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What is Corned Beef?

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Corned Beef Sandwich

Corned Beef Sandwich

Photo by jeffreyw [flickr]

Corned beef is a name given to salt-cured cuts of beef, usually brisket or round. The term "corned" is not a reference to the use of corn in the recipe, but rather the corn-sized granules of salt that were once used to cure the meat. Today, most corned beef is cured in a salt brine rather than a dry salt rub.

Corned Beef Varieties

Corned beef can usually be purchased uncooked in brine, or cooked in a can. Brined corned beef is usually boiled after purchase but can also be roasted. Brined corned beef often remains pink on the inside despite being fully cooked. This is attributed to nitrates in the brining solution, which tend to preserve color. Brined corned beef is usually sold as a whole roast and is typically served sliced after cooking.

Canned corned beef is pre-cooked and only requires reheated prior to consuming. Canned corned beef is chopped into small pieces prior to canning and is typically more oily and salty than brined corned beef. Canned corned beef is also sold as "corned beef hash," with is a mixture of cooked, chopped corned beef with small pieces of cooked potato.

How is Corned Beef Eaten?

Corned beef and cabbage is a traditional celebratory meal for St. Patricks Day in the United States and Canada. Brined corned beef and fresh cabbage are boiled with seasonings such as pepper and bay leaf. Corned beef and cabbage are often served with potatoes for a traditional Irish-American meal. Although corned beef is not a staple food in Ireland, it became quite popular with Irish immigrants in America during the late 19th and early 20th century.

Corned beef and cabbage is also commonly eaten in the form of a reuben sandwich. On this delicatessen favorite, sliced corned beef is topped with sauerkraut (picked cabbage), swiss cheese, and Russian dressing, and served between two slices of rye bread.

Canned corn beef is typically pan fried prior to eating and is a popular breakfast item served along side potatoes and eggs.

When corned beef is smoked and packed with herbs and spices, it is known as pastrami. Pastrami sandwiches are another popular delicatessen item and is also typically served on rye bread.

Storing Corned Beef

Corned beef purchased in the brine can be stored in the refrigerator for five to seven days or until the "use by" date before cooking. Brined corned beef can also be drained, tightly wrapped, and frozen for up to three months prior to cooking. Cooked corned beef can be kept refrigerated for three to four days or frozen for up to three months. Cooked corned beef should be refrigerated within two hours of cooking.

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