Making corned beef from scratch at home – here’s how we do it at our restaurant and how you can copy this savory dish to enjoy whenever.
Okay, we got the beef, but where the heck is the corn?
In this case it is the process, the name ‘corn’ specifically referencing the large salt crystals known as corns and used in the curing process, most often using a brisket cut. If just salt is used the curing creates a gray-ish cured beef often called New England corned beef, or ‘ew, am I actually that hungry?!’ It is not the aesthetics that moved corned beef to the pretty in pink meat dish we are mainly familiar with however.
Corned Beef is distinctively pink because of pink salt (aka Prague Powder #1, aka DQ Cure), a combination of sodium chloride, sodium nitrite and a bit of pink dye, supposedly added to prevent it being confused for regular salt. It’s readily available via the Interwebs, but may also be procured from your local butcher shop or kitchenware store. Technically, you can make corned beef without it, but I’d sure miss that color. – Alton Brown
Pink Salts, containing nitrates, are used during the cure process and greatly inhibit botulism growth and facilitate better preservation of the meat in general.
Like so many foods we love to today, from pickles to pepperoni, the process of curing the food for preservation with no refrigeration available, has led us to amazing flavors. The term Corned Beef shows up in the Oxford English dictionary right around 888AD, and was certainly around in many forms for centuries before that. With the salts, folks started adding sugar, mustard seeds, coriander, dill seeds, cloves, allspice, peppercorns…at times it seems the spice cabinet was just emptied into the vat of curing meat and, yet, the results are amazing.
Corning is a form of curing; it has nothing to do with corn. The name comes from Anglo-Saxon times before refrigeration. In those days, the meat was dry-cured in coarse corns of salt. Pellets of salt, some the size of kernels of corn, were rubbed into the beef to keep it from spoiling and to preserve it. – U.S.D.A.
Can you corn?
Corning is not especially difficult, requiring time, patience and fridge space. Boil up your seasoning blend, submerge the brisket and let it sit for 5-7 days. Ideally use a sealed bag with the air removed, turn it twice a day or so, and voila you have the cured corned beef that is similar to the packaged product that you see in the grocery meat department. If you add a smoked step to your process, you are creating pastrami, that’s pretty much the only difference between them.
So, yes, you can make a corned beef start to finish. The recipe here is based on brisket that has already been corned. You can apply the same process to other cuts of meat. But the high fat content and durable texture of brisket are what make it ideal for this treatment. In particular we slow roast it in this recipe, and many other cuts would get dried out in the same process without the fats to protect from that.
No, don’t do that. Yes, boiling the meat will tenderize to a point. Like a crab boil, you can start chucking all the side items in the pot, they cook and acquire some of the flavors going on there. But the whole dish gets diluted to mild flavors that are okay, but frankly somewhat lacking. We mingle the flavors without the boil, and keep distinct textures for each of the items in the process. Roasting also keeps some texture to the meat so it doesn’t just become a shredded item.
The approach we share here is from an old friend who was a meat cutter, butcher, and a past supplier to our restaurant and others. Our anniversary of taking over that operation fell on Saint Patrick’s Day, so it was only fitting that this dish needed to be served. Thanks to Billy we became known for a great meal that had traditional flavors, more intense, and lots more fun.
As we mentioned, a scratch corned beef brisket requires patience. So does this dish. When we did it commercially the process went like this:
Day one; Drain the brine, season, sugar and soak, let sit at least 24 hours
Day two; Slow roast the meat 6-8 hours for full sized briskets, then chill
Day three; Serving day, roasting the spuds, warming the brisket, cooking the cabbage to order
Granted, we had other concerns regarding the logistics of putting out this meal in the restaurant. All the prep work meant that this special was a 5-minute order-to-table menu item. The taters were roasted already, kept warm, or tossed in the fryer for a minute, then tossed in seasoned butter. The cabbage is quickly sauteed with some corned beef juice, served crisp and bright colored…not boiled. The recipe here is fundamentally the same. However, you can go oven to table, eliminating the day between.
Pro Tips for Making Corned Beef at Home
If you don’t have an air fryer, remove your corned beef from the oven, bump the heat to 375. Put the corned beef, covered and still in the pan, in a warm spot. Roast the potatoes an extra 10 minutes in the regular oven.
The cabbage is being cooked in a classic sauté fashion. That means fast and at a slightly higher heat. Make sure your skillet is preheated well for the process. You can use a baster, or just a spoon, to get the drippings or jus from the corned beef baking dish. Put it through the strainer if you get too many seeds from the seasoning. Speaking of seasoning, this part of the meal should be flavorful enough with just the pan jus from the corned beef.
If you haven’t tried our cheese biscuit/muffin hybrids, they make an excellent add on to this meal (link)
Corned Beef Dinner Recipe
- 3 Corned beef with seasoning packet
- ½ Cup Brown sugar
- ½ Cup Dry red wine
- 1 Red potatoes
- 2 Tablespoons Olive oil
- 1 Teaspoon Granulated garlic
- 1 Teaspoon Ground black pepper
- 1 Teaspoon Dried thyme
- 1 Teaspoon Dried basil
- 4 Tablespoons Butter
- ½ Hedium head green cabbage
- ½ Sweet or yellow onion
- 1 Teaspoon Vegetable oil
- Remove corned beef only from packaging, discarding brine
- Spray or oil baking dish, place meat with fat side up
- Sprinkle with seasoning packet contents
- Evenly distribute brown sugar across the top surface
- Drizzle red wine to wet the brown sugar without washing it off
- Cover with plastic film and refrigerate 24 hours
- Remove from fridge and let rest at room temp for an hour
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees
- Seal top of pan with lid or foil
- Bake for 4-5 hours depending on thickness
- 30 minutes before corned beef is done cut red potatoes into quarters
- Toss in a bowl with olive oil until lightly coated
- Place on air fryer rack lined with parchment
- Combine granulated garlic, ground black pepper, dried thyme, dried basil
- Sprinkle blended seasonings evenly over potatoes
- Cook in air fryer 20 minutes at 375
- Thinly julienne cabbage and onion, toss together in a bowl with vegetable oil
- Preheat a large skillet over medium heat
- When corned beef is done remove, leave covered and allow to rest
- When potatoes are browned and tender remove from oven
- Melt butter and toss potatoes, with additional seasoning if desired, set aside
- Put onions and cabbage in skillet
- Add 2-3 Tablespoons of the corned beef pan drippings/jus to skillet
- Toss cabbages & onions while they cook to coat well
- When cabbage is wilted slightly remove from heat
- Remove most of the seasoning from the top and slice corned beef
- Plate it all up, serve, and enjoy