Recipe: Salt beef

18 March 2014
Recipe: Salt beef

This classic method for making delicious open-textured salt beef is adapted from The River Cottage Meat Book. You can also use it to cook an ox tongue. Conventional wisdom has it that the best cuts for salt beef are silverside and brisket, the former being much superior.

I have experimented with various cuts, including foreflank and even a large chunk of shin on the bone. They all work well, but in my book the fattiest, cheapest cuts give the most open-grained texture, which is what I like.


Serves 10 or more

2-3kg piece of beef brisket or foreflank (or use a whole ox tongue)

For the brine

  • 5 litres water
  • 1kg PDV salt
  • 600g demerara or light brown sugar
  • 1tsp black peppercorns
  • 1tsp juniper berries
  • 5 cloves
  • 4 bay leaves
  • Sprig of thyme

For the beef

  • 1 bouquet garni
  • 1 carrot, peeled and chopped
  • I onion, peeled and chopped
  • I celery stick, chopped
  • 1 leek, washed and chopped
  • ½ garlic bulb, sliced horizontally to cut through the cloves


Put all the ingredients for the brine into a large saucepan and place over a low heat, stirring occasionally until the salt and sugar have fully dissolved. Bring to the boil and allow to bubble for 1-2 minutes, then remove from the heat and leave the brine to cool completely.

Put your piece of beef into a food-standard brine tub and cover it with the brine. If necessary, use a weight placed on a tray or a piece of wood to keep it submerged.

Leave the piece of beef to cure in a cool place for one day per kg, then remove it from the brine.

To cook the beef, put it into a saucepan with the bouquet garni, the vegetables and the garlic. Cover it with fresh water and bring it to a gentle simmer. Poach it very gently on the hob or in the oven (preheated to 150°C) if you prefer. Cook it until the meat is completely tender and yielding when pierced with a skewer. A 3kg piece of beef will take 2½-3 hours.

Serve the hot salt beef carved into fairly thick slices, with lentils, beans or boiled potatoes, and either creamed fresh horseradish or good English mustard. Alternatively, you can serve it cold. It will keep for a further week in prime condition; thereafter it will dry out too much.

Note: If you've cured an ox tongue rather than a piece of beef, you will need to peel off the coarse skin before serving.

Recipe taken from Curing & Smoking by Steven Lamb

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