How to Make Ultra-Tender Corned Beef (2024)

A corned beef and cabbage meal typically takes a long time to cook. Why? 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.

How to Make Ultra-Tender Corned Beef (1)

Food & Wine culinary director at large Justin Chapple's version takes the beer route and, using pale ale, he cooks the corned beef over low heat for a few hours until it's super tender. He also pickles the cabbage and pairs it with potato salad — the cabbage is particularly low-lift, since it only has to sit in the fridge with the potatoes and pickles on its own. Here are the key tips for making the dish, compiled from our test kitchen.

Seriously, don’t forget the beer

Beer contains acids and tannins, which break down meat and tenderize it. It's the same idea as using citrus, wine, or vinegar in a marinade. In this case, Chapple uses two bottles of pale ale to braise the beef, combining it with onion, garlic, bay leaves, and 12 cups of water.

Be patient

This style of cooking is all about infusing flavor and tenderizing the meat — in about two and a half hours, you'll have results.

Meanwhile, make the potatoes

Chapple's recipe prepares the cabbage and potatoes separately from the beef. Instead of boiling the potatoes and then flavoring them, you do it all at once, adding white vinegar — and a lot of it — to the pot, along with mustard seeds, sugar, salt, and water. Once they're done cooking, you transfer them to a heatproof bowl and let them cool completely in the liquid, which further infuses the flavor.

A note: The reason red potatoes work so well for this recipe is because they have a high starch content, which allows them to hold together after cooking and still have a creamy bite.

Add the cabbage

After the potatoes are cooled, stir in the cabbage and refrigerate the mixture for one hour, stirring occasionally. It will pickle as it sits.

Always slice against the grain

When you're done cooking the corned beef, make sure you slice against the grain of the meat. This will produce a more tender result; if you slice with the grain, you'll find a more tough and stringy texture when you chew. Since you've spent so much time cooking and tenderizing the beef, it would be a shame to undo all that hard work.

Mix the mustards

Dijon adds tang while whole-grain mustard provides texture — together, they make a great dipping sauce.


You're likely to have leftover corned beef, and you have a few options for how you can use it. You can always eat it as is; however, we have some fun ways of repurposing the meat, from making a tasty corned beef hash with fried eggs to "brat reubens" on a hoagie roll. (Reuben benedicts are also a pro move.)

How to Make Ultra-Tender Corned Beef (2024)


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.

Is corned beef more tender the longer you cook it? ›

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 is the most tender corned beef? ›

Point Cut: More marbling and fat, ideal for slow cooking, results in a richer flavor and more tender meat, best for hearty dishes.

How to make corned beef not tough? ›

Always slice against the grain

When you're done cooking the corned beef, make sure you slice against the grain of the meat. This will produce a more tender result; if you slice with the grain, you'll find a more tough and stringy texture when you chew.

Why does my corned beef always come out tough? ›

Slow cooking at a low temperature gives the collagen in the meat time to become soft and gelatinous, which makes your meat tender. If your meat is dry or chewy, it's likely because it was cooked too hot and too fast.

What cooking method is best 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.

Why add beer to corned beef? ›

Using beer to cook corned beef is a popular method because it adds flavor and complexity to the dish. The alcohol and hops in the beer add a rich, slightly bitter flavor that complements the salty and savory taste of the corned beef.

Should corned beef be covered while cooking? ›

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. The beef is ready when it pulls apart easily.

How do Chinese get beef so tender? ›

While there are several ways to velvet, a pound of meat needs about two teaspoons of cornstarch and two teaspoons of oil, says Leung. You may also include two to three tablespoons of water. For beef, add a 1/4-teaspoon of baking soda for tenderizing. Additional seasonings are optional and vary from recipe to recipe.

What ingredient makes beef tender? ›

In addition to acid-based foods, plant enzymes in fruits like pineapple and kiwi can tenderize meat. Like with lemon juice or vinegar, you don't want to leave these foods on beef for too long—it will make the meat soft. You can blend fruit to create a marinade.

Why isn't my corned beef falling apart? ›

Not filling the pot with enough water.

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.

Is it better to boil or slow cook corned beef? ›

No matter the method you use, it's best to cook low and slow. Place the corned beef in a stockpot. Add the spice packet and a bottle of dark beer. Bring to a boil, cover, and cook on a low simmer for about 2.5-3.5 hours, or 45-50 minutes per pound.

Is it better to cook corned beef in water or beef broth? ›

The corned beef seasoning adds so much flavor to this traditional recipe, and a low, slow cook in beef broth makes this corned beef brisket juicy, tender and melt-in-your-mouth delicious!

Will baking soda tenderize corned beef? ›

Baking Soda is an Easy Meat Tenderizer

Just as it can be in so many other areas of your life, baking soda is a vital tool that can help bring each meal to life. Use baking soda if you want your friends to give their compliments to the chef.

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