Corned beef is made from beef brisket. The brisket comes from the breast section under the first five ribs. It is usually sold without the bone and is divided into two sections. The flat cut has minimal fat and is usually more expensive than the more flavorful point cut, which has more fat. So, the one with more fat and more flavor is cheaper? Work for me! Brisket requires long, slow cooking and is best when braised. Braising is a cooking method by which food (usually meat or vegetables) is first browned in fat, then cooked, tightly covered, in a small amount of liquid at low heat for a lengthy period of time. The long, slow cooking develops flavor and tenderizes foods by gently breaking down their fibers. Braising can be done on top of the range or in the oven. A tight-fitting lid is very important to prevent the liquid from evaporating.
Most corned beef recipes call for brining the meat for up to 10 days. Whats a brine you say? A brine is a strong solution of water and salt used for pickling, preserving and tenderizing foods. Herbs, spices or a sweetener such as sugar or molasses is sometimes added to flavor the brine.
The recipe i'm going to be using is from the man himself, Alton Brown. His recipe got all rave reviews and I challenge anyone to join me in making your own corned beef! Don't forget to have some Guinness Stout close by! Heck, I might even try cooking my beef in Guinness:)
- 2 quarts water
- 1 cup kosher salt
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons saltpeter
- 1 cinnamon stick, broken into several pieces
- 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 8 whole cloves
- 8 whole allspice berries
- 12 whole juniper berries
- 2 bay leaves, crumbled
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 2 pounds ice
- 1 (4 to 5 pound) beef brisket, trimmed
- 1 small onion, quartered
- 1 large carrot, coarsely chopped
- 1 stalk celery, coarsely chopped
Place the water into a large 6 to 8 quart stockpot along with salt, sugar, saltpeter, cinnamon stick, mustard seeds, peppercorns, cloves, allspice, juniper berries, bay leaves and ginger. Cook over high heat until the salt and sugar have dissolved. Remove from the heat and add the ice. Stir until the ice has melted. If necessary, place the brine into the refrigerator until it reaches a temperature of 45 degrees F. Once it has cooled, place the brisket in a 2-gallon zip top bag and add the brine. Seal and lay flat inside a container, cover and place in the refrigerator for 10 days. Check daily to make sure the beef is completely submerged and stir the brine.
After 10 days, remove from the brine and rinse well under cool water. Place the brisket into a pot just large enough to hold the meat, add the onion, carrot and celery and cover with water by 1-inch. Set over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and gently simmer for 2 1/2 to 3 hours or until the meat is fork tender. Remove from the pot and thinly slice across the grain.
Chef Don Paleno