entree to serve on St. Patrick’s Day. Yet you can serve corned beef brisket any time of year to enjoy its brined flavor and tender texture. It’s an easy beef meal to make in the oven, slow cooker, or on the stovetop. There’s no need for special equipment to make brisket into a flavorful Irish American-style corned beef, only patience and a Dutch oven or large stock pot. The name is derived from the fact that large kernels of salt used for brining were known as corn in England and using them on meat is still called corning. Learn the tricks for using all sorts of cooking methods to make corned beef and you’ll always be ready to celebrate with it.

What Is Corned Beef Brisket?


If you’re dreaming of loaded Reuben sandwiches or a plate piled with corned beef surrounded by potatoes and carrots, you’re off to the right start. You’ll need a piece of trimmed beef brisket to begin. When this brisket is brined in a salty solution and then cooked in liquid with plenty of strong seasonings added, it’s known as corned beef. Starting with a corned beef brisket wrapped in plastic and soaking in brine speeds up the process. But you can also use our instructions below to brine your own plain piece of brisket so you’re not limited to what you can find already packaged.

What to Know When Buying Corned Beef Brisket

It’s rare to use an entire brisket for this recipe because most people just don’t want nearly 20 pounds of corned beef at once. When choosing half of a brisket, look for the flat end for this method of cooking. It’s less fatty than the point cut, which works better when cooking in liquid. Almost all the pre-packaged corned beef you’ll find uses a trimmed flat cut of brisket. Pick a brisket with a deep red color and a uniform shape so the meat cooks evenly. You’ll get less control over meat quality and brine strength by picking a pre-brined product, so consider buying a plain brisket and brine it yourself around 3 to 5 days before the date you plan to serve it. It’s a much longer process than the wet brining you might use on a cut like a T-bone steak.

Different Methods of Cooking

There are lots of options for cooking corned beef brisket. The most traditional involves simmering or braising the brisket in plenty of liquid. You can also put a flavorful twist on the dish by grilling or smoking it instead, much like you would cook a set of baby back ribs. Choose the right way to cook beef brisket after curing based on the texture and flavor you want in the finished product.

Cooking Corned Beef Brisket on the Stove Top

For the most basic corned beef brisket recipe, try setting a large pot on the stove and using a tight-fitting lid to keep the moisture in while it’s cooking. A Dutch oven also works well for this cooking method. You’ll want to add enough water and a splash of apple cider vinegar to cover the brisket, then bring the water to a rolling boil before reducing it to simmering. Cooking the meat for about 45 minutes per pound will result in tender meat that won’t fall apart when you try to slice it.

Cooking Corned Beef Brisket in the Oven

If you have a cast iron Dutch oven that holds heat well, consider using your oven to cook your corned beef brisket without taking up space on the stovetop. You’ll bake the meat for about one hour per pound this way. As with the stovetop cooking method, you’ll need to surround the meat with water to keep it moist as it cooks. For a slightly firmer and crispier corned beef brisket, try rinsing the meat off, rubbing it with mustard and pickling spice, and wrapping it in aluminum foil before roasting it.

Cooking Corned Beef Brisket on the Grill

The grill transforms traditional soft corned beef into a smoky brisket that is much firmer while still remaining flavorful and juicy. Smoking this brined meat actually makes it a form of pastrami, which makes it even more appealing for turning into sandwiches or topping with horseradish sauce. Use a grill temperature of around 275 degrees F and push all the coals to one side if using a charcoal grill to make a cool area. Cook it uncovered until it reaches 170 degrees F, then wrap it in aluminum foil or butcher paper and return it to the grill until it’s at least 205 degrees F inside.

Cooking Corned Beef Brisket in Smoker

Smoking corned beef to make pastrami takes almost the same process as using a grill. You’ll want a smoker temperature of around 250 degrees F and plenty of moisture in the water pan. As with the grilling method, cook it most of the way without any covering and then wrap it in foil or paper for the final stage of cooking. This prevents drying out and reduces the risk of overcooking. Try a milder flavored wood like Apple or White Oak.

Cooking Corned Beef in a Crock Pot/Slow Cooker

If you prefer to shred your corned beef to pair it with cabbage and potatoes, try your slow cooker or crock pot instead. Rinse the brisket off and place it in the slow cooker, then fill it with water and a splash of apple cider vinegar. Add the extra pickling spices if you desire. Let the meat cook on medium heat for 6 to 8 hours.

Cooking Corned Beef in an Instant Pot

For the quickest corned beef brisket, turn to the pressure of the Instant Pot. 2-pound briskets can take as little as 90 minutes to reach a tender and juicy doneness, while larger briskets will take between 2 and 3 hours on average. Try adding quartered onions under the brisket and a salt-free beef broth to increase the flavor of the corned beef. Seal the pot and run on high-pressure cook mode for 90 minutes. Use the quick-release method to check the beef, returning to a high-pressure cook if it’s not at 205 degrees F yet.

Corned Beef Brisket Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 half-sized brisket, preferably the flat-end cut
  • 1 gallon of water
  • 2 cups of Kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons of pickling spices
  • ½ cup of brown sugar
  • 5 teaspoons of pink curing salt (optional for extra pink color and more traditional flavor)
  • 3 tablespoons of additional pickling spices (optional)

Instructions

1. To brine your own corned beef: Purchase a half brisket, preferably the flat cut. Trim off any excess outer fat. Mix the 1 gallon of water with the 2 cups of Kosher salt, the first 3 tablespoons of pickling spices, and ½ cup of brown sugar. Dissolve the pink curing salt in the brine as well if desired. Place the brisket in a plastic or glass-lidded container and cover it with the brine. Store in the refrigerator for 5 to 7 days, flipping daily if it’s not completely submerged.

2. Remove the brisket from the brine or start with a brined brisket. Put a large and heavy-bottom stock pot or Dutch oven on your stovetop.

3. Rinse the brisket to reduce its saltiness or leave it covered in residual brine for a saltier flavor. Add the last three tablespoons of pickling spices to the pot if desired. Place the brisket into the pot or Dutch oven, then add enough water to cover the meat.

4. Bring the water to a rolling boil. Reduce the heat so the water is just simmering, then cover the pot and cook for about 45 minutes per pound. Test the meat’s internal temperature and remove it when it reaches 205 degrees F. Let it rest for about 10 minutes before slicing or shredding.

Notes

Pink curing salt includes sodium nitrate, which helps preserve the meat and gives it a more intense pink color. It’s optional, but for the same flavor as pre-packaged corned beef brisket, you’ll want to use it.

Conclusion

Choose the right sides for your corned beef brisket recipe to bring out its depth of flavor. Vegetables like carrots, baby potatoes, onions, and cabbage are classic choices. Another option is using slices of meat on sandwiches like the Reuben, complete with sauerkraut. No matter how you serve your corned beef, you’re sure to enjoy the unique texture and flavor of this cured meat recipe.

bbq cooked corned beef brisket sliced and ready to eat

Corned Beef Brisket

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Course Main Course

Ingredients
  

  • 1 1/2 sized brisket, preferably the flat-end cut
  • 1 gallon water
  • 2 cups kosher salt
  • 3 tbsp pickling spices
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 5 tsp pink curing salt (optional for extra pink color and more traditional flavor)
  • 3 tbsp additional pickling spices (optional)

Instructions
 

  • To brine your own corned beef: Purchase a half brisket, preferably the flat cut. Trim off any excess outer fat. Mix the 1 gallon of water with the 2 cups of Kosher salt, the first 3 tablespoons of pickling spices, and ½ cup of brown sugar. Dissolve the pink curing salt in the brine as well if desired. Place the brisket in a plastic or glass-lidded container and cover it with the brine. Store in the refrigerator for 5 to 7 days, flipping daily if it’s not completely submerged
  • Remove the brisket from the brine or start with a brined brisket. Put a large and heavy-bottom stock pot or Dutch oven on your stovetop
  • Rinse the brisket to reduce its saltiness or leave it covered in residual brine for a saltier flavor. Add the last three tablespoons of pickling spices to the pot if desired. Place the brisket into the pot or Dutch oven, then add enough water to cover the meat
  • Bring the water to a rolling boil. Reduce the heat so the water is just simmering, then cover the pot and cook for about 45 minutes per pound. Test the meat’s internal temperature and remove it when it reaches 205 degrees F. Let it rest for about 10 minutes before slicing or shredding

Notes

Pink curing salt includes sodium nitrate, which helps preserve the meat and gives it a more intense pink color. It’s optional, but for the same flavor as pre-packaged corned beef brisket, you’ll want to use it.
*Photo by Luis Santoyo on Unsplash
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