Alton Brown’s Corned Beef Recipe Is a Labor of Love

Want to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day by having some corned beef? Alton Brown, a Food Network chef has a recipe for the popular dish but it’s not a ready-in-20-minutes type of affair. In fact, Brown’s Corned Beef recipe takes days — yes, days — to prepare. 

Alton Brown’s Corned Beef recipe takes 10 days to make 

Alton Brown with his hand under his chin resting on a gift box at the 2018 Food Network and Cooking Channel New York City Wine and Food Festival
Alton Brown | Noam Galai/Getty Images for NYCWFF

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Brown’s Corned Beef really is a labor of love. According to the recipe instructions on Food Network‘s official website, it takes approximately 10 days, three hours, and 20 minutes to prepare from start to finish. 

Think that’s way too labor-intensive? Consider this: the beef sits in the fridge for 10 days to pickle before cooking for three hours. That means it really only takes 20 minutes of prep work in the kitchen.

The rest is spent waiting for the brine to infuse the meat with flavor or for the corned beef to actually cook. If that’s not enough, the recipe has 159 reviews and five stars. 

Alton Brown uses classic, (mostly) easy-to-find ingredients in his corned beef recipe

The host of Cutthroat Kitchen turns to the spice rack to flavor his corned beef. Brown, 58, uses cinnamon, mustard seeds, black peppercorns, cloves, bay leaves, juniper berries, ginger, and allspice berries to make the brine. These can be found at most local grocery stores.

However, there’s one ingredient that might be more difficult to find. Brown uses saltpeter to give the corned beef its signature pink color. Can’t find it? It’s not an absolute necessity. Besides spices, other ingredients include celery, carrots, onions, brown sugar, and ice.

How to make Alton’s Brown Corned Beef

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Brown, the longtime host of Good Eats, starts his corned beef recipe by making the brine. All the spices plus sugar and salt are mixed together in water. Once the sugar and salt dissolve the mixture’s taken off the heat. The celebrity chef adds ice to help it cool down. He also sets the pot in a sink filled with cold water.

Next up, the brine and meat get added to a zip-top bag to sit in the fridge for 10 days. Periodically, the bag has to be turned to ensure the brine is evenly distributed.

Once the 10 days are up, the brine is rinsed off the meat. Then the meat gets cooked with the chopped celery, onions, and carrots. Once cooked and cooled, very thin slices are cut — Brown notes cutting across the grain — and the corned beef is ready to eat. 

Ingredients for Alton Brown’s Corned Beef:

  • 2 quarts water
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons saltpeter
  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken into several pieces
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 8 whole allspice berries
  • 12 whole juniper berries
  • 2 bay leaves, crumbled
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 pounds ice
  • 1 (4 to 5 pound) beef brisket, trimmed
  • 1 small onion, quartered
  • 1 large carrot, coarsely chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, coarsely chopped

Brown’s not the only Food Network chef with a dish to mark the occasion. The Pioneer Woman host, Ree Drummond, has a menu all about St. Patrick’s Day.

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