Brine for Pastrami or Corned Beef from Brisket! (Morton Tender Quick Option Included)


Brine for Pastrami or Corned Beef From Brisket

Easy brine recipe for making your own pastrami at home.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American
Calories 5 kcal


  • 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.
Keyword Pastrami Brine

Want to talk about unique?  How about a brine that turns your ordinary brisket into corned beef or pastrami?

Pastrami Brine Ingredients

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.

Brisket brining for corned beef

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.


45 thoughts on “Brine for Pastrami or Corned Beef from Brisket! (Morton Tender Quick Option Included)

    1. No — they have two different ratios..if using
      Motons follow their directions. The Pink salt brine has 3x the amount of additional salt added to the brine. If you add the additional salt to the brine as used with pink salt to Mortons you wouldn’t be able to stand the salt concentration. .

  1. Hi Dan, I am giving your recipe a whirl with some venison roast. My question is; do refrigerate the meat when brining? Currently our temps here in the Mitten State are in the 40’s to 35 in the evening’s. Thanks, can’t wait to see how they turn out!

    1. Terrie – If it’s that cold, you’re probably fine leaving in garage or other safe outside area! But otherwise, yes, I always refrigerate when brining.

  2. So I have made a brisket before from store bought corned beef, soaked it overnight and then put on a rub, smoked to 170 and then refrigerated until cool, then finished it off with steam. It came out great but I wanted to try to brine my own brisket next time. For your recipe, which I plan to try, I wanted to know if you go straight from brine to smoker, or do you go from brine to soak, then rub and then smoke. Just curious. Love the site by the way!

    1. Great question, Dan. I let it soak for at least 24 hours, then proceed with rub and smoke. And if possible, I put the rub on the night before to let that sink into the brisket before smoking.
      Good luck!

  3. I’m kind of late to the game here. I have a small catering job for 20 people tomorrow. They want corn beef and cabbage. I’ve only had the 2 whole briskest in the brine for 3 days. How do I save this? Can I smoke it? Thank you!

    1. So sorry for my late reply – I’ve been without a computer for over a week! I think you’re safe to smoke or bake it. Ideally you want to brine it for at least 7-10 days, but I bet it’s still good after 3.

      1. yes Dan i did with wonderful results ~~i did a full album on the process step by step on my Facebook page awhile back ~~i adjusted some of the recipe quite a bit per what i was attempting to do so it is not the same recipe but you can sub out the Prague powder # 1 for the tender quick and be just fine ~~i cure and home smoke all the time under ~`Miss ~~Belle ~`a~~Que ~` my alter ego ~~ smile

  4. Giving this brine a shot. Any issues with using Tender quick in metal bowls and boiling it in a metal pot? I’ve seen information stating that Tender Quick and curing salts cause a reaction with metal and can alter meats and make them rancid and discolored. Thanks! This looks and sounds great!

    1. Good question and I’m not sure of the answer. I have never boiled tender quick. Whenever I use tenderquick, I add it AFTER I’m done boiling. But I do add it to the brine while the brine is in the metal pot, hot. I’ve never had any issues.

      1. I just want to say wow. Everyone said that was the best they ever had. I did use pink curing salt # 1. Almost gone getting ready to start brining another one. Thank you for sharing your recipe

  5. Hi.
    Can one use more salt and cure for less amount of time. I saw a Martha Stewart recipe that is similar to yours but says to use 2 cups of any picking salt.
    I was hoping to brine for 7 days.

    1. Hi Yvonne – great question. I believe the answer is yes. I’ve done a one week brine and a three week. Both have been very good – though the 3 week brine definitely gave the brisket a more thorough pink color throughout. Either way, you’ll end up with a very tasty product. If you do one week, I would suggest changing out the brine mid week to enhance the flavors.
      Good luck and let me know how it turns out!

  6. Just to make sure, you are using 4 teaspoons of Morton’s Tenderquick correct? I’ve seen other amounts suggested when using pink salts. Thanks!!

  7. Kevin ~~another question if you will ~~I finally found some pink curing salt in Boise Idaho~~not easily done i might just add ~~:)~~so needless to say i am really late to the party here~`smile ~~as per your directions of using equal proportions of either tender quick or the pink curing salt~~I find i do have a question~~on the back of the salt cure which is salt and sodium nitrite (6.25%)propylene glycol and sodium bicarbonate added as a processing aid Red 3~~well it states to use 1/3 rd of a teaspoon of curing salt per pound of sausage ~~~but since i am making pastrami and using a 5 pound roast would you still have me use the 4 teaspoons of pink curing salt ??? i do realize sausage and a big hunk of beef are quite different in mass but felt the need to ask the question all the same ~~you have been so helpful ~~i value your opinion~~Miss~~Belle ~a~~Que

    1. Good question…and I’m not sure of that answer, as I’ve only really used the Tender Quick. To be safe, I’d follow their instructions. I’d hate for your finished product to end up too salty!

  8. Kevin another question since i will be making pastrami from this ~~in place of the tender quick have you ever used Prague powder #1 or pink salt ~`if not if one were to adjust this recipe with that ingredient would you use the same amount as the tender quick ?????~~~will tender quick give you the same pink meat after smoking that we are so familiar with for pastrami ??? thanks once again ~~you are so very good about answering your comments ~~i know we are all so appreciative of that ~~sincerely Miss~~Belle ~`a~~Que

    1. Pink salt definitely works…I think that was actually in my original recipe I changed to tender quick! I would stick with same amounts. Tender quick definitely gives the pink color. Thanks so much for the kind words!

      1. do you think you could use a pot roast instead of brisket for this ~~ just curious ~~ i was going to do corned beef from a pot roast but now think i would like to do pastrami

        1. I absolutely think you could. That might be awesome, actually. From what I understand, you can turn any meat into pastrami. If you end up doing the pot roast, please let me know how it goes – I might have to try that!

          1. you are awesome at getting back with folks so quickly Kevin~`no wonder you run such a stellar blog ~~ another question if you will ~~do you have a pickling spice recipe you use as i kind of do like making it all from the get go and not using generic store bought ~~i could not see a link for that info but it would be so appreciated to have if you do ~~ smile ~~ be sure and wear green on St’ Patty’s Day 🙂

          2. Denise – I do not have a pickling spice recipe! I’m spoiled with a great meat market Down the street that sells an awesome fresh one.
            Thanks for reaching out and Happy St. Patty’s day to you!

          3. well i did the pot roast Kevin ~` posted a whole album and photo opp of the process on face book ~~ would post a photo here for you and your readers but do not see an application for doing so ~`just wanted to let you know that it turned out amazing and tastes just like the expensive cuts i have paid huge amounts for at the deli counter ~`it is not your recipe since i made up all my won rubs and pickling spices but the process is for the 3 week cure ~~ smile

          4. Kevin i had thought i left another message about a pickling spice recipe ~~ you have one for the rub and for the brine ~~but did not see one for the pickling spice itself ~` just curious as to what you use recipe wise ~~ thanks ~` mine happen to already be in the brine now ~`found a dif pickling spice recipe and then made it my own but for future reference it would be nice to have ~~ thanks much~~ really appreciate all the time you do take in answering questions ~~ smile

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