Sous Vide Corned Beef

We’re always looking for an excuse to celebrate food, however, the month of March is a bit short on legitimate lick your lips and stuff your belly food holidays. Spring break? I have to work, I don’t get a spring break. Nothing to celebrate there. First day of spring? That’s not really a holiday and in NM the First Day of Spring usually brings the winds. Gale force winds. Well, maybe not gale force, but we had peak gusts that reached 66mph in March. Certainly nothing to celebrate. Fortunately, there’s St. Patrick’s Day, which most people honor by wearing green and drinking green beer, but for us it’s a good excuse to make some corned beef and eat all the foods that are legally required to accompany said beef.

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I’ve made corned beef before and it’s fairly simple, but this year I wanted to challenge myself and make it more interesting. Instead of boiling or steaming the corned beef I decided I would sous vide it. Sous vide is a cooking process that uses circulating, temperature controlled, warm water to cook food. There are a lot of sous vide machines on the market ranging from $100 – $200 for a good home model. The quality of food that can be achieved using this technique easily justifies the investment.

I found a recipe on the Chef Steps site that sounded absolutely great.  What really peaked my interest was the amazing spice rub used in the curing and cooking process. It was loaded with coriander and mustard seeds and a bit of whole clove and mace. Corned beef by itself is delicious, but I knew with the help of all these spices this was going to be freaking delicious!

Brisket Flat
Brisket Flat

I started with a 6lb choice grade brisket flat and trimmed off the fat. I have used cheaper select grade brisket for pastrami and corned beef in the past. They came out ok, but if you’re going to put the time and effort into making a great dish, don’t skimp on the quality of the meat, get choice or prime grade beef.

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Spice Blend before grinding

After prepping the brisket it was time to mix the spices for the brine and the rub. This recipe calls for a large quantity of spices. I would suggest you plan ahead and shop around for the rub ingredients, sourcing restaurant supply or specialty food markets, in order to save a few sheckels. Invest your money in your beef and save a few bucks on the spices. I picked all my spices up at a large local grocery store that specializes in imported foods called Talin Market. They have a great selection of exotic spices and the prices are very reasonable.

Spice Blend

6.5 oz Coriander Seed

6 oz Black Pepper

3.5 oz Dry Mustard Seed

3.5 oz Dill Seed

1.5 oz Star Anise

0.5 oz Mace

0.5 oz Whole Clove

0.5 oz Chile Flake

I used a kitchen scale to weigh these ingredients out and mixed them together in a bowl. Now for the fun part…grinding. I like to use my Ninja bullet blender for this task. I have a cup and blade set reserved just for grinding spices. I filled the Ninja cup about 3/4 full and gave it a few good pulses to break up all the coriander and pepper. After I ground all the spices I split the spice mix in half. I placed one half in an air tight container and set it aside, this is the rub I’ll use on the corned beef during cooking.

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I added the other half of the ground spice mixture to my brine bucket along with the following ingredients:

9 oz kosher salt

5 oz brown sugar

0.5 oz pink curing salt

6-8 quarts of water

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Spices, Kosher Salt, Brown Sugar and Pink Salt for the brine.

I mixed this solution together until all the salt and sugar had dissolved. Then I dropped in the brisket submerging it in the brine. I covered and placed the brine bucket/brisket in the fridge for 7-10 days, stirring the brine every other day to maintain the salinity.

Brining the Brisket
Brining the Brisket

After brining for the allotted 7 days, I pulled the corned beef from the brine, washed of the spices and brine with cold water, then patted the meat dry with a paper towel. Next, I  rubbed the meat down with a generous coating  of the reserved spice blend.

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Now it was time for the vacuum sealing. I placed each piece of beef in the bag and vacuum sealed them tight, removing all the air. You can use ziplock bags if you don’t have a vacuum sealer, just try to get all the air out of the bag so the meat will stay submerged. I placed the sealed packs in a large cambro bucket and filled it with water. Then I dropped the sous vide machine in the bucket and set the temp to 140ºF. To keep the water from evaporating I covered the bucket with plastic wrap. Then I just let the sous vide machine do it’s magic.

Cooking time was 48 hours. I know that sounds like a long time, and it is, but trust me it’s well worth it. For 2 whole days as the corned beef cooked, the spices were permeating the meat and infusing it with more flavor.

I removed the corned beef from the vaccuum packaging and placed it on the cutting board. I scraped off any of the spice rub that was still stuck to the meat as it is quite strong and pungent. Then I proceeded to slice.  As usual I got the first taste, hell I cooked it, shouldn’t I get the first bite?? It was absolutely amazing. It had the rich cured beef flavor synonymous with corned beef, but it was also infused with all those spices in the rub that added a real depth of flavor throughout.  You’re not going to find anything like this at a deli counter I promise you that.

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Along with our sous vide corned beef, our St. Paddy’s Day feast included red potatoes poached in butter, a colorful platter of roasted rainbow carrots, and a fresh out of the oven loaf of homemade rye bread.  Instead of the traditional boiled cabbage we opted for a side of Trissi’s homemade sauerkraut, which cut through the rich flavor of the corned beef and provided a tangy counterpart to the earthy spices.

This really was a great recipe, I thought it was fun and challenging. The spice blend was amazing, I’m thinking I can add more black pepper to it and use it for my next batch of pastrami. Might even be really good on some lamb, who knows, but it’s going to fun trying to figure it out.

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