On St. Patrick’s Day, many of us in metro Detroit like to embrace our inner Irish and indulge in some delicious corned beef. Whether it’s piled high on sandwiches or served alongside cabbage and vegetables, corned beef is a festive treat that we look forward to each year. While it may be a once-a-year meal for most home cooks, it’s important to know how to prepare it properly. In this article, we’ll provide you with all the information you need to cook the perfect corned beef.
What Kind of Beef is Corned Beef?
Corned beef is typically made from beef brisket. This cut comes from the breast or lower chest of beef cattle and is known for its tough texture due to the presence of connective tissue. A whole brisket can weigh up to 10 pounds or more and is often used for roasts or barbecued brisket. When it comes to buying corned beef, you may come across flat and point cuts. These cuts are quite similar, with the flat cut having a more rectangular shape and being less fatty than the point cut.
The Origins of the Name
Contrary to what you might think, the term “corned” in corned beef has nothing to do with corn. It actually comes from the English word for small particles. The name refers to the larger-grained rock salt, also known as corn, that is used to cure the beef.
How is Corned Beef Made?
Corned beef is made by curing the brisket in a brine of water, salt, spices, and preservatives. Some producers also add their own blend of spices, and you can find lower-sodium versions in some stores.
How Much Corned Beef Should You Buy?
When purchasing corned beef, keep in mind that it will shrink by as much as one-third during cooking. Therefore, if you’re serving it with vegetables, a 3-pound brisket should be enough to feed four to six people.
Should You Rinse Corned Beef Before Cooking?
It’s a good idea to rinse the corned beef before cooking to reduce its saltiness. Rinsing will not wash away the flavor, so you don’t have to worry about losing any taste. Additionally, if your corned beef came with a seasoning packet, be sure to keep it as it contains a pickling spice blend made up of peppercorns, bay leaves, and mustard seeds.
Cooking Methods for Corned Beef
There are several methods you can use to cook corned beef, depending on your preference and available equipment.
The braising method is considered the best way to cook corned beef. Start by removing the brisket from its package, rinsing if desired, and patting it dry. Place it in a baking dish with a small amount of water or beer. You can also brush the top with Dijon or grainy-style mustard and sprinkle it with the spice packet. Cover the dish with foil and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for approximately 2½ to 3 hours, or until the meat is tender. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes.
For the stovetop method, rinse the brisket and place it in a stockpot or large pot. Add enough water to cover the meat, and you can also add some beer if desired. Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for about 2½ to 3 hours, or until the meat is fork-tender.
Slow Cooker/Instant Pot Method
You can also use a slow cooker or Instant Pot to cook your corned beef. For the slow cooker method, add the brisket to the slow cooker, along with enough water to cover it and the spices from the spice packet or your own blend of spices. Cook on low for 9 to 11 hours or on high for about 4½ hours. If using an Instant Pot, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cooking corned beef.
Slicing and Serving Corned Beef
When it comes to slicing the corned beef, it’s important to cut against the grain. This can be a bit tricky, as the grain can run in different directions on the same cut. For dinner portions, slice the brisket into quarter-inch-thick slices. If you’re making sandwiches, slice the meat as thinly as possible when it’s cold, and reheat it as needed.
The Story Behind Corned Beef and Cabbage
While corned beef and cabbage is often associated with Irish cuisine, it’s actually an American dish that originated with Irish immigrants over a century ago. In Ireland, a traditional boiled dinner typically consists of cabbage cooked with bacon, not corned beef. The use of corned beef became popular in the United States because it was an affordable cut of meat, and cabbage was readily available and inexpensive.
Delicious Corned Beef Recipes
If you’re looking for some mouthwatering corned beef recipes to try this St. Patrick’s Day, we’ve got you covered. Here are a few of our favorites:
- Guinness-braised Corned Beef with Cabbage, Potatoes, and Carrots
- Instant Pot Corned Beef and Cabbage with Mustard Glaze
- Oven-Baked Basic Corned Beef
For the full recipes and instructions, head over to Ekilove and check out the Free Press test kitchen archives.
Now that you’re armed with all the knowledge you need to cook the perfect corned beef, it’s time to get cooking and enjoy this tasty St. Patrick’s Day tradition!