How to Brine Beef

Let authors Dick and James Strawbridge show you how easy it is to brine beef.

Spice Bag

2. Bash the spice bag with the blunt edge of a knife or a rolling pin to release the flavors. Peel the garlic cloves.

Photo by Nick Pope

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Curing and Smoking (Firefly Books, 2012), by Dick and James Strawbridge, offers encouragement and practical instruction on how to transform fresh meats, fish, seafood and even eggs and cheese into flavorful treats. The authors show you all the key methods and give you ideas on making your own creations with your homemade products as the star. The following excerpt from “Brined Beef” teaches you how to brine beef.

You can purchase this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: Curing and Smoking.

Beef that has been cured in brine is known as salt beef, and when salt beef is cooked it is called corned beef. Beef brisket is the ideal beef cut to use — it is fatty and full of connective tissue, which makes it incredibly moist when cooked. It’s very similar to pork belly, but much cheaper. Nowadays beef is becoming more and more popular for curing, with specialties like corned beef and pastrami both making a comeback. The excellent thing about brining beef is that it’s one of the easiest methods to do.

​A Flavored Brine for Beef

For 2 pounds beef brisket
• 1 gallon water
• 14 ounces salt (about 1-2/3 cups)
• 7 ounces sugar (about 1 cup)
• 2 bay leaves
• 1 ounce spice bag, containing equal parts allspice, juniper, mustard, coriander, dried chilies, fresh ginger and whole cloves
• 3 garlic cloves

Preparing the Brine

First make your brine. There are two different ways of adding flavorings to the brine. The first option is to put all the brine ingredients except for the salt in a large pan and bring it to a boil. Then add the salt and stir until it dissolves. Skim any scum off the surface and allow the brine to cool. Once cooled, the brine is ready to use. The aromatics can be strained out or left until the end of curing, depending on how spiced you would like the meat.

Alternatively, take all your aromatic spices and place them in a circle of cheesecloth. Gather the cheesecloth together to form a bag and secure with a little piece of string. Bash the bag with the blunt edge of a knife or a rolling pin to release the flavors. The spice bag can then be added to the cooled brine, along with the garlic cloves, or boiled in the brine prior to cooling.

Curing Your Brisket

You will need a brining container with a lid or a large, heavy-duty freezer bag. The container should be the same dimensions as the piece of meat you are curing.

Pour the brine into your container and add the brisket, making sure that the meat is immersed. Put a lid on the container and refrigerate for one week, turning the meat daily. You may now either continue the cooking process outlined below, or you may take a different route and Make Your Own Pastrami.

Cooking Your Brisket

After 7-10 days, remove the brisket from the brine, rinse it briefly and pat dry with paper towels. Place it in a large pan and cover with fresh water, adding a chopped carrot, an onion and celery stalk. Simmer for 3-4 hours, until you can easily run a sharp knife or skewer into the meat.

More from Curing and Smoking:

Getting Started with Smoked Foods
Making Your Own Pastrami
Preserve Your Food with Cold Smoking


Used with permission from Curing and Smoking: Made at Home, by Dick and James Strawbridge, Firefly Books 2012. Buy this book from our store: Curing and Smoking.