Perfect Corned Beef

With St. Patrick’s Day around the corner, I’ve received a few emails about corned beef. I am re-publishing this post from two years ago about corned beef in hopes it will be helpful to new readers. This is still my preferred method for turning out a corned beef that starts with a store-bought piece of meat. I’ve been meaning to try corning my own beef brisket from scratch…perhaps next year!

Corned Beef

Ever wonder how deli-style corned beef can be sliced into perfect slices without shredding like your Sunday pot roast?

Finding the right cut is the first step. You will find plenty of bargains around St. Patrick’s Day. Supermarket corned beef comes in two versions, a “point” cut and a “flat” cut. If you like a corned beef that has a high amount of fat and is difficult to slice go for the cheaper of the two cuts, the point cut. If you want a piece of corned beef that yields picture perfect slices that are great for sandwiches you’ll want to sort through the corned beef in the butcher case to find a flat cut. This cut has very little waste and can actually be a better bargain than the cheaper point cut that can often be 50% fat.

Take a minute or two and pick the packages up; look at them closely. Find one that is about 2-3 inches thick. Look at each side and go for one that looks even with no streaks of fat running through the middle of the meat. A layer of fat on the top is desirable, but not running through the middle of the cut. Buy a piece larger than what you need, it will shrink quite a bit while cooking, but one that will fit in your pan.

My preferred cooking method for this is a pressure cooker. You can also simmer corned beef on top of the stove or braise it pot-roast style in the oven, but pressure-cooking will remove much of the excess salt used to cure the beef, leaving the meat tender and moist. It also cooks in an hour.

Remove the meat from the package and rinse it well. Throw away that nasty little package of spices that often comes with a vacuum-packed corned beef. There’s really not enough of anything there to give much in the way of flavor and I feel the stale bay leaves overpower the meat.

Tie the roast in both directions to help keep it’s shape and place on a rack in a pressure cooker. Add plain water according to your pressure cooker’s instructions. In my 6-quart pressure cooker and a rack that holds the meat about 2 inches from the bottom of the pan, I need about 3 quarts of water. No need to season the water, the beef is already highly seasoned, probably even too highly salted for most tastes.

Cook the beef under pressure for 60 minutes (alternatively, simmer, covered, on top of the stove or in the oven for about 2-3 hours or until fork tender). Remove the roast from the pan after the pressure drops and the lid is safe to remove. Discard the cooking water-it’s yucky. Simmer your cabbage and potatoes separately in chicken broth, if your menu includes them.

Wrap the meat tightly in plastic wrap, place on a flat plate. Place another plate on top and weigh it down with heavy cans, or a very heavy pan (the more weight the better). Allow the meat to cool for at least an hour (or over night). Unwrap and slice with a sharp knife. Voila! Corned beef that can be sliced as thick or thin as you like, without shredding. Serve with cabbage that is stir fried in a little bit of butter until just tender and a glass (or two) of Guinness.
Corned Beef
perfect corned beef

  1. Your method of braising beef in beer, much like a pot roast, sounds lovely. I’ve cooked corned beef exactly like that in the past and it certainly is a fine way to do it. This article from the Smithsonian about corned beef and the Irish culture is very interesting if food history fascinates you as it does me:

    • barbara caverly
    • March 16th, 2013

    I cook a community corn beef and cabbage. I DO NOT use a pressure cook, I use a electic roater, my spices and the IRISH way(BEER) even tho i’m not a drinker the beer flavor cooks out but have very tender meat. DO NOT COOK ON HIGH but cook SLOW & ON ABOUT 225 DEGREES UNTIL DONE>

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