Corned beef has been around for a long time (since the 17th century), but why is it called “corned beef”? Well, it has nothing to do with corn at all. In those days, corn simply meant a “small particle”. So to “corn” beef was to pack it with a small particle, salt in this case. But why stop at salt when there are so many other things that can be added for taste? Additional ingredients consist of sugar and spices, which can include mustard seeds, juniper berries, allspice berries, peppercorns, cinnamon, bay leaves, and ginger. Yum! With all those yummy ingredients, why does corned beef end up pink? The distinctive pink color in commercial corned beef comes from the use of sodium nitrite. This is the same substance that’s used for curing a variety of meats, including hot dogs, sausages, and bacon.
Looking to cook some corned beef? If you have the time, a good option is to make it completely from scratch with your own seasonings. If you prefer to buy it pre-seasoned, organic is the best option as it doesn’t contain sodium nitrate, and the cows are not given antibiotics or hormones. Note that organic corned beef will be labeled “uncured”.
There are two cuts of corned beef – “point cut” and “flat cut”. A “point cut” comes to a point at one end. It has a lot of fat running through it, so when you cook it, it comes out nice and juicy. This cut is harder to find in supermarkets as it isn’t as attractive as the “flat cut”. The “point cut” is a good choice if you plan on shredding the meat. The “flat cut” is much leaner and has a layer of fat on the bottom that will keep the meat moist. This is the cut you will most often find in supermarkets, as it looks more appealing. If you are looking for brisket that will slice up nicely, this is your best bet.
So, which cut should you get? It is really up to you, but I personally prefer the “flat cut” as the “point cut” is too fatty for my tastes. In the “Good Eats” episode “Pickled Pink”, Alton Brown chose a flat cut to make his own corned beef.
Barb’s Holiday Corned Beef Recipe
3-4 lb. 1st cut corned beef-flat cut
¼ c honey
¼ c Dijon mustard
½ c brown sugar
salt and pepper
Rinse meat thoroughly and place in roasting pan, fat side down. In a separate bowl, mix together the honey and mustard. Pour the honey mixture over the beef, making sure to cover the entire piece. Rub the brown sugar over the honey mixture until completely covered.
Cover and bake in pre-heated 275’ oven for 6-7 hours. Remove from oven, slice and enjoy!