WAYS TO COOK A CORNED BEEF BRISKET
Food Safety and Inspection Service
United States Department of Agriculture
Washington, D.C. 20250-3700
*Corned beef meat is tough but will get very
tender when cooked slow with plenty of
liquid keeping it moist.
"Tis always the Season for Corned Beef."
OVEN: Set the oven for 350F or no lower
than 325F. Place brisket fat-side up. Barely cover
the meat with water -- about one inch -- and keep
the container covered throughout the cooking time.
Allow about one hour per pound.
STOVE TOP: Place brisket fat-side up in a large pot and cover it with water. Bring the water to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer, allowing about one hour per pound. Vegetables may be added during the last 20 to 30 minutes of cooking. Cook to desired tenderness.
SLOW COOKER: If using root vegetables put them in the bottom of slow cooker. Cut brisket into pieces of like size to ensure thorough cooking. Place brisket on top of vegetables (if using) or in bottom of cooker. Add about 1-1/2 cups of water or enough to cover meat. Cover and cook on high setting for the first hour of cooking. Then cook for 10 to 12 hours on the low setting or 5 to 6 hours on high. Cabbage wedges may be added on top of the brisket during the last three hours of cooking.
MICROWAVE: Calculate cooking time at 20 to 30 minutes per pound. Place brisket in a large casserole dish and add 1-1/2 cups of water. Cover with lid or vented plastic wrap and microwave on medium-low (30 percent power) for half the estimated time. Turn meat over and rotate dish. Microwave on high for remainder of time or until meat fork's tender. Vegetables may be added during the final 30 minutes of cooking.
Consumer Information on Corned Beef: Originally "Corned Beef and Cabbage" was a traditional dish served for Easter Sunday dinner in rural Ireland. The beef, which was salted or brined during the winter to preserve it, could then be eaten after the long, meatless Lenten fast. Since the advent of refrigeration, the trend in Ireland is to eat fresh meats. Today this peasant dish is more popular in the United States than in Ireland. Irish-Americans and lots of other people eat it on St. Patrick's Day, Ireland's principal feast day, as a nostalgic reminder of their Irish heritage.
Corning is a form of curing: it has nothing to do with corn. The name comes from Anglo-Saxon times before refrigeration. In those days, the meat was dry-cured in 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. Today brining -- the use of salt water -- has replaced the dry salt cure, but the name "corned beef" is still used, rather than "brined" or "pickled" beef. Commonly used spices that give corned beef its distinctive flavor are peppercorns and bay leaf. Of course, these spices may vary regionally.
Package Dating and Storage Times: Uncooked corned beef in a pouch with pickling juices which has a "sell-by" date or no date may be stored 5 to 7 days in the refrigerator (unopened). Products with a "use-by" date can be stored unopened in the refrigerator until that date. Drained and well wrapped, an uncooked corned beef brisket may be frozen for one month for best quality. The flavor and texture will diminish with prolonged freezing but the product is still safe. After cooking, corned beef may be refrigerated for about 3 to 4 days and frozen for about 2 to 3 months.
Preparation: Corned beef is made from one of several less-tender cuts of beef like the brisket, rump or round. Therefore, it requires long, moist cooking. Keep food safety in mind when preparing the corned beef. It can be cooked on top of the stove or in the oven, microwave or slow cooker. "Fork-tender" is a good indication of being done but use a meat thermometer to be sure. Cook until the internal temperature has reached at least 160 degrees-F. Corned beef may still be pink in color after cooking. This does not mean it is not done. Nitrite is used in the curing process. This fixes pigment in the meat and affects the color. Allow the brisket to stand for about ten minutes after removing from the heat. This will make it easier to slice, and it is best sliced diagonally across the grain of the meat.
Cooking Times: The USDA does not recommend one particular cooking method as best. Following are methods from various sources. The cooking times are based on corned beef that is not frozen at the time of cooking. Whichever method you choose, be sure the beef reaches an internal temperature of at least 160 degrees F to ensure it is safely cooked.
Cooking Ahead: Some consumers prefer to cook corned beef ahead of time. It is easier to cut uniform slices when corned beef is cold. Cooking ahead also makes it easier to reheat and serve later.
After cooking a whole corned beef, cut it into several pieces for faster cooling -- or slice it if you like. Place the beef in small shallow containers and cool it in the refrigerator quickly.
Leftovers: Any corned beef left over from a meal should be refrigerated promptly - within two hours of cooking or reheating. Use cooked-ahead or leftover corned beef within 3 to 4 days or freeze up to 2 months.