Corned Beef is easier to make at home than you might think. And being able to make it without nitrates is just a bonus.
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.
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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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. Freezing corned beef in its own broth keeps in nice and moist so we can pull it out for our St. Patty's Day feast or a Saturday afternoon Reuben.
Is Nitrate-Free Corned Beef Better than Store Bought?
Absolutely. Being able to adjust your own pickling spice mix is key to a corned beef recipe that is truly your own. But how do nitrates fit into all this?
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.
Fun fact: Sodium nitrate is died 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.
- 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 out 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.
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 blends work too.
How to Make Nitrate-Free Corned Beef
Make the brining liquid. Don't get it too hot, just warm enough to melt the molasses. Cool with ice. 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 to give the liquid a stir.
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. I find 7 days to be the perfect amount.
If at any time it starts to small, something went wrong and you will need to toss it and start over.
Most recipes for corned beef say to two to three hours of roasting time but I find closer to four hours gets me to that perfect stringy texture that we prefer.
I always make a big pot and freeze the leftovers. What do you do with your left over nitrate-free corned beef?
Looking for side dish options to serve with your corned beef? Here are couple of our favorites. Enjoy!
Nitrate- Free Corned Beef
- Large roasting pan
- Stockpot or slow cooker
- 4-5 lb grass-fed beef brisket
- 2 qts filtered water
- 1 c kosher salt
- 1/2 c Molasses
- 6 cloves garlic
- 1/4 recipe pickling spice
- 1/2 c beet or purple sauerkraut juice
- 2 sm onions, quartered or 1 large
- 2 carrots, chunked
- 2 celery stalks, chunked
- 4 tbsp whole black peppercorns
- 4 tbsp whole mustard seed
- 4 tbsp whole coriander seed
- 2 tbsp crushed red pepper
- 4 tbsp whole allspice berries
- 4 sticks cinnamon, broken
- 4 tbsp whole cloves
- 2 tbsp ground ginger
- 8 bay leaves, broken
- 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.