Brine for Pastrami or Corned Beef From Brisket
- 1 gallon water
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup salt
- 4 teaspoons #1 pink curing salt
- 5 tablespoons pickling spices
- 4 cloves garlic smashed or pressed
- Combine all ingredients in a pot and bring to a boil.
- Let cool completely before adding to meat.
- Let brisket brine in mixture for 2-3 weeks before cooking.
- Some recipes call for changing the brine every week. I'll leave that up to you.
Want to talk about unique? How about a brine that turns your ordinary brisket into corned beef or pastrami?
This is so cool I can’t even deal with it. Take the brine ingredients pictured above (and listed in recipe box), boil them together, then let that cool to room temperature.
Pour the mix into a large container or bag, and add your beef brisket.
And in just three short weeks, your brisket will be brined into a pastrami and ready for smoking.
Yep. Three. Weeks. But believe me when I say it’s worth it. SO worth it.
Curing Salts For Corned Beef and Pastrami
The real magic in this brine is performed by the nitrites that are present in the #1 Pink Curing Salt. The nitrites interact with the beef to turn it deep red and provides the classic taste and texture of a cured meat.
#1 Pink Curing Salt can be hard to find so people will often substitute Morton Tender Quick (MTQ) in their corned beef brine. Morton Tender Quick has a different concentration of nitrite than #1 Pink Curing Salt so the substitution is not 1:1.
Morton recommends using 1 tablespoon of MTQ per pound of meat.
Since there is a lot of salt in MTQ you will need to also adjust the salt content of the brine.
For example, if you wanted to use the above recipe for a 10 pound brisket while substituting MTQ for #1 Pink Curing Salt then:
- Add 10 tablespoons of MTQ the the brine mix.
- Reduce the amount of salt in the brine from 1 cup to 6 tablespoons.
(There are 16 tablespoons per cup so you are subtracting 10 tablespoons of MTQ from the original cup of salt specified by the original recipe.)
Why Does the Brisket Need to Brine So Long?
The brining step takes so long because you are waiting for the nitrites to penetrate completely through the beef.
According to Morton Salt, the meat needs to be in contact with the cure for 5 days for every inch of thickness of the meat. This means that a full packer brisket that is four inches thick at the point would need about 20 days to fully cure.
If you wanted to speed things up then you could brine a two inch thick brisket flat which should only need about two weeks.
Why Does This Brine Work for Both Corned Beef and Pastrami?
The first step to making both corned beef and pastrami is to cure a brisket with nitrites.
The real differences between corned beef and pastrami is how the cured brisket is seasoned and cooked. Traditionally corned beef is made by boiling a cured brisket with just the seasoning used in the curing step. By contrast, pastrami is smoked after seasoning the cured brisket with coriander and pepper.