Fat Side Up or Down When Cooking Corned Beef?

Corned beef is a brisket that has been cured in a brine solution. This helps tenderize the normally tough brisket meat and gives it a signature pink color and salty, tangy flavor.

Corned beef brisket is a staple ingredient in many dishes like corned beef and cabbage, Reuben sandwiches, and hash. But there is an ongoing debate about the best way to cook corned beef – with the fat side up or down?

Here is a look at the reasoning behind both methods:

The Case for Fat Side Up

  • Basting: When the fat renders, it can drip down and baste the meat. This helps keep it moist and adds flavor.

  • Insulation: The fat acts as a protective layer, insulating the meat underneath and preventing it from drying out.

  • Flavor: With the fat on top, more of it will melt into the cooking liquid. This adds beefy flavor.

So if you want a corned beef that is juicy and infused with fatty flavor, cooking it fat side up may be the way to go.

The Case for Fat Side Down

  • Browning: With the fat side down, the meat underneath can brown and develop fond (browned bits that add flavor).

  • Texture: Allowing the bottom to brown gives the corned beef nice textural contrast – crispy on the outside, tender inside.

  • Prevents Greasiness: Fat rendering down into the pan instead of the meat means you end up with less greasy brisket.

Cooking the corned beef fat side down is ideal if you want to develop browned, crispy bits of flavor on the meat.

How to Cook Corned Beef Brisket

Now that you know the upsides of both methods, here are some tips for cooking corned beef brisket:

On the Stovetop

  • Fat side down: Sear the brisket fat side down first to brown it. Cook 2-3 minutes per side over medium-high heat.

  • Fat side up: Flip and add cooking liquid like broth or water. The liquid should come about halfway up the brisket.

  • Simmer: Let the corned beef simmer on low heat for 2-3 hours until fork tender. Add veggies during the last 30 minutes.

In the Oven

  • Fat side up: Place brisket fat side up in a roasting pan and add 1 cup broth or water.

  • Cover and roast: Cover pan with foil and roast at 325°F for 2-3 hours until tender.

  • Make au jus: Use pan drippings to make a tasty au jus dipping sauce.

In the Slow Cooker

  • Fat side up: Place corned beef in a slow cooker fat side up and add enough liquid to come about halfway up the sides.

  • Low and slow: Cook on low setting for 7-8 hours until meat shreds easily with a fork.

  • Natural basting: The melting fat bastes the brisket as it cooks, keeping it moist.

In the Instant Pot

  • Fat side up: Put corned beef fat side up in pot and add 1 cup broth or water.

  • Pressure cook: Seal lid and cook at high pressure for 45-60 minutes depending on size.

  • Natural release: Allow pressure to release naturally for tender meat.

Choosing a Corned Beef Brisket

When shopping for corned beef, look for:

  • Well-marbled brisket with thin, white streaks of fat throughout the meat. This keeps it moist during cooking.

  • Uniform pink color without brown or gray spots. This indicates it was cured properly.

  • Firm but flexible brisket that springs back when pressed gently. Avoid very hard or mushy meat.

  • Tangy, salty aroma from the curing brine. It should smell distinctly corned beefy!

Serving Suggestions

Corned beef is very versatile! Here are some tasty ways to use it:

  • Slice thinly across the grain and pile high on rye bread for Reuben sandwiches.

  • Chop or shred brisket and mix with potatoes, cabbage, and carrots for old-fashioned corned beef hash.

  • Serve with boiled potatoes, carrots, and cabbage for a corned beef and cabbage dinner.

  • Make corned beef sliders on mini pretzel buns with Swiss cheese and Thousand Island dressing.

  • Use shredded corned beef in omelets, burritos, pasta bakes, pizza, salads, and more!

So next time you cook up a corned beef brisket, remember the case for both fat side up and down. The method you choose depends on whether you prefer juicy, fall-apart meat or crispy browned exterior. With the right technique, you can enjoy tender, flavorful corned beef however you cook it!

Do you Rinse corned beef before cooking?


Should I cook corned beef fat-side up or down?

Place the corned beef fat-side up in a roasting pan with a rack or use an oven-safe rack set inside a rimmed baking sheet. If you don’t have either, set the corned beef on top of a bed of chopped onions so it’s elevated from the pan.

What is the best method for cooking corned beef?

It is often sold precooked, but if you have purchased it raw, the best way to cook corned beef is slowly. You can bake, boil, or cook it in your slow cooker, but the key to a tender, flavorful meal requires at least a few hours.

Do you use the point or the flat for corned beef?

Although the two brisket cuts can often be used interchangeably, the flat cut is most often used in braises that are sliced, like those popular on Jewish holidays and for corned beef. The fattier point cut, meanwhile, is preferred for pulled beef, beef sandwiches and smoked barbecued brisket.

Do you cook meat fat-side down?

Fat-side down can make the meaty side look better. The Maillard reaction happens when meat dries out and proteins on the surface begin to bind. This reaction is why boiled beef will look grey and unappetizing — the surface never has a chance to dry out.

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