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The Ultimate Guide To Everything You Need To Know About Corned Beef

We have a lot to cover, so I’m going to skip the usual pleasantries and dive right in. Honestly, I have so much to tell you about corned beef and I’m very excited!

Corned beef is largely considered the crown jewel of an American St. Patrick’s Day celebration and with good reason. 

In this guide to all things corned beef I am going to walk you through literally everything you never knew you never knew about corned beef.

Crock Pot Corned Beef Recipe Photo

What Is Corned Beef?

Simply put, corned beef is salt cured beef, specifically a beef brisket cut. The large pieces of sea salt are known as ‘corns,’ hence the name corned beef.

This particular cut of beef is known to be naturally tough, much like flank steak, so a low and slow cooking method is necessary for the best results.

The popular St. Patrick’s Day fare, also known as salt beef, is an Irish American creation and not actually one you would find in Ireland traditionally.

It’s also very popular with our neighbors to the north, often taking center stage at Canadian St. Patrick’s Day celebrations as well.

Corned beef legend has it that back in 1875, butchers were trying to figure out what to do with all of the leftover scraps from the brisket and started salt curing it with peppercorns and brown sugar.

Corned beef is used primarily in a Jiggs or boiled dinner with cabbage and potatoes, or as a savory, salty sandwich, the popular Reuben sandwich.

Classic Reuben Sandwich Recipe Picture

What Is So Special About Corned Beef?

Unlike some of the more popular cuts of beef, corned beef is a much cheaper cut because of how tough it is – that affordability makes it very accesible. 

It’s not as pretty as the others and needs a little extra care to bring out its tenderness. (You’re not alone corned beef. I can totally relate.)

Cooking corned beef can feel really intimidating at first, but I assure you that it isn’t that hard. There are actually tons of ways to make a delicious corned beef.

Just follow the instructions for the method you choose, and you’ll end up with soft and tender corned beef in just a few short hours.

Crock Pot Corned Beef Recipe Image

Should I Rinse My Corned Beef Prior To Cooking?

Whether or not to rinse corned beef tends to be a highly debated topic – sort of like the debate over rinsing chicken before cooking, which you should never do.

Unlike chicken, however, when it comes to corned beef, you really should give it a good rinse due to the salt that is used during the curing process.

If you go from package, straight to the pan, you’re going to have a very salty outcome. Chances are, that’s not the finished result you’re looking to achieve.

This doesn’t mean you have to rinse. There aren’t any dangers involved in not rinsing, except for the elevated levels of sodium.

Crock Pot Corned Beef Recipe Picture

What Goes Into Corned Beef Brine?

Brining corned beef is an extremely important step to the entire process and takes about 10 days to accomplish – that is if you’re starting with a fresh brisket.

If you’re up to the task, our traditional corned beef recipe has everything you need to know about brining and preparing the best corned beef.

Thankfully, these days it’s much easier to buy an already brined, cured, and vacuum sealed corned beef. The hard part is done so all you have to do is cook.

If you decide to corn the beef yourself, all you need is heavily salted water and some spices like peppercorns, coriander seed, allspice, mustard seed, and cloves.

Grocery stores carry premade versions that can simplify the process for you.

Mini Reuben Toasts Image

What Is the Best Way To Cook Corned Beef?

Corned beef can be cooked in a number of ways. Believe it or not, you can even make corned beef in the Crock Pot with absolutely delicious results.

Whether you decide to make your corned beef in the Crock Pot, smoker, oven, or on the stove top, cooking it low and slow is the common denominator.

The meat needs plenty of time to break down connective tissues – the result is a very tough piece of meat if you rush this process. So, plan ahead and be patient.

The Jiggs dinner isn’t a popular dish in my home, so I usually go with a smaller roast and cook it on the stove in a stock pot.

I prefer the packaged version with the little spice packet. After giving the corned beef a good rinse, I place it in the pot and add water until the roast is fully submerged.

Sprinkle in the spice packet or your own blend. Lastly, bring it to a boil and then lower the temp and let it do its thing for at least a couple hours.

You’re looking for a temperature of 145˚. Depending on the size, it will likely take around three hours.

Reuben Soup Pic

Mistakes To Avoid When Cooking Corned Beef

  1. Not rinsing the corned beef- unless you want it to taste like a salt lick, rinse your meat!
  2. Not filling the pot with enough water- check your water levels periodically. If the beef isn’t covered, add more water as needed.
  3. Too high of a temperature- remember, low and slow for tender and soft.
  4. Not cooking the meat long enough- patience is key. Give your roast plenty of time to cook and you’ll be rewarded with a juicy and flavorful corned beef.
  5. Not slicing the beef properly- always cut against the grain. This helps to shorten any muscle fibers that may still be present and keeps it from being too chewy.
Avocado Reuben Bites Picture

How To Use Corned Beef Leftovers

Got leftovers? We have a bunch of recipes you should try with those corned beef leftovers, like our fan favorite hearty Reuben soup recipe.

Our avocado Reuben bites make a fun party appetizer anytime of the year, and of course you can’t skip out on enjoying a classic Reuben sandwich.

Wow your friends are your next party by making our mini Reuben toasts or our Reuben bread recipe, which is absolutely stuffed with corned beef.