Thirdeye Q

This site contains a collection of techniques for barbecuing, smoking and cooking over fire. The techniques shown here are not the only way or the best way to prepare a certain item. This site is just a starting point and these techniques are a guide to creating your own recipes. Recipes included here come not only from personal experiences, but from many knowledgeable folks kind enough to share their secrets. ~thirdeye~


Pop's Brine - A Universal Curing / Corning Brine

I first read about Pop's Brine on the  Smoking Meat Forums around 2010, then did some extensive readings in the archives in 2019 when I began to re-visit the use of curing brines.  It's described as a "real simple curing brine" because it used a proven method of brine curing developed by Pop's father and used in the family's store and custom meat market in New York state. Pop's Brine and the method were reviewed by the State of NY inspectors and approved for use. It is a lower strength brine and needs slightly longer brining times.  However this improves flavor and texture in some meats. One of my meat curing books from the 1920's recommends the use of white granulated sugar in curing brines (sweet pickle brine) because they claim brown sugar can have impurities which can cause the brine to become ropy (thick and stringy).  Over the years, the quality of brown sugar improved and as proven in Pop's Brine.... it's safe to use. 

I liked the simplicity and effectiveness of Pop's Brine so much I created a corning brine based on it. What's the difference between a curing brine and a corning brine?  Well... in one word, flavor.  My corning brine is found below my version of Pop's Brine.

BACKGROUND - Typically a wet curing brine requires a calculation and careful measuring of the ingredients, especially the Cure #1 which is a mixture of salt and 6.25% sodium nitrite.  (This is NOT the same cure as Morton Tender Quick).  Typically before mixing a curing brine you weigh the meat, and weigh the water to arrive at a total weight.  The amounts of ingredients like salt, sugar and Cure #1 are based on a percentage of the total weight.  For example 2% salt, 1.5% sugar and 0.25% Cure #1 could be a workable recipe. 

Pop's Brine on the other hand uses a fixed amount of Cure #1 and allows for some personal adjustment of salt, sugar and any other aromatics.  There are several versions of Pop's Brine as he and others experimented with salt and sugar, but the amount of Cure #1 remained the same.  It is generally recognized in curing circles that the safe amount of Cure #1 used in one gallon of water is between 1 tablespoon and 3.5 tablespoons. 

Pop's Brine Original Version  

(see below for my preferences of salt and sugar)

1 gallon of water

1/3 - 1 cup sea salt (depending if you're on a lo-salt diet)

1/3 - 1 cup granulated sugar or Splenda®

1/3 - 1 cup brown sugar or Splenda® brown sugar mix

1 heaping tablespoon of  Cure #1 (which comes out to 20 grams)

Any other seasonings or aromatics you like


Stir thoroughly until clear amber color, pour over meat, inject if necessary to cure from inside-out as well as outside-in.  This curing brine can be used in a non-reactive container or a 2.5 gallon zipper bag in a small bucket or dishpan. The meat must be fully covered. 


Curing times vary with meat, but generally overnight to 2-3 days for chickens and turkeys, 8-10 days buckboard bacon (pork butt), 10-14 days belly bacon, pork shoulder, whole butts, 3-4 weeks whole hams, 10-20 days corned beef (fresh beef roasts, briskets, rolled rib roasts, etc.)   If whole muscle is more than 2" thick, then inject so it can cure i/o as well as o/i, and/or in and around bone structures, etc.


~thirdeye~ version of Pop's Brine

This version is a low salt and less sweet mixture.  I generally use it on chicken breasts or pork chops with a 15 to 24 hour brine time. 

You can use any non-reactive container (like a plastic pail) to cure your meat, I like a one-gallon zipper bag in a pail for easy clean-up.

1 gallon of water
125 grams canning salt
25 grams white sugar
25 grams brown sugar
20 grams Cure #1 (heaping tablespoon)
3/4 teaspoon black pepper

In order to keep the concentration the same, mix a 1 gallon batch, then use as much as possible in a plastic pail or a one-gallon zipper bag to cover all the meat, discard the rest.  Put the zipper bag into a plastic pail and pour about a pint of water into the bag (you need room for ingredients and for proper mixing).  Using the funnel in the jug.... add salt, shake 1-minute to dissolve, add sugars, shake 1-minute to dissolve, add Cure #1, shake1-minute to dissolve. Add meat to zipper bag. Pour as much brine as you can fit into the zipper bag, remove air, seal.  Discard the remainder.

======================= Corning Brine =========================

~thirdeye's~ Corning Brine - based on Pop's Brine

A corning brine is so named because "corns" of salt describe the size of the salt crystals which were originally used by the British when making it. My version of a corning brine brings a lot more flavor to the meat because of the many aromatics I use during the curing process. Instead of adding a few 'pickling spices' when cooking corned beef, I use spices and some beer when curing my corned beef. So I get 14 days of flavor when making corned beef.  

Because I like Pop's Brine so well I designed my corning brine around his curing brine. The salt and sugar amounts have been adjusted to compensate for the aromatics and spices. Here is how I do it... 

For use on Brisket, Round Roast, Chuck Roast, Pork Butt in order to make Corned Beef, Corned Pork, Pastrami and Porkstrami. 

112 ounces of water

16 ounces of beer

80g canning salt (Kosher is okay too)

30g white sugar

3 tablespoons pickling spice

1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds

1 tablespoon brown mustard seeds

1 tablespoon coriander seeds

6 bay leaves

1 tablespoon Old Bay

1 tablespoon crushed garlic

1 tablespoon crushed ginger

1 tablespoon black pepper

1 teaspoon cloves

22g Cure #1  (note: this is added after the brine has cooled back down) (note 2: the amount of Cure #1 is 22 grams due to the large amount of aromatics used)

Step 1 - Combine all ingredients EXCEPT Cure #1  into a stock pot. Slowly bring up to a simmer and cook for 1 hour. Do not let this mixture come to a boil. Allow to cool on the stovetop, then refrigerate overnight.

 Step 2 – On day 2, add the Cure #1 to the chilled brine and mix very well. Measure an amount of brine equal to 10% of the meat weight (for example: 2000g of meat needs 200g of brine for injecting). Inject the brine into the meat. Then add the meat into the chilled covering brine, and cure for 13 to 15 days, agitating the liquid daily. I prefer using a 2.5 gallon zipper bag, in a plastic bucket. Using the bucket handle, I spin the bucket 90° for about 30 seconds to agitate the liquid. 

Step 3 - Remove meat from brine.... rinse well and soak about an hour or so in cold water. Pat the meat dry.  Use your preferred cooking method and recipe for corned beef. 

====== Pastrami ======

Step 3A - If you are using your corned meat for pastrami or porkstrami, add pastrami seasoning. Rest in the refrigerator 12 to 18 hours uncovered. This sets the rub and forms the pellicle which helps take the smoke.

Step 3B – Smoke the meat up to 5 or 6 hours or until it gets a nice color and the internal is ~160°. Either wrap with some beef broth and cook it tender or move to pressure cooker with some beef broth. Process for 35 minutes, then use natural release. Check tenderness and if needed…. Process again for 5 or 6 minutes. Steaming the pastrami is another good finishing method.  Read more on my Pastrami page in the BEEF Section of my recipes.