How to Buy Corned Beef for Cooking at Home

Come March, corned beef and cabbage emerges as the star of the dinner table. This Irish-American classic pairs tender, briny beef with mellow cabbage for a comforting meal. But before you can cook corned beef and cabbage, you need to shop for the right ingredients. Here’s a guide on how to buy corned beef, plus tips for picking accompanying vegetables.

What is Corned Beef?

Despite the name, corned beef doesn’t refer to a specific cut of beef. Rather, it describes beef that has been cured, or “corned.”

  • The term comes from the “corns” or large grains of salt used in the curing process.
  • Curing involves soaking beef in a brine solution of salt, spices, and preservatives for 7-10 days. This firms up the meat’s texture and infuses it with flavor.
  • Brisket is the traditional cut used because it gets tender when cooked low and slow. But other fatty cuts like chuck roast also work.

Buying Options for Corned Beef

You have two main options when buying corned beef to cook at home:

Pre-Brined Corned Beef

  • This convenient option saves you the time of corning a brisket yourself.
  • Look for vacuum-packed corned beef in the refrigerated meat section. Most are 3-5 lbs.
  • Flat or point brisket cuts are common. Flats are leaner with uniform thickness.
  • Brands like Hebrew National, Hormel, and Tillamook offer high-quality pre-brined corned beef.

Fresh Brisket to Corn at Home

  • For full control over spices, start with a raw beef brisket.
  • Make a corning brine with salt, spices, and curing salt and submerge the brisket for 7+ days.
  • This method takes time but lets you customize flavors and cut size.
  • Choose a brisket 4-5 lbs or larger. Allow 1 lb per person, more for leftovers.

How Much Corned Beef to Buy

  • For pre-brined corned beef, 3⁄4 lb per person is sufficient, up to 1 lb if you want leftovers.
  • For raw brisket you’ll corn and cook, get 1 lb per person since the meat shrinks during cooking.
  • Leaner flat cuts won’t shrink as much as fattier point cuts during cooking.

Tips for Selecting Quality Corned Beef

  • Look for brisket with bright pink or red color and ample marbling.
  • The meat should be firm but with some give. Avoid dried out, brown corned beef.
  • Check spices listed – they should include black peppercorns, coriander, etc.
  • For raw brisket, choose USDA Select or Choice grade for the best results.

What to Look for When Buying Cabbage

Cabbage is the classic accompaniment to corned beef. For great results:

  • Choose green cabbage over more delicate types like savoy or Napa. It holds up better to long cooking.
  • Pick heads that feel very heavy for their size with tightly packed leaves.
  • One 2 lb head serves 4-6 people. Remove any damaged outer leaves before cooking.

Other Popular Vegetable Pairings

  • Potatoes: Chopped or small whole potatoes hold their shape when simmered with corned beef.
  • Carrots: Chunks or baby carrots pair well and get tender but not mushy.
  • Onions: Quartered yellow or white onions add flavor to the cooking liquid.

Making a Complete Corned Beef Meal

Once you have the essentials – corned beef, cabbage, and veggies – round out your St. Paddy’s Day spread with:

  • Bread: Irish soda bread, rye, or rolls for sandwiches
  • Condiments: Mustard, horseradish, and pickles for topping sliced beef
  • Dessert: Shamrock cookies, pistachio cake, or mint chocolate treats

With high-quality ingredients and smart prep, you’re sure to have a successful corned beef and cabbage dinner. Sláinte!

How to Buy the Right Cut of Beef Brisket (Hint: There’s Two Types!)


How do you pick a good corned beef?

To select a good cut, first make sure the meat has a deep red color. Avoid graying meat, as that likely means the cut has been refrigerated for too long. You should also look out for a nice layer of fat over the meat. Note that the meat will shrink as you cook, so pick up generous portions.

Which is better corned beef point or flat?

The flat cut is leaner. Corned beef comes from brisket point and has a lower price and extra fat, which keeps the cooked brisket meat moist. 2. Flavor: The point cut has a more intense beefy flavor given the additional fat content, but there is less meat than the flat cut, and it’s harder to cook.

Is corned beef from a grocery store already cooked?

Your corned beef is fully cooked. It should be stored in the fridge but can be served cold, at room temp, or hot.

How is corned beef sold?

In both the United States and Canada, corned beef is sold in cans in minced form. It is also sold this way in Puerto Rico and Uruguay.

Leave a Comment