To celebrate St. Patrick’s Day this year, why not cook a Corned Beef dinner? Cooking corned beef is as easy as boiling water and that’s no blarney! I love St. Patrick’s Day and Corned Beef is one of my very favorite meals of the whole year. Growing up my family ate corned beef every St. Patrick’s Day to celebrate our family’s small amount of Irish heritage and we have continued that tradition each and every year.
In the United States, corned beef is synonymous with the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day. However, corned beef is not considered a true Irish national dish. Its’ connection with St. Patrick’s Day originated with the influx of Irish immigrants into the United States during the 18th century. Corned beef and cabbage became popular in the U.S. after Irish immigrants replaced the bacon in their traditional dish of bacon and cabbage with corned beef due to the high cost of pork.
Corned beef is a type of salt-cured beef. Corning was a form of curing where the meat was dry-cured using coarse “corns” of salt. Pellets of salt, some the size of kernels of corn, were rubbed into the beef to keep it from spoiling and to preserve it. This traditional curing method was used before refrigeration. Brining, using salt water, has now replaced the dry salt cure method. Peppercorns, bay leaves and other regional spices give corned beef its’ distinctive flavor.
Uncooked corned beef with a “sell-by” date or “no date”, can be stored unopened in the refrigerator for 5 to 7 days. If the corned beef has a “use-by” date, store the product in the refrigerator unopened until that date. If you plan to freeze uncooked corned beef, drain the brine from the meat and wrap well before freezing. If it is not drained, the high salt brine encourages rancidity and texture changes in the meat. For the best quality freeze uncooked corned beef for one month. Prolonged freezing can alter the flavor and texture, but the meat will still be safe to eat. After cooking, corned beef may be refrigerated for 3-4 days or frozen for 2-3 months for best quality.
Cooking for Success
Corned beef is made from less tender cuts of beef such as the brisket, rump or round, so it requires long, moist cooking methods. It can be cooked on the stove top, in the oven, in a slow cooker or in the microwave. Corned beef may still be pink in color even when it is done due to the nitrites used in the curing process. “Fork tender” is a good indication of doneness, but always use a food thermometer to make sure you have reached a minimum internal temperature of 145 degrees. When the meat is removed from the heat source, always allow it to stand at least 10 minutes before slicing as it will be easier to slice. It is even easier to cut uniform slices when the corned beef is cold. For the most uniform slices, slice diagonally across the grain of the meat. Corned beef is great to cook ahead of time and then reheat and serve later. Before reheating , be sure to skim the congealed fat off of the corned beef which will make it lower in fat and calories.
Cool Down Quickly
After cooking a whole corned beef, cut it into several pieces or slice it for quicker cooling. Place the beef in small, shallow containers and cool it in the refrigerator promptly. Reheat leftover corned beef to 165 degrees.
Create Something New with Leftovers
Corned beef can also be purchased in cans and ready-to-eat in delis. It is the key ingredient in Reuben sandwiches. Smoking corned beef with a spice mixture produces smoked beef products such as pastrami.
May the Luck of the Irish be with you this St. Patrick’s Day!