O'Kee's Healthy Gray Corned Beef Brisket from Scratch

Plan 2 weeks for prep! 'Gray Corned Beef' omits the meat pinking saltpeter, which isn't the traditional preparation method anyway; this version will taste 'beefier.' The result is far less salty than commercially-prepared corned beef, and you can have fun creating your own pickling spices to create a complex flavor. While the color might not appeal to you, having corned beef without nitrates will. Serve with oatmeal Irish soda bread and stone-ground mustard.

Prep Time:
25 mins
Cook Time:
2 hrs 50 mins
Additional Time:
7 days 1 hrs
Total Time:
7 days 4 hrs 15 mins
18 servings



  • 8 cups water

  • 1 ¼ cups kosher salt

  • 2 tablespoons white sugar

Pickling Spice:

  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken into pieces

  • 12 whole juniper berries

  • 8 whole cloves

  • 8 whole allspice berries

  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds

  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns

  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger

  • 2 bay leaves, crumbled

  • 1 (6 pound) beef brisket, or larger, as desired

Corned Beef Dinner:

  • water to cover

  • 1 teaspoon sea salt

  • 2 pounds celery root (celeriac), peeled and cut into cubes

  • 2 pounds red potatoes, cut into cubes

  • 1 pound rutabagas, peeled and cut into cubes

  • 4 carrots - peeled, halved lengthwise, and cut into 1/2-inch strips

  • 4 parsnips - peeled, halved lengthwise, and cut into 1/2-inch strips

  • 2 onions, sliced

  • 1 head cabbage, cut into eighths


  1. Bring 8 cups water to a boil in a pot. Stir salt and sugar into boiling water until dissolved; remove from heat and add cinnamon stick pieces, juniper berries, cloves, allspice berries, mustard seeds, peppercorns, ginger, and crumbled bay leaves.

  2. Let brine cool to room temperature, at least 1 hour.

  3. Place brisket in a large ceramic or glass dish deep enough to keep brisket submerged in brine. Pour brine over brisket. Place something atop the brisket to weigh it down and keep it submerged in liquid. Cover dish tightly with plastic wrap.

  4. Brine brisket in refrigerator, checking brine level every day, for 7 to 10 days.

  5. Remove brisket from brine and rinse under cool running water. Discard brine.

  6. Place brisket in a large slow cooker crock; add enough cool water to cover brisket by several inches and season with sea salt.

  7. Cook on High for 2 hours; add celery root, red potatoes, rutabagas, carrots, parsnips, and onions. Cooking on Low until the vegetables are softened and the brisket is hot, and grey in the center, about 30 minutes. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the center should read 160 degrees F (70 degrees C).

  8. Remove brisket to a cutting board and cover tightly with aluminum foil.

  9. Arrange cabbage wedges into the slow cooker; continue cooking until all vegetables are tender, 20 to 30 minutes.

  10. Slice corned beef into thin slices and serve with the vegetables.

Cook's Notes:

Cut of meat is important. The cut of meat should be a flat-cut brisket, a special-order item at most butcher shops. You may prefer the nutritional benefits of grass-fed beef, which takes extra patience to find sources but is well worth the hunt. When you find a source, order two! This makes a wonderful corned beef.

Use two 3- or 4-pound briskets if those are easier to handle than one large brisket.

If more brine is required to keep meat covered, dissolve 3 tablespoons kosher salt into every 1 cup of boiling water needed and cool completely before adding.

Use wooden toothpicks to hold cabbage wedges together, if necessary.

Editor's Note:

The nutrition data for this recipe includes the full amount of the brine ingredients. The actual amount of the brine consumed will vary.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

321 Calories
14g Fat
29g Carbs
21g Protein
Nutrition Facts
Servings Per Recipe 18
Calories 321
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 14g 17%
Saturated Fat 5g 26%
Cholesterol 62mg 21%
Sodium 6559mg 285%
Total Carbohydrate 29g 11%
Dietary Fiber 7g 24%
Total Sugars 9g
Protein 21g
Vitamin C 46mg 230%
Calcium 103mg 8%
Iron 4mg 24%
Potassium 944mg 20%

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

** Nutrient information is not available for all ingredients. Amount is based on available nutrient data.

(-) Information is not currently available for this nutrient. If you are following a medically restrictive diet, please consult your doctor or registered dietitian before preparing this recipe for personal consumption.

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