5 Mistakes to Avoid When Making Corned Beef (2024)

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Kelli Foster

Kelli FosterSenior Contributing Food Editor

Kelli is a Senior Contributing Food Editor for Kitchn. She's a graduate of the French Culinary Institute and author of the cookbooks, Plant-Based Buddha Bowls, The Probiotic Kitchen, Buddha Bowls, and Everyday Freekeh Meals. She lives in New Jersey.


updated Sep 11, 2022





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Come mid-March, mentions of the iconic Irish-American classic of corned beef and cabbage begin to show up everywhere. Menus feature it for dinner and recipes for how to make it from scratch pop up on just about every cooking site — including our own. That’s because this meal has become a delicious way to celebrate elements of the Irish-American experience. And for the intrepid cook, making corned beef at home is a satisfying cooking project. However, there are five mistakes to avoid and by remembering these, you’re well on your way to cooking a delicious corned beef.

New to Cooking Corned Beef?

Whether you’re making corned beef for the first time this year (check out our beginner’s guide!) or an old pro curious about how others do it, take a look at this list of the things you don’t want to do. It’ll help you reach corned beef perfection.

1. Not rinsing the meat before cooking.

If you cook the meat straight from the plastic packaging or pulled from the brine solution in the fridge, you just might be in for a saltier meal than you bargained for.

Do this instead: Whether you bought a ready-to-cook corned beef or you cured your own, rinse the meat several times under cool water to remove any excess salt. But don’t think this means you’re rinsing away all the flavor; by this point, the meat is fully infused with it.

2. Cooking over a high temperature.

High heat is not a friend to brisket. When cooked at a boil for too long, corned beef is likely to turn out tough and chewy, rather than soft and tender.

Do this instead: Regardless of the cooking method, corned beef is best cooked over low heat. A low, gentle simmer on the stovetop or in the slow cooker are two methods for cooking up soft, tender slices of corned beef every time.

3. Not filling the pot with enough water.

Simmering corned beef on the stovetop is a tried-and-true method that, when done right, results in very tender beef. One of the keys to getting there is the amount of water in the pot. From start to finish, when there’s not ample liquid to cover the meat, your dreams of tender corned beef might be crushed with a tough, chewy result.

Do this instead: Start by filling a stockpot with enough water so the beef is totally submerged. Remove the lid to check the level of liquid during cooking and add more water, if necessary. This small step will help deliver a super-tender corned beef to the table.

4. Not cooking the meat long enough.

Brisket, the cut typically used for corned beef, is a naturally tough cut of meat. Cooking this beef is a process that can’t be rushed. Even when the meat is cooked through, it needs more time to transform the chewy bite into one that’s deliciously tender.

Do this instead: To slice into the tender pieces of meat you expect, cooking corned beef takes patience. It’s a tough cut of meat that benefits from a lengthy cook time. For stovetop cooking, plan on at least three hours for a three-pound corned beef, or eight to 10 hours for a three- to four-pound cut that’s prepared on low in the slow cooker.

5. Cutting the meat incorrectly.

The way you slice your cooked corned beef actually makes a big difference. Slicing meat with the grain (or in the same direction as the muscle fibers) should always be avoided, as it leaves you with a chewier piece of meat.

How to Slice Meat Against the Grain

Read More

Do this instead: Treat corned beef just like steak. Look for the lines of visible muscles fibers on the meat — this is the “grain” of the meat. Always sliced corned beef against the grain (rather than with it). Cutting through the muscle fibers shortens them, and makes each pieces easier to chew.

A Recipe for Corned Beef + More St. Patrick’s Day Favorites

  • How To Make Corned Beef
  • How to Make Slow Cooker Corned Beef and Cabbage
  • Classic Corned Beef Hash
  • How To Make Colcannon (Irish Potatoes and Cabbage)
  • How To Make Irish Soda Bread

Your turn! What are your best tips for cooking corned beef? Tell us in the comments!

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St Patrick's Day


5 Mistakes to Avoid When Making Corned Beef (2024)


5 Mistakes to Avoid When Making Corned Beef? ›

Because corned beef comes from brisket, a tough cut of meat. You need its connective tissue to break down so you can have tender results. Some like to braise their corned beef in an all-water liquid, with various spices and salt; others add beer to the mix to further tenderize the meat.

What not to do when cooking corned beef? ›

5 Mistakes to Avoid When Making Corned Beef
  1. Not Rinsing the Meat Before Cooking. ...
  2. Cooking Over a High Temperature. ...
  3. Not Filling the Pot with Enough Water. ...
  4. Not Cooking the Meat Long Enough. ...
  5. Cutting the Meat Incorrectly.
Sep 3, 2020

What is the secret to the best corned beef? ›

Because corned beef comes from brisket, a tough cut of meat. You need its connective tissue to break down so you can have tender results. Some like to braise their corned beef in an all-water liquid, with various spices and salt; others add beer to the mix to further tenderize the meat.

Do you wash the brine off corned beef? ›

Many recipes don't include a step for rinsing the meat, but it's worth doing it anyway. Depending on the pickling solution used for the meat, you may be in for a saltier meal than you bargained for if you cook the meat without rinsing it. And don't worry: Rinsing won't make the beef taste bland!

Should you rinse corned beef before you cook it? ›

It's a good idea to do so. Don't worry that you will be rinsing away flavor. Rinsing the corned beef means it will be less salty. Also, keep the seasoning packet if one came with it.

Do you simmer corned beef with lid on or off? ›

Pour in enough water to cover the beef, then bring the water to a boil on the stovetop. Reduce the heat to a simmer, and cover the pot. A 3-pound corned beef could take three hours or more to become perfectly tender. Check the meat occasionally, adding more water if necessary.

Do you put corned beef fat side up or down? ›

Place the corned beef fat-side up in a roasting pan with a rack or use an oven-safe rack set inside a rimmed baking sheet. If you don't have either, set the corned beef on top of a bed of chopped onions so it's elevated from the pan.

Does corned beef get more tender the longer you cook it? ›

Information. Corned beef is made from one of several less tender cuts of beef like the brisket, rump, or round. Therefore, it requires long, moist cooking. Corned beef is safe once the internal temperature has reached at least 145 °F, with a three minute rest time, but cooking it longer will make it fork-tender.

What makes corned beef taste good? ›

Corned beef is typically made from beef brisket – a relatively inexpensive cut of beef – cured in salt brine, with some pickling spices: bay leaf, peppercorns, mustard seed, juniper berries, coriander seeds, and whole cloves. Corned beef gets its characteristic sweet and tart taste from the brine.

Should you use the juice in the corned beef package? ›

To make the corned beef, open the sealed package right over the slow cooker, because you want to include the brine in the cooking liquid. Don't discard the brine.

What happens if you don't rinse off the brine? ›

Once the dry-brining waiting period is up, there is no need to rinse off the surface of your food. The meat will not be overly salty, and rinsing the surface with water will undo all of the surface-drying achieved by the dry-brine process. That, in turn, will prevent browning.

How long to cook 3 lb corned beef? ›

For a two to three-pound corned beef brisket, cook for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. For a three to five-pound corned beef brisket, cook for 3 to 3 1/2 hours. STOVE: Place brisket fat-side up in a large pot and cover it with water. Bring the water to a boil; then reduce the heat and simmer, allowing about 1 hour per pound.

What is the red stuff in a corned beef package? ›

Blood is removed from beef during slaughter and only a small amount remains within the muscle tissue. Since beef is about 3/4 water, this natural moisture combined with protein is the source of the liquid in the package.

What is the secret to tender corned beef? ›

Turn the crock pot to the low setting and let the slow cooker corned beef cook for 8 to 10 hours. This extended cooking time makes the meat tender, juicy and flavorful. Alternatively, you can use an instant pot to make corned beef in less time.

What is the best cooking method for corned beef? ›

The USDA recommends simmering corned beef on the stovetop for 1 hour per pound of meat. If you're cooking yours in the oven, plan for 3 to 3 1/2 hours for a 2 1/2- to 3-pound cut.

How to tell if corned beef is done without a thermometer? ›

Test the meat with a fork. If it is fork-tender it is most likely done.

What do you do with the liquid in the corned beef package? ›

Open the package of corned beef over the sink.

I use tongs to grab the meat and then pour the juices down the drain. Make sure you grab the spice packet before it disappears. The spice packet has peppercorns, bits of bay leaves, mustard and coriander seeds. YUM!!!

Why does my corned beef always come out tough? ›

Question: Why is my corned beef always so dry and chewy? Answer: Because the brisket is a naturally tough cut of beef, it needs special TLC to become tender and moist. Slow cooking at a low temperature gives the collagen in the meat time to become soft and gelatinous, which makes your meat tender.

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