Corned beef has a salty, spicy, beefy, flavor reminiscent of a hot dog. A hot dog in the shape of a steak—who wouldn’t love that?!
There are two basic steps to corned beef: the spice rub, and the cook.
The rub is a mix of spices; mustard, black pepper, coriander seed, allspice, clove, and most importantly, the salt that gives corned beef it’s characteristic hammy flavor.
The cook is a little more complicated, since brisket is not a naturally tender cut of meat. It contains a ton of connective tissue, all of which must be broken down before it can be easily chewed and digested. That’s where heat and salt come in!
Salt is actually where the term “corned beef” comes from. “Corn” is the old English word for “kernel” which referred to any kind of small, hard object, like a large grain of salt. Corned beef earned its name from the salt “corns” used to preserve it. But how does salt affect meat anyway?
High salt concentrations cause the normally tightly bunched protein filaments in the muscle cells to separate into individual filaments, while at the same time the dehydration from heat makes the tissue denser and more concentrated: which results in a close but tender texture.
To cook corned beef, stick to a “low-and-slow” method. Using a low a temperature over a long period of time will retain the maximum amount of moisture.
Bring a large pot of water up to 180°F, drop in the beef, cover the pot, then turn down the heat to the lowest possible setting. Adjust the heat as necessary so that the water hovers at around 180° for the entire cooking period. Cooking for around 10 hours was just about ideal, producing meat that was simultaneously tender and succulent.
If you don’t want to make this St. Patricks’s day classic from scratch, stop by Tony’s to pick up pre-cooked corned beef! Simply reheat, and steam or boil some potatoes, carrots, and cabbage, and you’re ready to enjoy a classic Irish meal!