Homemade Corned Beef Brisket is easier to make at home than you might think. And being able to make it without nitrates is just a bonus. Our nitrate-free corned beef recipe cures at home in about a week using everyday ingredients you probably already have on hand.
Please read the entire post for tips and tricks to ensure a perfect recipe every time. And don't forget to tag @peelwithzeal on Instagram so we can admire your creation!
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Mr. Peel and his family take a lot of pride in being Irish-Americans. It is no surprise that any Irish dish would be a Mr. Peel favorite. But none more than this Nitrate-Free Corned Beef, 100% from scratch.
It takes just a few minutes of prep and 7 days in the fridge. Plenty of time before St. Patrick’s Day to try your own from-scratch corned beef! We already made this nitrate-free corned beef and froze it.
💭 Common Questions About Corned Beef
The ‘corned’ in corned beef means pickled or cured. The origin of the term ‘corned’ comes from the process of curing meat with salt using large crystal salt, also referred to as ‘corns’ of salt.
There is much debate regarding the harmfulness of nitrates and nitrites. They naturally occur in many vegetables but are also required for preserving meat in an industrial setting. But there are concerns they can lead to cancer if you frequently eat processed meats.
Luckily, there is no need to use them in a home kitchen except to achieve that very pink color. Sodium nitrate is dyed pink to distinguish it from regular salt. We can get a soft pink color into the beef naturally by adding beet juice. Not as bright but certainly as tasty.
To learn more about nitrates and nitrites, this article from Dr. Axe breaks it down in an easy to understand format.
For best results cure and cook your corned beef. Then place in a large freezer bag or plastics container with the broth.
Freezing corned beef in its own broth keeps it nice and moist so we can pull it out for our St. Patty's Day feast or a Saturday afternoon Reuben.
Yes and no. When the Brits came to Ireland they brought their love of beef. In Ireland, cattle were used for producing milk and plowing fields. They weren't often used for meat consumption.
The Smithsonian magazine has an interesting article about the winding path corned beef took from 16th century Ireland to today's American table.
Corned beef from scratch will cure in 7 to 10 days.
Corned beef is typically made with a brisket cut. A brisket is a cut of meat from the breast or lower chest of the cattle.
- Beef Brisket- If you can find it, I prefer a grass beef brisket.
- Pickling Spice- You can use any spice you want but we have provided our homemade mix on the recipe card.
- Kosher Salt
- Molasses- Old fashion skip the blackstrap for this recipe.
- Fresh Garlic
- Beet Juice or Purple Sauerkraut Juice- Optional, but it does provide that classic pink corned beef look.
- Onions, Carrots, Celery- The trinity of stewing veggies.
- Water- Typically corned beef is cooked without beer but for a fun twist add your favorite ale.
I never make the same pickling spice twice. This is my basic go-to blend. But inevitably I am out of something or have extra of another. It always comes out just fine. The cinnamon is where I think most people differ in opinion. I think this recipe is a little high in cinnamon so definitely pull back if that isn’t your thing. Store-bought pickling spice blends work too.
⏲️How to Cure and Cook Corned Beef
This recipe has two steps. First, we are going to brine the meet. This brining process is what cures the beef. After waiting about a week, the beef will be ready for cooking.
How to Brine Corned Beef
To make the brining liquid we are going to heat the water. Don't get it too hot, just warm enough to melt the molasses. Cool with ice and add the pickling spice.
Trim the excess fat from your brisket and place the brisket in a large roasting pan. Cover with the brine.
After placing the brisket in the brine, it is critical to check on it daily and to ensure the beef is completely submerged, and give the liquid a stir. If the beef isn't submerged you can place a sauce on top and weigh it down with a can.
The meat can sit in the brine anywhere from 3 to 10 days, so the recipe can adjust to your schedule. I find a week is just about right.
If at any time it starts to smell, something went wrong and you will need to toss it and start over.
How to Cook Corned Beef
Most recipes for corned beef say two to three hours of roasting time. Two hours will get you sliceable brisket. Cooking it up to four hours gets you that perfect stringy texture.
I cook my corned beef with carrots, celery, and onions. Cooking with cabbage is optional. When serving with our dairy-free colcannon or when making corned beef for homemade Rubens I opt not to use cabbage.
🥗Recommended Side Dishes
Looking for side dish options to serve with your corned beef? Here are a couple of our favorites. Enjoy!
Nitrate- Free Corned Beef
- 4-5 lb grass-fed beef brisket
- 2 qts filtered water
- 1 c kosher salt
- ½ c Molasses
- 6 cloves garlic
- ¼ recipe pickling spice
- ½ c beet or purple sauerkraut juice
- 2 sm onions, quartered or 1 large
- 2 carrots, chunked
- 2 celery stalks, chunked
- Place water, salt, molasses, garlic and pickling spice into pot on low heat. Stir until salt and molasses completely dissolve. Remove from heat and add 2-4 cups of ice to cool liquid. Should be chilled. Stir in beet juice.
- Add brisket. Meat should be totally submerged. Place saucer or plate to hold meat down if necessary. Cover and place in fridge for 5 to 10 days, ideally 7 days. Check daily to ensure beef is staying submerged and to stir brine.
- When ready to cook, remove beef and discard liquid. Trim off any excess fat.
Slow Cooker Method
- Place the brisket into a large slow cooker, add the onion, carrot and celery and cover with water by 1-inch (about 2 quarts). Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.
Stove Top Method
- Place brisket into large pot, cut into pieces if needed. add the onion, carrot and celery and cover with water by 1-inch (about 2 quarts). Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Partially cover and cook 3 to 4 hours until fork tender.
- Leftover corned beef can be stored for up to 5 days covered in the fridge.
- To freeze, place corned beef in its juices in a freezer bag. Store for up to 3 months.