Brining 101

For some, corned beef conjures up memories of a cozy dinner with family; for others, it’s the most important ingredient in their favorite hash. The following guide opens the door to home-cured corned beef as well as pork. Lately I’ve also been hearing many queries concerning the proper way to brine fowl, so if you’ve ever wanted to delve into the method and madness of creating succulent brined meats, then this is for you! 

Corning/brining meats:

The traditional method of curing beef brisket entails “corning,” which is another word for brining. The name was derived from the “corn” salt used in the process.

Historically, the method was used to preserve meat for future use, but in contemporary society, it is used primarily to impart flavor and to cause an otherwise tough cut of meat to tender up and become the highlight of the meal. I have had great success with not only beef, but pork chops as well. After a swim in the corning mixture, they are mouthwateringly good when grilled.

This method does take a bit of planning, so be sure to read through the recipe before you get started to make sure you have time for all of the steps. (I prefer to eliminate the sodium nitrite, which is in most commercial briskets to give the meat its traditional pink color. This brisket will turn out grayer in color, but you can add beet powder to get an approximation of the pink without using chemicals.) 

Corned Beef Brisket or Pork Chops

1 tsp whole allspice berries
1 tsp whole mustard seeds (brown or yellow)
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp whole cloves
1 tsp whole black peppercorns
3 large bay leaves, crumbled
3 or 4 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped

Mix spices together and reserve 1 tablespoon for cooking the meat later. 


1 quart water
1/2 cup kosher salt (regular table salt may have added sugar)
pickling spices (above)
2 tablespoons brown sugar

Add spices and brine ingredients to large stockpot, bring to boil, then let cool and chill.

Place meat into gallon-size, zipper-style storage bag and cover with cold brine. Squeeze out all the air and zip closed, then put the bag into a large bowl in the refrigerator, in case of leakage. (Trust me: You don’t want this stuff all over your fridge.) Keep in fridge for five to seven days. Turn whenever you think of it.

When ready to cook, remove the meat from the bag and rinse thoroughly in cold water. Place the meat in a pot just large enough and fill with water until meat is covered 1 inch. Add the reserved tablespoon of spices and 2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped, and two stalks of celery, chunked. On stovetop, heat to barely boiling and cook for 3 to 4 hours (depending on the size of your brisket). When the meat is done, remove to a platter and let rest, while cooking your cabbage, carrots, onions and potatoes in the remaining liquid.

*If brining pork chops, they will be done in 4 to 6 days, depending on thickness. Remove from brine, rinse and pat dry with paper towels, lightly coat with oil and grill over hot coals until barely done. They will be juicy and delicious! 

Brining birds

Turkey, goose, pheasant and chicken are fabulous brined as well, and the lightness of the meat allows for a different style of herbs and spices. Turkey and goose are much bigger than the storage bags used for beef brisket or pork (unless you can find a large roasting bag, which, in my opinion, is awful for roasting but great for marinating/brining) so find a large, non-reactive container for the brining process. It won’t live in your refrigerator for nearly as long, but be warned that it will take up a lot of room. Make sure to take a few measurements beforehand to be sure the bird will fit into the pot and that the pot will then fit into your fridge. Not enough room in the fridge? Try brining in a large food-safe bag in a cooler surrounded by ice packs. 

Turkey, goose or chicken brining instructions, adapted from Savory Spice Shop recipe:

Fresh turkey, goose or chicken (do not use a frozen bird or one that has been injected with a solution)
Savory Spice Shop Citrus & Savory Brining Spices
Kosher salt
White or brown sugar

Remove neck, giblets, etc., from cavity and rinse bird thoroughly. Place the bird in a large non-reactive food service container or other food-safe container that is deep enough to cover the bird with water and large enough to allow the brine to move freely.

Cover the bird with water, measuring by the gallon as you add.

Next, for each gallon of water, put into a separate saucepan: 1 cup of Kosher salt and 1/2 cup of white or brown sugar.

Take 2-3 cups of water from around the bird and place in a saucepan, with a package of Savory Spice Shop Citrus & Savory Brining Spices to the salt and sugar mixture. (One package for up to a 12 lb. bird, 2 packages for larger. When brining a chicken, measure out half of the spices and save the rest for another day.) Or you can use one of the spice recipes following. Bring to a boil until the salt and sugar dissolve and the spices release their aroma.

Let cool to room temperature and then pour into the water surrounding the bird.

Refrigerate 12-48 hours. If you are concerned about the bird being too salty, stop after 12 hours. Better to be on the safe side.

When the brining process is complete, remove bird from brine, thoroughly rinse inside and out and pat dry. Discard brine. Let the bird air-dry overnight in the refrigerator to let the skin completely dry out. This extra drying time will help produce a nice, crispy skin when roasted. 

Roasting tips:
When roasting, try cooking your bird breast side down. This will not only protect the breast meat but it will cook a little slower and all the juices that are in the bird will drain down, making the breast juicy and tender. This method won’t produce that golden presentation, but nowadays the carving is usually done before serving anyway. Another bonus with breast-side-down cooking is you won’t need to baste!

Thanks to: Mike Johnston, Savory Spice Shop Founder 

Or try these additional spice mixtures for brining birds:

Ingredients for each 6 quarts of water (reduce by half for chicken); see method above 

Maple Soy

    1 cup dark brown sugar
    1 cup soy sauce
    1 cup maple syrup
    1 cup sea salt
    8-10 whole cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
    6-8 whole bay leaves, crumbled
    3 large sprigs of thyme
    2 teaspoons whole peppercorns

Cider Herb

    1 cup kosher salt
    2 cups sugar
    1 cup apple cider vinegar
    2 tablespoons sage
    2 tablespoons thyme
    2 tablespoons rosemary
    1 tablespoon pepper

Citrus Cider

    3 cups apple juice or apple cider
    4 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves
    5 cloves garlic, minced
    1-1/2 cups Kosher salt
    2 cups brown sugar
    3 tablespoons peppercorns
    5 whole bay leaves
    Peel of three large oranges

Categories: Entertaining, Recipes