What Is Corned Beef? Origins, Recipes, and More!

May 19th 2023 - Team

What Is Corned Beef? Origins, Recipes, and More!

As an Irish-American staple, corned beef is naturally linked with March 17th celebrations, St. Patrick’s Day. Around the middle of March, conversations would gravitate to that delicious and comforting staple, corned beef and cabbage. Boiled corned beef and cabbage is a common meal, and along with rye bread, sauerkraut, Russian dressing, and Swiss cheese, you now have the building blocks of the classic Reuben sandwich.

So what is corned beef? And how exactly does it come into being? In this article, we deep dive into more detailed information about this famous dish.

What Is Corned Beef?

Meat that has been cured with salt is known as corned beef. The meat was kept by salting and curing it before the invention of the refrigerator. The curing method that results in modern corned beef might theoretically have been applied to any kind of meat in the past. Beef brisket is used to make corned beef in the United States. The brisket is a cured chunk of meat that is commonly found at Jewish delis since it is considered kosher.

Why is corned beef pink?

Most commercial producers of corned beef also use a salt-nitrite blend known as pink curing salt to keep the meat from deteriorating during the curing process. Since pink salt is visually identical to conventional table salt, it is often used for the same purposes. It's found in bacon, ham, salami, and even some hotdogs which is why some of these products have the pink color.

Beef vs corned beef: What's the difference?

To answer the question "What is corned beef?" you now know that, unlike a hamburger, which is not ham, beef (ideally brisket) is one of the available responses. The term "corned" refers to the pickling procedure that occurs before consumption.

How to Cook Corned Beef

Corned beef is created from beef brisket, a tough type of meat that requires braising, or slow cooking with liquid. To achieve juicy, delicious corned beef, slow cooking is essential. You may braise corned beef in the oven, on the stove, in the slow cooker, or in the Instant Pot, any of which will yield delicious results.

How Long to Cook Corned Beef

Perhaps you're wondering how long corned beef should be boiled. This will vary with the size of the corned beef you use.

For instance, a 3-pound cut of corned beef brisket needs roughly 3 hours of braise time at a low simmer. When the corned beef is soft but still holds together, it's done cooking. The meat should be easily cut with a fork.

Corned Beef Recipes

Here are some recipes to get you in the kitchen and cooking with corned beef now that you know more about it.

Slow-cooked corned beef and cabbage

This is the traditional recipe for corned beef and cabbage.

  • Throw the beef in first, then the greens along with some salt and water.
  • Use this as a staple for delicious meals, sandwiches, and hash.
  • You can avoid overdone cabbage and potatoes by cooking them while the beef rests.

Corned Beef Hash with Poached Eggs

Keep this recipe for at the forefront of your recipe box because it's the only one you'll ever need. The dish is basically elevated with the addition of poached eggs.

  • In this take on corned beef, the braising liquid is a mixture of hard cider and Irish whiskey.
  • Substituting rutabagas and leeks for the traditional potato and cabbage raises the flavor profile even further.

Reuben dip

A crowd-pleasing Reuben dip may be made in less time than it takes to cook four Reuben sandwiches I mean what could be simpler than chopping and stirring?

  • While using an Instant Pot to make corned beef and cabbage is a two-step process, the end result is a colorful platter of goodness that can be enjoyed in minutes rather than hours.

How Is Corned Beef Made?

It takes about five to eight days of curing time to make corned beef. Want to make it yourself? Well, the DIY instructions call for bringing one beef brisket in salt brine and spices for a week in the fridge.

You can find massive barrels of cured briskets on large delis that often have walk-in coolers. They are usually made up of these ingredients:

  • Beef, water, and salt form the base, while spices, garlic, and herbs round out the flavor.
  • Bay leaves, black pepper, mustard seeds, dried red pepper, and coriander are common ingredients. You may recognize such spices because they are also included in pickling spices. This makes sense, given that most deli meat shops produce corned beef and pickles.

Storage Tips

Corned beef can be stored for up to three days in the refrigerator in an airtight container. They can also be put into a deep freeze. Beef can be frozen for up to three months if stored in an airtight container. Refrigerate overnight to defrost, then reheat as desired.

Reheating is also pretty easy:

  • Corned beef should be rewarmed in a covered baking dish (such as a Dutch oven) in an oven preheated to 350 degrees F.
  • Before covering, add a few tablespoons of water to assist maintain moisture in the meat.
  • Corned beef can also be reheated in the microwave.


Why Do People Eat Corned Beef on St. Patrick's Day

The first Irish Americans are responsible for the modern celebration of St. Patrick's Day. They changed it from a religious festival to a day to honor their history and culture. They would treat themselves to expensive corned beef and serve it with the more frugal side dish of cabbage.

This was a homage to their Irish ancestors who were settlers and frequently settled in areas also populated by Jews, and hence became regulars at kosher butcher shops.

Many stores now stock corned beef in vacuum-sealed slices in the meat section.

Corned beef, cabbage, and potatoes became so associated with the festival that President Abraham Lincoln served it at his first Inaugural Luncheon (held on March 4, 1861, less than two weeks before St. Patrick's Day).