I’m not Irish or that into parades, so I don’t go crazy about St. Patrick’s Day. To me it is a chance to overindulge in quality cured meat. Some people get excited about green beer, others get excited about corned beef.
Just Say No to that grocery store corned beef. With a small amount of effort, you can do much better. Have you ever brined a chicken? Curing your own corned beef isn’t much different. I’ve made it twice and I’m always surprised at how easy it is.
Curing your own corned beef at home
I use Michael Ruhlman’s recipe for the pickling spice and his method for curing the corned beef. If you don’t have all of the spices needed for the pickling spice and need to go buy some anyway, Penzeys’ is a good alternative. Don’t go for that stuff in the grocery store. Head over to his site and follow his curing instructions. Then check back here for cooking instructions.
The process takes about five days, so you’ll need to plan ahead a little bit, get your ingredients now, and make some room in your fridge, but the result is more than worth the effort. I’m going to start curing mine about a week before St. Patrick’s Day, but if you need to make yours earlier, it should keep in the fridge. You’ll still want to remove it from the brine after five days, though.
Cooking the corned beef
How to cook the corned beef is where I depart from Ruhlman. Simmering it for a few hours produces okay results, but cooking it at a lower temperature for a longer period of time keeps it tender and succulent instead of dry and flaky.
The best way of doing this is vacuum sealing it in a bag and cooking it in a sous vide water bath for 10 hours at 180F.
If you don’t have a sous vide circulator, the second best way of achieving this is with a slow cooker/crock pot. If yours doesn’t have a temperature setting, the “Keep Warm” setting will get you close to where you want to be, but you’ll also need to monitor it throughout the day with a thermometer and adjust the heat as necessary. You still want to aim for a cooking time of 10 hours.
You’ll notice above that I don’t cook potatoes, carrots, and cabbage with the corned beef. While boiling them all in one pot is simple, the trade-off is that each individual item isn’t as good as it could be. Since you are probably still craving potatoes, carrots, and cabbage for your St. Patrick’s Day meal, here is how I recommend cooking them:
- Potatoes – Either roast them until crispy in the oven or make a crispy potato galette. You need something crispy and crunchy to contrast the tender meat.
- Carrots – Roast the carrots with a little thyme
- Cabbage – Either grill your cabbage or roast it in the oven.
If you have leftovers, make my Corned Beef Hash for breakfast on Saturday!