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How to make corned beef

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Corned beef is a delicious and easy way to preserve meat.



Corned beef is an age-old process of preserving meat in brine. The ‘corn’ in corned beef refers to the ‘corns’ or grains of coarse salts used to cure it. The Oxford English Dictionary defines corn, as meaning ‘a small hard particle, a grain, as of sand or salt.’


In the US and Canada, corned beef typically comes in two forms, a cut of beef like brisket, round or silverside, cured or pickled in a seasoned brine, precooked and canned.


Being an old method of preserving meat, corned beef has some historical significance too. In the US and Canada, consumption of corned beef is associated with Saint Patrick's Day. Although corned beef did not originate in Ireland, it is a part of Irish-American culture and is often a part of North American celebrations of Saint Patrick's Day. The appearance of corned beef in Irish cuisine dates to the 12th century in the poem Aislinge Meic Con Glinne or ‘The Vision of MacConglinne’. 


Corned beef was used as a substitute for bacon by Irish American immigrants in the late 1800s. A similar dish is the popular New England boiled dinner, consisting of corned beef, cabbage, and root vegetables such as carrots, turnips, and potatoes.


Even today, we still make corn beef for the great taste and appealing texture we get from such a long brining. 


Making corned beef is quite simple, but the procedure takes around 3 weeks to complete. During the brining, the beef is flavored throughout by the malty beer and the aromatic pickling spices. At the same time, the salt starts to break down the tough muscles of the brisket. That tenderization is completed in the two-plus hours of boiling, resulting in a fork-tender piece of incredibly flavorful meat.


Here is the recipe for making corned beef:





8 to 10 pounds of good quality beef brisket

1/4 tsp. saltpeter

2 tsp. paprika

3 cloves of minced garlic

1 tbsp. mixed pickling spices

1/4 cup warm water

2 tbsp. sugar

3/4 cup salt

2 quarts water




•    Place the beef brisket in a large crock.

•    Dissolve the saltpeter in warm water and then add the sugar, minced cloves, pickling spice and paprika to the saltpeter mixture.

•    Add 3/4 cup salt in 2 quarts water, then add the other mixture and stir well. Pour this over the meat in the crock. Be sure the meat is totally covered with the liquid.

•    Cover the crock and refrigerate for 3 weeks. Turn the meat once or twice each week.

•    Take out the meat at the end of the third week and soak it in several changes of fresh cold water to remove the excess salt.

•    Soak the meat a final time in clean, fresh water for 24 hours in the refrigerator. An alternative to this is to boil the marinated meat in water to remove the excess salt.



Corned beef can be used in countless dishes. In the US, corned beef is often purchased ready to eat in delicatessens. It is the key ingredient in the grilled Reuben sandwich, consisting of corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and Thousand Island or Russian dressing on rye bread. 


Corned beef hash is commonly served with eggs for breakfast. 


A cold cut of smoked corned beef with infused spices is what we know as pastrami.


In both the US and Canada, some of the corned beef sold is minced corned beef in cans, usually imported from South America.


The US version of corned beef is known in the UK as salt beef. A similar meat product called boiled beef, but is usually served hot.

For more corned beef recipes and ideas, click here.

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How To Make Corned Beef