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Making Corned Beef and Pastrami

Finished Corned Beef
This photo-tutorial will attempt to break down the basics of brining a beef brisket for Corned Beef, as well as, turning the finished product into a delicious Pastrami. Corned beef is of course not made from corn and it doesn't contain corn... It is called "Corned" beef because of the size of the salt that is traditionally used in curing the brisket. We won't be needing large, corn-sized salt to rub the Beef down with because we are using a water-salt-nitrite solution (also called a "brine" or "pickle") that we will submerge the beef in for several days to properly cure. The final product will taste absolutely amazing and you will have plenty supply for everyone in your "inner sharing circle". This recipe and tutorial will make it very easy to make your own, with minimal products. Since corned beef is only two easy steps away from being Pastrami, we will include an update on turning your corned beef into Pastrami in the following week or two.

10 Lbs. Corned Beef
10Lb. Beef Brisket
Pastrami Kit (Kit Contains: Brine Mix w/Cure & Pickling Spice)
5 Gal. Brining Bucket or Food Grade Container
Meat Pump with Needle

Corned Beef Supplies with Brisket Corned Beef Supplies

Clearly the Brisket is covered in fat. We are going to want to remove as much surface fat as possible. For us there was approximately 2 full pounds of pure beef-fat on the brisket, a lot, but not unusual for this cut.


Items used for Corned Beef, clockwise from top: A food scale, Pastrami Kit (contents are Brine Mixture with Cure and Pickling Spice), Brine Mix with Cure, Meat Pump and Pickling Spice... Add Rubbing Spices (Cracked Pepper, Coriander, Paprika) for Pastrami [Update Coming Soon]. Not Shown but Needed: 5 Gal. Brining Bucket

Buy the Brisket
The Brisket will be brining for 3-5 days so buy your meat from a deli or butcher shop with fast turn-over and good reputation for quality fresh cuts. Order a whole 12lb. Beef Brisket or a 10Lb. Trimmed Brisket. While brisket is the preferred cut, you can use a trimmed beef round as a substitute in a pinch.

Trim the Brisket
Trim the brisket with a sharp knife, the white-bladed knife we have featured in the picture below is an extra sharp Ceramic Jaccard Knife. Remove as much of the surface fat as you can, the brisket muscle already has good marbling and the dense surface fat will only prevent proper curing and flavor development.

Weigh the Brisket
After the fat has been cut away and tossed, there is sure to be a loss of weight. We lost approximately 2 pounds from the total by cutting out the surface fat and ended up with 2 large 5 pound pieces.

Trimming the Brisket
Trimming the Brisket
Cutting the seriously thick surface fat. The brisket will have fat on both sides.
A general rule-of-thumb... If you don't want to eat it later, cut it away. Thin surface fat is not a concern but, thick pieces such as this should be discarded.
Muscle and Fat Separated
Weighing the Beef
Thick pieces of fat cut (soon to be tossed) and the trimmed brisket muscles are now ready for pumping and soaking!
A nice 5 Lb. Chunk of Brisket Muscle! You will need to know how much each piece weighs to pump the correct amount of Brine...

Make the Brine
The Pastrami Kit (used for both Corned Beef and Pastrami) contains all you need to make the brine..one pound of seasoning that is already mixed with Cure #1 to the correct proportion, and 1/4 Cup of Pickling Spice. Fill your 5 Gallon Brining Bucket or same capacity equivalent food safe container with 2 Gallons of cold water mixed with approximately 2 cups of ice cubes. Empty the contents of both the Corned Beef Seasoning w/Cure and the Pickling Spice into the water. Mix well until the ingredients are thoroughly dispersed, we now have a BRINE!

Pump the Brisket
Now, you have to pump 10% of each muscle's weight in Brine... for example: One solid piece of muscle that we have trimmed and ready weighs 4 lbs... Multiply the amount in pounds by 16 to get the number of ounces.. 4 x 16 = 64 ozs. Now you need to find 10% of this amount, the easiest way is the move the decimal place to the left once, giving us 6.4 ozs. So we need to pump 6.4 ounces into the 4 pound piece of brisket. Since our meat pump's capacity is 4 oz, we are going to give that particular piece of beef about 2 full pumps of the brine (there is always some leakage / loss, so pump a little more to be sure). Remember to pump the thickest and most dense parts of a muscle particularly well to ensure thorough curing. Do not bother pumping into muscle that is less than 1/2" thick, it will cure effectively by simply soaking in the brine.

Mixing Brine Thoroughly
Injecting Brine in Muscle
The ingredients are added to the cold water and mixed for several minutes in changing directions. It is especially important to mix also in an upward/downward motion to prevent ingredients from settling on the bottom.
Filling the meat pump with the brine. The white "foamy" appearance of the brine was created while mixing... after a few minutes it will return to a cloudy appearance (as shown below).
Pumping Brisket
Brisket placed in Brine

Pumping the brisket with brine.

After the brisket is pumped with 10% of the brine. It is placed in the bucket / container of the remaining brine, where it will stay from 3 to 5 days, curing and soaking in the ingredients.

Cure the Brisket
The briskets have now been pumped with the appropriate amount of brine and they need time to absorb both the Cure that is in the brine along with the flavorful ingredients. You will notice that even with the fat trimmed, the briskets will have one side that is particularly fleshy and another that has a smooth glaze-like 'skin'... if there is limited space in the container and you have to stack the pieces one on top of the other; stack flesh-side to flesh-side then skin-side to skin-side (not vitally important but, helps with brine absorption). The briskets should stay in the brine for 3 to 5 days. Especially thick pieces of brisket (over 1") should stay from 4 to the full 5 days. Keep the curing briskets covered and in a cooler or refrigerator (33 - 40F).

Cook the Corned Beef
After removing the briskets, wash them of the loose ingredients in cold water. Congratulations! The briskets are now CORNED BEEF. Heat them to cooked (145F to 152F) in a simmering pot with peeled potatoes, carrots and quartered cabbage. Since the cuts of beef are typically pretty thick, they take approximately 3 hours to fully cook but, times will vary so use an accurate meat thermometer. Also, do NOT boil. The regular water (Brine is no longer useful, it is NOT reusable) you are cooking the beef in can be brought to a boil momentarily but should be immediately taken down to a simmer. The corned beef we made was absolutely delicious! We cut the corned beef across the grain which almost made it fall to pieces but, it also makes it literally crumble to pieces in your mouth. We hope this tutorial was helpful in piquing your curiousity towards making this delectable cured meat at home!

Cooking the Corned Beef
Cooking Corned Beef
In the pot of tap water, setting to boil before letting simmer for about 3 hours.
The lovely traditional inclusion of carrots, cabbage and potatoes! Notice the beef is turning a wonderful pinkish color, typical of any meat that has been Cured.
Finished Corned Beef
Corned Beef Finished

If you have any questions on the products featured or on making corned beef, don't hesitate to email me, my address is provided below. There is soon to be an update on transforming your Corned Beef into a delicious Pastrami!! Til then, Happy St. Patrick's Day and have a wonderful Easter!!!

For a Classic Reuben Sandwich: Slice the corned beef to your desired thickness. Heat up the corned beef on a pan (very lightly oiled or not at all), melt some Swiss cheese on top of the beef while its on the pan. When the cheese is melted and the corned beef warmed up, place it on a piece of Rye bread... Top with Thousand Island dressing and sauerkraut, and close with more Rye bread. Enjoy!!

Example of a mouth-watering Reuben Sandwich from the famous Katz's Delicatessen
Reuben Sandwich from Katz's

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