The low-down of corned beef……
It’s that time of year when everyone is Irish for a day and corned beef and cabbage is plentiful in the markets! I have to admit I only make corned beef and cabbage once a year and it is on St. Patricks day. The kids lick their plates clean and so does my husband. Supposedly, he never liked corned beef until I cooked it for him. I serve it with a horseradish sauce and an assortment of mustards. Red potatoes, fresh carrots and a small head of cabbage and the house smells amazing. I serve with plenty of lemon water to drink as not to get too dehydrated the next day. 😉
Corned beef is a cut of beef that is cured in salt and brined over a period of a week or so. *According to Wikipedia, “corned” is derived from the term “corns of salt” which are large grains of rock salt that the beef is cured in. The brine is a combination of salt, water, garlic, peppercorns, cloves and some other spices. The brining process breaks down the beef or poultry rendering it leaner and more flavorful.
At times I have stood in the refrigerated meat section of the grocery store and contemplated what cut of meat to buy when it comes to corned beef. One person says this, one article says that…..blah blah blah. I still stand there in awe…. so let me give you a few examples of the various cuts, where they come from and what each one looks and tastes like. Perhaps you are cooking it for the first time and have no idea or are the experienced cook and may be looking to try something new.
There are three different cuts of corned beef – brisket point, brisket flat and round. A brisket in general is a tough cut of beef because of the location of the meat on the cow which is heavily exercised. Unless you are buying the entire brisket, you will need to choose between the flat part or what is referred to as the point.
The point cut is easy to notice because it is the point of the brisket and comes to a point. It is a bit fatty as far as marbling throughout the meat and when cooked it will almost shred apart like a pulled beef.
The flat cut is much leaner. This is the easiest to find in the market and has that typical layer of thick noticeable fat that encases one side of the meat and holds the moisture in while cooking. If you are looking for a cut that will slice up nicely, this is your go to.
The round cut is very very lean and requires a slow method of cooking with a moist heat as with the above but you need to babysit it a little longer as to not “dry” it out. The round cut is the hardest to find and is not typically sold in the market in the fresh meat section. You may be more opt to find it at the deli counter for slicing for a NYC style corned beef on rye sandwich or a delicious grilled Reuben sandwich.
Now that you have learned the different cuts of meat you can buy, next let’s discuss 3 different cooking methods to cook this cut of meat. As noted, corned beef is a rather tough cut of meat and should be cooked low and slow with a moist heat.
The first method is on top of the stove in a large pot or Dutch oven in water. Remove corned beef from the packaging place in a large pot of water and if you are feeling extra Irish maybe add a can of Guinness! Bring to a boil for about and hour. Reduce heat to medium, cover and let simmer for about another 45 minutes per pound. The last 45 minutes, add some baby red potatoes, carrots and some cabbage sliced in to wedges.
The next method of cooking would be a slow braise in the oven. Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees. In a Dutch oven or a large roasting pan place the corned beef right from the package in to the pan. Cover with about 3 or 4 cups of water or beef stock, a can of beer (optional), juices from the packaging and the pickling packet and cover with the Dutch oven lid or cover with aluminum foil if using a roasting pan. Cook meat for about an hour per pound. Check frequently to insure more liquid does not need to be added. If it begins to look dry, add more liquid. For the last hour, add potatoes,carrots and cabbage. Remove from oven when meat begins to pull apart. Let rest for 15 minutes before slicing.
The third method is slow cooked in the fool proof crock pot. Remove the meat from the package and place in the bottom of the crock pot. Add the liquid from package, the pickling packet, and a 1/2 cup of liquid – i.e: water, beef stock, red wine, dark lager type beer and cover. If you are cooking a 4lb corned beef it should cook for about 4-5 hours on high heat or 7-8 hours on low. During the last hour of cooking add baby red potatoes, carrots and cabbage cut in wedges. Cover and finish cooking process.
Overall, anyway you slice it corned beef is plentiful this time of year and is a tasty St. Patrick’s Day delight. I hope you have learned some different cuts of meat and methods of cooking them. Please note: cooking times may vary and the various cuts may or may not be available in certain grocery stores.
Enjoy your day and Happy Cooking!!!