St. Patrick’s Day fare traditionally includes corned beef, but this savory specialty can be prepared any time of the year. You can add corned beef to sandwiches, casseroles and eggs for a delicious meal. Here are five tips to making the heartiest, yummiest corned beef:
Invest in quality beef
Corned beef is traditionally made using brisket, which is taken from the cow’s front breast section. Since the cow usually exercises these parts, the precooked cuts are relatively lean. When possible, try to buy fresh meat directly from a butcher, instead of pre-packaged cuts. If you do have to use packaged meat, keep an eye out for a high grade. To select a good cut, first make sure the meat has a deep red color. Avoid graying meat, as that likely means the cut has been refrigerated for too long. You should also look out for a nice layer of fat over the meat. Note that the meat will shrink as you cook, so pick up generous portions.
Choose your cut carefully
Brisket usually comes in point cuts or flat cuts. Point cuts are rounder and have more marbling, which means you can get more flavor and juiciness from the fat. The leaner flat cuts are easier to slice uniformly. Choose the cut that best fits your needs. While point cuts may be tastier, well-cooked flat cuts offer a great deal of flavor. Leftover flat cuts are usually better for making sandwiches, since the lean meat slices and dices so cleanly.
The less tender cuts of meat require slow, moist cooking to achieve their full potential. Excessively high heat will only make your meat tough, so make sure to simmer slowly. Your cooking time will depend on the amount of meat you are preparing. A good time gauge is approximately 50 minutes for every pound of beef, but you should keep an eye on it and simply stop when the meat is nice and tender. Cooking too long can cause the meat to fall apart, which is worse for sandwiches. To be on the safe side, U.S. Food and Safety Inspection recommends cooking raw corned beef to a minimum of 145 degrees Fahrenheit. In short, give yourself a lot of time, since the simmering process can take as long as 5 hours. Munch on a lot of snacks, as the anticipation of cooking corned beef will definitely whet your appetite.
Don’t be shy about spice
Corned beef often comes with a packet of spices, but you may want to start from scratch. You can pick up a pickling spice blend from the grocery store or make one up from your own spice rack. Common corned beef spices include peppercorn, bay leaves, allspice, cinnamon, ginger, coriander, cloves, nutmeg and mustard seed. You can also throw in some fresh garlic for added flavor. If you have purchased packaged corned beef brisket, the beef may already be seasoned. Cook a small piece to find out whether you still need to add spices.
Bring on the beer
If you are looking for that extra kick, a glass of beer might do the trick. The beer will soak in and infuse your meat with flavor while adding moisture. Opt for an Irish stout beer, but be aware that stronger varieties can be bitter. As a complement to the beer flavor, season your corned beef with brown sugar. Once your meal is ready, you can easily pair the corned beef dish with your beer for a sublime St. Patrick’s Day (or any day) dinner.