Corned beef refers to a beef brisket that has been seasoned and pickled or cured in a brine. It must be cooked for a long time because it is a large cut of beef and not tender, but the process is simple as long as you purchase your brisket already cured. Originally, the corning process was designed to preserve the meat and prevent spoilage. But many people enjoy the flavor. Today, corned beef is a traditional favorite for St. Patrick’s Day in the US.
Choosing a Corned Beef Brisket
Purchase a corned beef brisket that is suitable for your family. A whole brisket is quite large, but smaller pieces are available in the grocery store. Look for a brisket with plenty of meat and not too much fat. Look at the grain of the meat. Briskets with grain that changes directions many times will be harder to carve properly. Consider purchasing a brisket large enough for leftovers to make corned beef hash or Reuben sandwiches.
Cooking the Corned Beef
A corned beef brisket is already brined and ready to cook. Rinse the brisket and place it in a large, heavy pot. Add the spice ingredients that came with the brisket and cover the meat with water. Bring the corned beef to a boil and reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer the brisket for the time indicated on the package label, usually 3 to 5 hours, depending on the size of the brisket.
The corned beef brisket shrinks a little and plumps up as it cooks. You may need to add a little water, but it does not have to stay completely covered.
Remove the brisket from the water when it is tender and place it on the cutting board to rest for a few minutes. If you are not planning to eat it immediately, allow it to cool before slicing. Put some cabbage or carrots and potatoes into the cooking water, if desired, and let them simmer while the brisket cools.
Carving the Corned Beef Brisket
Proper slicing is the key to tender corned beef. Locate the direction of the grain in the brisket. Look for the long strands of muscle. Slice the brisket so that you cut across the strands. Done correctly, you will see small round muscle strands in the slice, not long strands. Sometimes you will need to separate overlapping layers of brisket. Do your best to cut the muscle across the strand. Long strands will result in a tough, chewy mouthful of meat.