It’s that time of year again, in America, when the beer turns green and the aroma of corned beef and cabbage fills the air. The dish is so comforting, but just what is corned beef? The term has nothing to do with corn, but was the English term for a small granule, such as a grain of salt. In days before modern refrigeration, salting meat was a way to preserve it and keep it from spoiling.
Corned beef is an Americanized addition to the traditional Irish diet. While colcannon (boiled potatoes, cabbage, and leeks in buttermilk flavored with wild garlic) was a common Irish dish, as was brown soda bread, corned beef was produced primarily for export to England. Upon arriving in America, however, it’s thought the Irish chose to celebrate their holiday with food that was typically not available to them in their home country, so corned beef was added to the menu, as was white soda bread studded with currants and caraway.
Corned beef is typically made from beef brisket, which is a cut of meat from the breast or lower chest, but the rump, bottom round, and even tongue, can be used. In America, the term “corned beef” is used to describe both the cured meat and the canned stuff found on grocery store shelves. In Britain, they call the canned stuff “salt beef.”
To make corned beef the meat is simmered in a blend of corned beef spices that usually include peppercorns, garlic, mustard, tarragon, thyme, parsley, cloves, and nutmeg.
In New England, you most often see corned beef served as a St. Patrick’s Day main dish or in a sandwich. As the main ingredient in New England Boiled Dinner, corned beef often pairs with potatoes, carrots, turnips, and cabbage in a hearty, savory, brothy bowl of goodness. When used in a sandwich, the most popular corned beef sandwich is the Reuben. Considered the quintessential Jewish deli sandwich, a Reuben is toasted rye bread stuffed with hot slices of corned beef, usually piled high, and topped with sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, and either Russian or Thousand Island dressing.
In New England, a frequent point of interest is also whether you prefer red vs. gray corned beef. The difference is “Red” brisket is cured with nitrite, which gives the meat its signature color. “Gray” corned beef, which is considered the authentic New England variety, is not cured with nitrate, so color forms naturally as it brines.
If you have corned beef leftovers a New England favorite is corned beef hash, which is typically served for breakfast.
“Work With What You Got!”
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Just what is dry-aged beef? Dry-aged beef has been stored for 14 to 21 days in a humidity and temperature-controlled environment. Dry aging allows moisture to evaporate and enzymes to break down some of the meat’s fibers. Dry aging intensifies the flavor and creates a tender texture that some describe as buttery or velvety. Only the most valued cuts are used to produce this special product. Dry-aged steaks may cook a little faster than the same non-dry aged-cut but the target doneness temperatures are the same.
Ground meat requires special handling. Whether it is beef, poultry, pork, lamb or veal, ground meat carries the greatest potential risk of food-bourne illness. It should be thoroughly cooked before eating because the grinding process introduces potentially harmful bacteria throughout the meat. The USDA recommends cooking ground meats to a internal temperature of at least 165° F for poultry and 160° F for meat.
One reason that beef raised without artificially stimulating growth hormones costs more is because it takes longer to raise. It takes approximately 20 to 24 months vs. about 16 months, which incurs more feed expense. You should look for grass-fed beef that has been raised on a vegetarian diet (not corn), not confined, pastured raised and no antibiotics or hormones added ever.
The best value beef cuts are: Ground Beef, Skirt Steak, Chuck Roast, Chuck Steak, Top Sirloin, Cube Steak, and Stew Meat.
Cooking Time Estimate For Roasting: Depending on the cut, should be about 20 minutes per pound at 350° F for medium.
Best Cooking Methods For Steak:
Rib Steak (Rib) Grill & Pan-Fry
Filet Mignon (Loin) Broil, Grill, Pan-Fry, Sauté
Porterhouse (Loin) Broil, Grill, Pan-Fry
T-Bone (Loin) Broil, Grill, Pan-Fry, Sauté
Strip Steak (Loin) Broil, Grill, Pan-Fry, Sauté
Top Sirloin (Loin) Braise, Broil, Roast, Pan-Fry
Hanger (Flank) Braise, Broil, Grill, Pan-Fry
Flank (Flank) Braise, Grill
Skirt (Flank) Braise, Grill
Chuck Eye Steak (Chuck) Braise, Broil, Grill, Sauté, Stew
Flat Iron Steak (Chuck) Broil, Grill, Pan-Fry, Sauté
Bottom Round Steak (Round) Braise
Eye Round Steak (Round) Braise, Sauté
Beef Round Cube Steak (Round) Braise, Grill, Sauté
Top Round Steak (Round) Braise, Broil
London Broil (Varies) Braise, Broil, Grill, Roast
Best Cooking Methods For Beef Roasts & Smaller Cuts:
Rib Roast Bone-In (Rib) Roast
Rib Eye Roast (Rib) Grill, Roast
Tenderloin (Loin) Broil, Grill, Roast
Top Sirloin Roast (Loin) Roast
Tri-Tip Roast (Loin) Broil, Grill, Roast
Fresh Brisket (Plate) Braise, Stew
Flat Cut Corned Brisket (Plate) Braise
Shoulder Roast (Chuck) Braise, Stew
Chuck Roast (Chuck) Braise, Stew
Bottom Round Roast (Round) Braise, Roast, Stew
Eye Round Roast (Round) Braise, Roast, Stew
Sirloin Tip Roast (Round) Broil, Grill, Pan-Fry, Sauté
Short Ribs (Flank) Braise, Stew
Beef Kabobs (Variety) Broil, Grill, Sauté
Extra Lean Round Cubes (Round) Grill, Stew
Shank Bone-In (Round) Braise, Stew
Beef Liver Slices (Variety) Sauté
The USDA recommends cooking all whole muscle cuts of beef to at least these internal temperatures to ensure that potentially harmful bacteria are destroyed. Some people may choose to cook their meat to lower temperatures, depending on preference. Ground beef should be cooked to 160° F.
Desired Doneness: Medium Target Temp: 145° F
Texture: Warm/Firm Center Color: Light Pink
Desired Doneness: Medium Well Target Temp: 155° F
Texture: Very Warm/Firm Center Color: Gray, Tinged With Pink
Desired Doneness: Well Done Target Temp: 165° F
Texture: Hot/Dense/Hard Center Color: Grayish Tan
Residual Heat: Residual heat continues to cook meat after you’ve taken it off the grill or out of the oven or pan. It’s important to factor this rise in temperature into your timing and remove the meat from the heat before hitting the target temperatures above – an average of 5° for steaks up to 15° for large roasts.