Happy St. Paddy’s! The Great Corned Beef Experiment
In my family, the most celebrated characteristic of a holiday is the food that usually goes with it. Thanksgiving and turkey, Christmas and pork roast, Independence Day and burgers & hot dogs. This holds true for even the non-bank holidays, and every year, I would look forward to corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick’s Day.
As St. Paddy’s Day is right around the corner, we decided that the time was right to create a heavenly, deliciously spiced, melt-in-your-mouth corned beef recipe. We also wanted to identify the process by which you can use your Anova to produce the most tender and succulent corned beef bought at the store already pre-brined. And so began the Great Corned Beef Experiment!
A Little Background
Corned beef is not a dish that originated in Ireland, but one that developed in the United States during the first wave of Irish immigration to the country. In search of the comforting flavors of home, the first Irish-Americans looked to the ingredients most readily available and affordable to them. At the time, beef brisket was the least expensive cut of meat, and cabbage the most affordable vegetable that also happened to be familiar in the old country.
By utilizing brining and curing methods gleaned from fellow immigrants, though Eastern European ones, the Irish were able to mimic some of those favorite tastes. The true Irish tradition of boiled bacon (which also is traditionally salted and cured) on St. Patrick’s Day was replaced by spiced, brined, and cured beef.
The word “corned” in the name refers to the original use of corn-kernel-sized rock salt in the curing process. Now, we are going to use a combination kosher salt with a little pink curing salt, also known as “Prague powder”, but the original name of corned beef stuck and carries on even today.
How Do We Consume It Today?
Well, we know what a delicious treat corned beef is on St. Patrick’s Day in the US, cut in thick slices and served with the usual accoutrements, but it is something that is enjoyed in multiple other forms.
- Corned beef hash is a very popular breakfast dish in the United States (and leftovers from our recipe would be perfect for it, too!)
- Smoked with similar spices, corned beef can become pastrami, a tasty delicatessen treat
- As the main ingredient in a Reuben sandwich, with sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, and Thousand Island dressing served on rye bread
- Another popular and kosher form regularly consumed in Canada is known as Montreal-smoked meat
- In the United Kingdom, the American version is known as salt-beef
- It has long been used as a military ration around the world, and can still be found in American military MREs, or “meals ready to eat”, and is still a traditional field ration of the Israeli army known as “loof”
Onto the Experiment: How do I make my own?
The Full-Form Homemade Recipe
When I started researching how to make corned beef from scratch, I was so glad that I was doing so a month in advance! With brining times from 5 – 10 days, and sous-vide brisket-cooking times of at least 48 hours, this is not a last-minute dish. There is a shortened form below if you purchase pre-brined corned beef, but that still takes a minimum of 48 hours, so plan ahead NOW.
To make your life and experience easier, we also tested six different cooking times and came out with a clear winner. While 48 hours will absolutely suffice, 60 hours delivered the most tender and delicious results.
- 24 hours was aesthetically appealing, but texturally tough.
- 36 hours showed a marginal improvement, but was still extremely chewy, no matter how thin it was sliced
- 48 hours was the point at which tenderness started to evidence itself, and is quite satisfactory, BUT
- 60 hours was melt-in-your-mouth delicious!
- 72 hours was, again, tender and supple, but the difference between that and 60 hours was too marginal to merit the extra 12 hours
- 84 hours pulled apart the best, and the fat within tasted the most mellow and melty, but again – not enough of an increase in enjoyability in our opinion to warrant an extra 24 hours from our favorite time!
Now, you could actually shorten cooking time by raising the temperature of the bath, but this is not something we included in this particular experiment. Perhaps next time around. In the meantime, we would LOVE to hear more about your experiences and experimentation on our Community forum!
Sous Vide Homemade Corned Beef
Author: Nicole Poirier
Recipe type: Main Dish
Cuisine: Irish-American, American
Prep time: 25 minutes + 5 days of brining
Cook time: 60 hours
Total time: 60 hours 25 minutes
Serves: 10 servings
This recipe is worth the 60-hour wait once the corned beef is finished brining. The meat holds together but melts in your mouth, and delicate hints of each of the spices used can be detected as you savor each bite. Whether enjoying this with traditional accoutrements or thinly sliced and piled high on a sandwich with melted Swiss cheese, you are in for one delectable corned beef treat!
3 quarts/12 cups/2.84 liters cold water, divided into 1 quart/~1 l & 2 quarts/~2 l
1 cup kosher or 1/2 cup sea, Himalayan, or table salt
1/2 c coconut sugar/brown sugar/granulated cane sugar/monk fruit sweetener/xylitol
2 Tablespoons Prague powder/saltpeter (you may have to order this online)
2 whole cinnamon sticks
1 Tablespoon green cardamom pods
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons whole cloves
1 1/2 teaspoons allspice berries
1 1/2 teaspoons black peppercorns
2 whole bay leaves
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 7-8lb brisket, trimmed
In a small saucepan, combine 2 cups water with the salts, sugar, and spices over medium to medium-high heat. Simmer and stir to dissolve the salt and sugar. This will also allow the flavors from all of the spices to steep like tea and be more readily available to be soaked up by the meat.
After the salts and sugar are dissolved, remove from the heat and cool. This can be expedited by adding ice or refrigerating.
Once the mixture is cooled, stir into the remaining 2 1/2 quarts of water in a container large enough to hold the entire brisket and taste. You want it to taste both slightly sweet and pretty salty. However, if the level of saltiness is too extreme for you, this is your opportunity to dilute with more water. The meat is going to soak up all if the salt and flavor and you do not want it to be to salty to enjoy!
Now add the brisket, making sure that it is covered entirely with the mixture. Cover your container (or close your bag) and place in the refrigerator for at least 5 days, as many as 10.
After the chosen number of days has passed, remove your corned beef from the brine and pat dry.
Set your Anova Precision Cooker to 140ºF/60ºC, preferably in a well-insulated container as this is going to be a long cook.
Place your brined brisket into a zip-locking, vacuum seal, or silicone pouch and use the immersion method to release as much air as possible before sealing where applicable.
Transfer the sealed bag into the preheated water bath and, stabilizing either with clips or lid placement, submerge for 60 hours. You could cook for a minimum of 48 hours, but we found that 60 hours gives you the best return on time investment, with gorgeously succulent and tender meat.
Remove the cooked corned beef from the bath and bag. Rinse to remove any extra salt and pat dry.
For a little color, you are welcome to sear the corned beef, but it is also perfectly tasty to slice and eat as it is.
Pair with your favorite accoutrements and enjoy!
The Semi-Homemade or Pre-Brined Recipe
While homemade corned beef is so worth the wait, there is a completely understandable chance that you do not have seven and a half days for preparation! Fear not – we can whittle that down to two with our easy-as-can-be recipe that uses pre-brined corned beef from your butcher, the supermarket, or even Costco.
Sous Vide Pre-Brined Corned Beef with Cabbage
Author: Nicole Poirier
Recipe type: Main Dish
Cuisine: Irish-American, American
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 48 hours
Total time: 48 hours 10 minutes
Serves: 6 servings
Corned beef is a dish many of us see only once a year around St. Patrick's day, when we find it on the shelf at our local butcher or supermarket, and with reason. Most completely homemade corned beef recipes require at least a week of brining and a list of special ingredients (which are totally worth it, by the way!). It is much easier to pick up one of these specially-prepared slabs of brisket and skip that weeklong prep, and when you finish it with the sousvide method, you are going to take this delicacy to new heights. No watching the stove - just nearly effortless, perfect results to get the corned beef & cabbage you know and love! This is a GREAT opportunity to build a Frankencooler or break yours out if you have one already - it definitely helps preserve the heat and water level for this long cook time.
1 2 - 2.5 lb/1 k brined corned beef, uncooked
Set your Anova Precision cooker to 140ºF/60ºC.
Unwrap your pre-brined corned beef and pat dry with paper towels.
Place into a zip-locking bag and use the immersion method to release as much air as possible before sealing.
Place into the preheated water bath and set a timer or alarm for 48 hours.
While the cooking is coming to an end, chop a head of cabbage into quarters, removing the core with a knife. Then slice into 1/2"/1.25cm strips.
Remove the meat from the bath. You will see that a fair amount of juice has collected.
Take the meat out of the bag and set aside. Pour the bag juice into a frying pan and bring to a boil.
Add the cabbage to the boiling juice and turn with tongs frequently.
Once the liquid has just about completely evaporated and the cabbage is soft, transfer the cabbage to a warm serving plate.
Wait for the last of the liquid to evaporate and place the corned beef fat-side down to sear/color slightly.
Lightly sear the other sides before slicing the corned beef evenly.
Layer on top of the still-warm cabbage and serve. We recommend pairing with boiled potatoes and carrots for a traditional St. Patrick's Day feast anytime of year!
You now have two fantastic and scrumptious authentic corned beef recipes to try, whether you are relatively short – or pretty long – on time! We wanted to make sure you had the time to complete the long form when we chose this publishing date, but understand that the world can get in the way. Either way, we at Anova want you to have as many delicious options as possible!
What other holiday traditions would you like to see “Anovafied”, #anovafoodnerd fam? We would love to hear more about what kind of themed experiments you’d like to see – and of course know how things turn out when you try this one! Let us know in the comments – and HAPPY ST. PADDY’S DAY!
For any newbies to the art of sous vide, you can learn more about the Anova Precision Cooker on our product page.