The paper describes a level set framework for the finite-element modelling of recrystallization in polycrystalline materials, including the nucleation, primary recrystallization and grain growth stages. A set of convection- reinitialization-diffusion equations is implemented within a finite-element formulation to describe boundary motion, according to a kinetic law relating the velocity of the boundary to a thermodynamic driving force. Different theoretical test cases illustrate the potential of the method for simulations of recrystallization and grain growth following large plastic deformation and/or considering complex microstructures. © 2010 Acta Materialia Inc. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.