The paper describes a robust finite element model of interface motion in media with multiple domains and junctions, as is the case in polycrystalline materials. The adopted level set framework describes each domain (grain) with a single level set function, while avoiding the creation of overlap or vacuum between these domains. The finite element mesh provides information on stored energies, calculated from a previous deformation step. Nucleation and growth of new grains are modelled by inserting additional level set functions around chosen nodes of the mesh. The kinetics and topological evolutions induced by primary recrystallization are discussed from simple test cases to more complex configurations and compared with the Johnson-Mehl-Avrami-Kolmogorov theory. © 2009 IOP Publishing Ltd.