Learn how to slice corned beef for a Reuben. Corned beef is a classic deli sandwich meat that can be easily sliced by hand. This video from the North Carolina Butterball website shows you how to perfectly prepare and slice corned beef to use in this delicious sandwich.
How to Cut Corned Beef in 3 Simple Steps
Teaches Cooking I
Corned beef is a dish of braised brisket traditionally served with cabbage and potatoes. Properly slicing corned beef yields tender cuts of meat.
What Is Corned Beef?
Corned beef is a dish that consists of beef brisket cured in a brine with large grains of salt, known as “corns” in the United Kingdom. Another curing agent in corned beef is sodium nitrite, which gives the finished brisket its signature deep pink color. Once cured, the corned beef is typically boiled in water, beef broth, or Guinness beer. You can boil corned beef on the stovetop, bake it in the oven, or make slow cooker corned beef. In America, corned beef is strongly associated with St. Patrick’s Day, served with boiled potatoes, carrots, and cabbage.
The History of Corned Beef
In the 1600s, corned beef was popularized in Ireland. However, beef was too expensive for most of the Irish population to afford at the time, so most corned beef was produced for trade with England. The 1660s, England banned the importation of live Irish cattle. This flooded the Irish market with inexpensive, local beef. At the time, salt was less expensive in Ireland than it was in other parts of the United Kingdom, so salted beef became an even more lucrative export to Europe and America.
For impoverished Irish-Americans immigrants, corned beef was an inexpensive, large cut of meat that could replace ham for celebrations and holidays. Affordable vegetables like carrots and cabbage, along with an Irish staple, the potato, were served alongside the corned beef. This meal became synonymous with Irish tradition and soon became associated with St. Patrick’s Day for Irish Americans.
How to Make Corned Beef
You can cook corned beef in a large pot or Dutch oven on the stovetop, in the oven, or with a slow cooker. Follow a traditional corned beef recipe.
- 1. Make the spice blend. Toast mustard seeds, cinnamon, black peppercorns, cloves, allspice, coriander, juniper berries, and a bay leaf in a large pot on the stovetop. (You can experiment with other pickling spices, buy a spice packet, or use a bbq dry rub.) Add water, salt, brown sugar, and pink salt and bring to a boil, occasionally stirring to dissolve sugar and salt.
- 2. Marinate the brisket. Once the cooking liquid is cool, add the brisket to the pot, and place it in the refrigerator for ten days to marinate.
- 3. Drain the beef. Drain the beef and rinse it under cool water. Return the beef to the pot and cover it with enough water to submerge. Alternatively, you can use Guinness beer or beef broth.
- 4. Simmer the corned beef. Slow cooking this tough cut of meat will tenderize it. Add aromatics, such as carrots, celery, and onions to the pot for flavor. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to simmer and cook corned beef until the meat is ffork-tenderand internal temperature reaches 145 degrees Fahrenheit. Cooking time is approximately three hours.
How to Cut Corned Beef
It’s essential to use a sharp knife and cut against the muscle fibers’ grain for the most tender cuts. Follow these steps to prepare corned beef for serving:
- 1. Let the corned beef rest. After removing from the oven or heat, the corned beef brisket should rest on a cutting board before it is cut; otherwise, the meat juices will seep out of the cut of beef, leading to a dry brisket. Wait for ten to fifteen minutes before slicing the corned beef.
- 2. Place the meat fat-side down. On a cutting board, position the piece of mbeeffat-side down so you can see the grain or muscle fibers. You can also cut off the excess fat from corned beef. There are two main cuts of beef brisket used for corned beef: the flat cut and the point cut. The flat cut is leaner, while the point cut has more fat, marbling, and connective tissue.
- 3. Cut against the grain. Use a carving knife and slice against the grain of the meat to get tender slices of beef. Slicing along the grain, or in the same direction as the muscle fibers, will result in slices with a tough and stringy texture. Traditionally, slices of corned beef for an entree are a quarter-inch thick. For deli sandwiches, you can cut corned beef into paper-thin slices.
How to Serve Corned Beef
Corned beef has many applications on breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus. Consider the following ways to prepare and enjoy corned beef:
- 1. Traditional corned beef: You can serve corned beef with boiled potatoes, cabbage, and carrots on a large platter. Make a side dish of creamy horseradish sauce or parsley sauce made from parsley and a buttery bechamel to drizzle over the boiled dinner.
- 2. Corned beef hash: Popularized in American diners, corned beef hash is made with diced corned beef served over crispy hash brown potatoes with an egg.
- 3. Corned beef sandwich: Corned beef is also popular in Jewish-American delis. Serve corned beef sliced thin in a classic Reuben sandwich or on rye bread with slaw and dijon mustard or Russian dressing.
- 4. Corned beef tacos: You can thinly slice leftover corned beef brisket to make tacos. Top with julienned carrots and cabbage slaw.
How Do I Slice Corned Beef?
Subtly spiced and slightly salty corned beef, served with boiled potatoes and cabbage, is usually connected with St. Patrick’s Day in the United States. Irish-Americans started this holiday tradition in the 19th century. But corned beef is also the star of a Reuben sandwich and breakfast hash, no matter the date. The secret to tender slices of meat is to cut it against the grain.
Cutting Against the Grain
Corned beef is made from the brisket cut of a cow. Long muscle fibers run through the cut from end to end and form the grain. If you cut with the grain, or parallel to the fibers, you’ll get long, stringy, tough pieces of meat.
It’s usually easy to see which way the grain runs – it looks like lines running across the meat. If “eyeballing” it doesn’t work for you, hold the brisket by its ends and pull. You should be able to see the fibers separate slightly.
For tender slices of corned beef, place your knife perpendicular to the grain. If you’re unsure that you’re doing it right, cut a test slice. If it’s stringy, you’re cutting with the grain. Turn your knife 90 degrees and cut another slice. When cooked, it should be fork tender with short fibers.
Perfect Corned Beef Recipe
Braising, low and slow, is the secret to perfectly tender and flavorful corned beef. It’s worth investing in a cast iron Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid if you frequently cook corned beef at home.
Heat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove the corned beef from the packaging and put it in the Dutch oven. There may be a packet of corning spices included with the corned beef. It’s not necessary to use it when you’re cooking with this method. Add enough water, beef stock or beer to the Dutch oven to almost cover the corned beef. Cook vegetables like peeled and quartered potatoes, sliced carrots and quartered cabbage on the stovetop to accompany the meat.
Put the cover on the pot, place it in the oven and cook for three hours. Test the meat after three hours – it should be fork tender. If it isn’t, return it to the oven for another hour. Remove the meat from the Dutch oven and let it rest for at least 10 minutes. Slice against the grain.
Use the same process for slow cooker corned beef. Cook for four hours on high or eight hours on low. Add potatoes and cabbage if desired and cook for another 45 minutes to an hour.
Leftover Corned Beef Recipes
- Reuben Sandwich: Butter one side of two pieces of rye bread. Layer on sliced corned beef, rinsed and drained sauerkraut, and sliced Swiss cheese on the unbuttered side of one piece of bread. Top with Thousand Island dressing and the other slice of bread, butter-side out. Cook in a lightly buttered pan, turning once, until the bread is toasty and brown.
- Corned Beef Hash: Peel and dice potatoes. Melt a tablespoon of butter in a skillet, add the potatoes, and cook until the potatoes are brown and crispy. Add diced corned beef and cook until the beef is warm.
- Split Pea Soup: Rinse dry split peas and add them to a pot of water or vegetable stock with shredded carrots and chopped onion. Cook for about 40 minutes or until the peas are tender. Add diced corned beef for the last five minutes to warm it through.
- Corned Beef Dip: Mix equal parts mayonnaise and sour cream. Add minced onion, parsley, salt, horseradish and finely diced corned beef. Serve with bagel chips.
Corning Beef at Home
In a large pot, combine enough water to almost fill the pot, a pound of kosher salt, 1/3 cup sugar, one 4 ounce package of Insta Cure (available online), finely chopped garlic and a tablespoon of pickling spice. Bring to a boil, stir and cool to room temperature.
Place an uncured beef brisket in a large oven bag. Pour the brine over and seal tightly. Put the bag in the refrigerator for at least three days, turning once or twice a day to distribute the brine evenly over the beef. Rinse the beef and cook.
How to Slice Corned Beef
Presentation is important, so impress your guests by slicing your corned beef like a pro.
You’ve seen them— recipes that tell you to “slice meat against (or across) the grain.” So what does it mean? And what are the conse quences if you don’t do it?
To get the gist of what the grain of meat is, we need to keep talking about meat structure.
Okay, you know meat is made of muscle fibers. And exercised muscles have thick fibers.
Before braising your beef, take a good look at it. You shouldn’t have a problem seeing the muscle fibers (they’re easiest to see on the flat cut). On beef tenderloin, the fibers are thinner—and more tender.
See how the fibers all run in one direction? That’s the “grain.” And how you cut meat in relation to its grain makes a big difference in how tender it is in your mouth.
With or Against?
When you cut meat with the grain, you’re cutting in the same direction the fibers run. The slices are made of long fibers stacked on top of each other.
But when you slice against the grain, you’re going in the opposite direction of the grain. Now the pieces of meat are made of very short fibers stacked on top of each other.
The bottom line is short fibers are easier to chew than long ones. Thinly slicing this beef against the grain is another way to tenderize.
Slicing on a Bias
If you’ve run into the grain question, you’ve probably been told to slice meat “on a bias,” too. That just means to cut it at an angle.
Brisket is relatively flat—hence, “flat” cut. Slice it straight down, and the pieces aren’t very wide. Slicing on a bias makes the piece wider.
You don’t have to slice on a bias to make meat more tender—mostly it’s just done for looks.
Before slicing, find which way the grain of meat runs—you’ll be cutting against the grain. Here, the grain is running from left to right.