What Are the Best Tips for Cooking Corned Beef?

Allison Boelcke
Allison Boelcke
Using a slow cooker to cook corned beef can soften the tough meat.
Using a slow cooker to cook corned beef can soften the tough meat.

Corned beef refers to a cut of beef that has been soaked in a solution of water, salt, and flavoring agents, such as peppercorns, bay leaf, or juniper berries, in a process known as brining. Although brisket, a cut of beef from the breast area of the cow, tends to used most often for corned beef, other cuts that may also be used include round, which is cut from the lower hind quarters of a cow, or rump, from the upper hindquarters. Since the dish is made from cuts of beef that have a large amount of connective tissues, it risks being tough and chewy. There are a variety of methods for cooking corned beef, but they tend to require long cooking time over a low temperature in order to gave the meat’s connective tissues enough time to soften and break down.

For preparing corned beef completely from scratch, the brisket or other selected cut of beef must be brined first. For the best results, chefs tend to recommend starting the brining process at least one week prior to actually cooking corned beef. If the meat is not brined long enough, it may not become sufficiently flavored and may not have the distinctive taste associated with corned beef. The selected cut of beef is covered in a combination of water, salt, and the desired flavoring agents, covered, and refrigerated for seven to 10 days. If there is not enough time to brine the beef, store-bought corned beef may be a better option because it usually comes prepackaged in its brining juices and will generally have more flavor than home-brined beef that has not had enough time to soak.

One of the most common ways of cooking corned beef is on the stovetop. This method tends to be not only one of the simplest ways to prepare corned beef, but also one of the most successful. The meat is placed in a pot on the stovetop and covered with enough water to submerge the meat. For the best results, it is generally recommended that the meat should be simmered on a low heat for at least three hours or until the connective tissues in the meat break down and it is tender enough to easily be pulled apart.

Another way to cook corned beef that comes out with a tender texture and yet tends to require little effort is using a slow cooker. The beef simply needs to be placed into the slower cooker and covered with water. Slow cookers use a very low temperature, so they don’t need to be constantly supervised and can provide the long and low cooking that softens tough meat. Corned beef usually takes approximately 10 hours to slow cook on the “low” setting.

Cooking corned beef may also be done in the oven, but this method may be prone to producing a dry, tough finished product. Since the oven tends to use a higher temperature than simmering on the stovetop or slow cooking, it can cause the beef to dry out and prevent its connective tissues from breaking down. To keep the meat moist, placing it in a pan with about 1 inch (2.54 cm) of water in the bottom and covering the pan can help trap in the moisture and soften the connective tissues. The cooking time may vary depending on the oven’s temperature and the thickness of the meat, but generally about one hour per pound (454 g) is recommended.

Discussion Comments


@Pippinwhite: I found a couple of recipes online that sounded pretty good that you might want to try. One used sweet-hot mustard and sounded awesome.

My sister used Alton Brown's recipe from the Food Channel, but gosh! It takes 10 days to cure the meat! I couldn't believe she was willing to go through all that just for corned beef. It was really good, but that other recipe I saw sounded just as good and was way, way less time intensive.

I'm just not spending 10 days to cure meat. That's a lot of effort for a couple or three meals.


I tried corned beef for St. Patrick's Day a few years ago and didn't have much luck with it. I used my slow cooker, but it just didn't have much flavor. I used the seasoning packet that came with it and everything, but it was just kind of bland. I'm not sure I'm up for trying it again, unless I come across a really good recipe.

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    • Using a slow cooker to cook corned beef can soften the tough meat.
      By: Leticia Wilson
      Using a slow cooker to cook corned beef can soften the tough meat.