Tjälknöl (Roasted and Brined Beef)

12 Nov


I love finding new ways to transform cheap cuts of meat into something spectacular. I think most people feel the same way, as my Eye of Round Roast recipe remains the most popular recipe on my blog. So when I read my friend Peter’s Tjälknöl recipe from earlier this year, I knew that I needed to try it. The method intrigued me: take a frozen chunk of lean beef and slow cook it until it reaches a certain temperature, then remove it and let it sit in a brine for a few hours. The Tjälknöl came out utterly delicious and not unlike roast beef, perfect for thinly slicing and enjoying cold.

I love the story behind the dish, which I pulled straight from Peter’s excellent blog, Striclty Paleo…ish:

“Ragnhild Nilsson, the wife of moose hunter Eskil Nilsson, asked her husband one evening to thaw a frozen moose steak in the oven on low temperature. He did…and forgot about it, and Ragnhild found it still laying in the oven the next day. She understood it would be rather tasteless eating it like that, so in an attempt to save it she placed it in a brine for a few hours. When they later ate it, they both found it to be not only delicious, but also extremely juicy and tender. A year or so later, she submitted the recipe for a national contest to find new regional signature dishes, and won! Tjälknöl was declared the new signature dish of Medelpad (a region of northern Sweden), and it spread nationwide.”

I took a few liberties with the original recipe as I converted it to US measurements, mostly because I’m constantly tweaking things in the kitchen.


Serves 6

3-4 lb frozen lean boneless roast (I used eye of round roast, but london broil or rump roast would work fine)
3 cups water
1/2 cup salt
1/4 cup honey
3 bay leaves, slightly crushed
5 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 tsp each dried thyme and black pepper
4 whole allspice or juniper berries
1 cup ice cubes

The timing of this dish is important, as you need to be able to put it in the oven, take it out of the oven, and take it out of the brine at specific times. I found that putting the roast in the oven right before going to bed meant that it was ready to take out when I woke up, and I was able to take it out of the brine 5 hours later (just in time for lunch).

Preheat your oven to 190 degrees F, then place the frozen roast on a wire rack on a baking sheet. Place the roast in the oven and roast until its internal temperature reaches 140-155 degrees F, about 8-10 hours (start checking it with an instant-read thermometer at 7 hours). Remove it from the oven and set aside to cool for a few minutes while you prepare the brine.

In a pot, heat the water, salt and honey until the salt is dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in the remaining ingredients, stirring together until the ice is melted. If the brine is still above room temperature, add more ice and stir until melted.

Once the brine is at room temperature, pour it into a gallon-sized ziploc bag, then place the roast in the brine. Arrange the bag in the fridge so that it stays upright (I leaned it against a few jars) and so that the meat is fully submerged in the brine, and soak for 5 hours. If you can’t arrange the bag so that the roast is covered the whole time, simply rotate the brine every hour.

After 5 hours, remove the roast from the brine and pat dry. It can be sliced immediately, but for best results we found that putting it back into the fridge in a dry ziploc bag for one more day provided a better flavor.

Tjälknöl can be served warm or cold, but we definitely preferred it cold. It made for a perfect lunch when paired with fresh veggies.

19 Responses to “Tjälknöl (Roasted and Brined Beef)”

  1. chopandbrew November 12, 2013 at 11:38 am #

    I would love to take this project on myself. Thanks for the inspiration, TDM!

  2. TheVintageCat November 12, 2013 at 11:39 am #

    This looks delicious! I will definitely be trying it out. :)

  3. PigLove November 12, 2013 at 12:24 pm #

    This does sound good and I like beef :) Must see if mom can try this. Thanks! XOXO – Bacon

  4. adhip69 November 12, 2013 at 1:04 pm #

    Reblogged this on wajancrepesbaja.

  5. Strictly Paleo...ish! November 12, 2013 at 3:02 pm #

    Great post Russ, love it!

    • Russ Crandall November 14, 2013 at 5:13 pm #

      Thanks Peter! I couldn’t have made it without you :)

  6. Rick nielson November 12, 2013 at 7:48 pm #

    I’ve been looking for a way to prepare my leaner cuts. This looks like a winner. Especially if the Swedes like it. I wish I had moose meat like them, but my Paleo skills haven’t moved out of the kitchen yet.

    • Russ Crandall November 14, 2013 at 5:13 pm #

      You and me both, buddy. I wouldn’t know what to do with a moose roast if my life depended on it.

  7. Eileen @ Phoenix Helix November 14, 2013 at 10:58 am #

    Hi Russ. I know you’re crazy-busy with your upcoming book launch, but I have a request. I just started a weekly Paleo AIP Recipe Roundtable through my blog, and I would love it if you linked up this recipe. I’m trying to expand resources for the AIP community. When you’re on the autoimmune protocol, good recipes are hard to find! Here’s the link: http://www.phoenixhelix.com/2013/11/13/paleo-aip-recipe-roundtable-3/

    • Russ Crandall November 14, 2013 at 5:12 pm #

      Eileen, I added it, thanks for letting me know about your roundtable! Don’t mind the tomatoes in the picture :)

  8. Nancy Sperl November 19, 2013 at 12:32 pm #

    I made this, and we liked it. You said the times were pretty specific. I wonder if a longer brining time would infuse the flavor further into the meat? I loved the flavor at the edges of each slice, but found the inner portion a bit bland. Is there a food-safety reason for not brining longer? Also, my thermometer read 141 degrees after 10 hours in the oven, and I decided that was done enough for me. Would rarer meat accept the brine less readily?

    • Russ Crandall November 19, 2013 at 6:14 pm #

      Hi Nancy, the 5-hour brine is to avoid it getting overly salty; if you found it to be under-seasoned after five hours, I’d try six hours next time. It is a somewhat mild-tasting dish. 141 is a fine temp, anything between 135-155 should be pretty good depending on how rare you like your meat. I would say the rarer it is, the more absorbing it is. Hope that helps and thanks for trying it out!

  9. Latzko December 1, 2013 at 6:24 pm #

    Hey Russ, first of all I would like to say that you are a huge inspiration to me when it comes to eating healthy and cooking. Thank you so much for this recipe, I have been wondering how to create this result from a large roast cut, and I am looking forward to making my own Tjälknöl ! All the best!

  10. Katie H January 9, 2014 at 12:55 pm #

    How is this a safe recipe? Putting frozen meat in a 190 oven seems like it will be in the “danger zone” for quite some time. I would be more inclined to try it with fresh/defrosted meat.

    I know it’s a traditional food in Sweden, but Sweden also has a generally safer food supply than the US.

    • Strictly Paleo...ish! January 10, 2014 at 3:31 am #

      Hi Katie (and Russ)!

      As I’m kinda responsible for this recipe ending up here, I’m taking the liberty to share my view on your concerns, hope that is OK:

      First of all, the meat has been frozen prior to cooking which kills a lot of potential becteria.
      As I understand it the “Danger Zone” is between 40 and 140 °F (4.4 and 60 °C), and for this recipe you’re placing deep frozen meat directly in 190-210F, which means it will start to cook already while it’s thawing.
      As long as you cook until you’ve reached a core temperature that is above the danger zone you should be ok (and if you’re still concerned then cook until you’ve reached 160F (which is the USDA recommended minimum core temperature for ground beef (which is much more likely to be “contaminated” then whole cuts due to the grinding process)).

      I’m not sure about the average fridge temp in US, but in Sweden it is about 46.5F (8C)…ie within the danger zone, even if at the very low end. With that in mind I would guess fresh meat stored in the fridge for a day or two probably has been in the danger zone longer than the meat in this recipe.
      But, like I said, I think it’s more important to make sure it’s cooked to a core temperature that’s above the danger zone, than for how long it (or parts of it) has been in the danger zone prior to that.

      That being said, I totally believe this is a safe recipe.

      (Based above on: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/wcm/connect/0ab2c49b-bafd-44a6-8919-548131a84209/Ground_Beef_and_Food_Safety.pdf?MOD=AJPERES)

      Hope this eases your concerns and that you do try it out(?)….it’s a great recipe!

      Best regards
      // Peter

      PS. Oh, and personally I highly doubt Sweden’s generally got a safer food supply than US…I would guess it’s about the same (quality, availability and laws/regulations).
      (I.e. it’s up to the customer to make sure the products they buy is matching their standards and beliefs.)

      • Leane June 15, 2014 at 6:42 pm #

        Is the only way to do this with a frozen roast? Does it work with one that’s already been defrosted? Or am I sacrificing results? Can I cook a fresh roast till internal temp of 140-155? Thanks.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Tjälknöl (Roasted and Brined Beef) | Paleo Digest - November 12, 2013

    […] Domestic Man / Posted on: January 01, 1970The Domestic Man – I love finding new ways to transform cheap cuts of meat into something spectacular. I think […]

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    […] All great theory on paper, and something I worked on again today. After: thermos of pu'erh tea, roast beef, a banana, and because there's a -32 windchill and I have a boo-boo: a McD's mocha Lark […]

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