So you just found a corned beef brisket you bought last year in your freezer (admit it, we’ve all done it). Is it still good to go?
Technically, yes, according to the USDA it would be safe to eat. It is more a quality issue, than a food safety issue. But long-term freezing may cause changes in color, texture and taste. Some foods can also lose moisture when frozen.
To ensure that the corned beef is tender, I would recommend braising it or cooking it in a slow cooker as I did with today’s recipe. The slow cooker, which provides wraparound heat cooking and typically plenty of liquid, will help keep the corned beef moist.
To freeze uncooked corned beef, if packed in a brine, it should be well drained. (The salt in the brine can bring on rancidity and changes to the texture.) Also, be sure to wrap the corned beef well in quality freezer plastic wrap, and then put it in a freezer storage bag. Once cooked, the corned beef can be refrigerated for 3 to 4 days. For longer storage, wrap well and freeze.
A few more things about corned beef
When you buy corned beef, you’ll likely choose from the flat or point cut. Both are about the same and it’s a matter of preference.
When you buy corned beef, keep in mind the brisket can shrink by as much as one-third when cooked. So you will need to plan accordingly for the number of servings. For example, I bought a 3-pound package, which is weighed by the entire package. After the brisket is cooked, I had just about 1-1/2 pounds of cooked meat.
Before cooking, rinse the corned beef. And if it has a lot of fat, you can trim some away. Or, some stores sell special cuts of corned beef, with the fat trimmed. Corned beef is also well-known for its high sodium content. Many stores now sell a lower-sodium version
To cook corned beef on the stove, place the corned beef in a large pot. Add enough water to cover it by at least an inch or two.
Bring it to a boil, cover the pot and reduce the heat to a simmer. A 2-1/2- to 3-pound piece should cook for at least 2-1/2 hours. The meat should be very tender throughout.
To cook corned beef in the oven, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Season the corned beef as the recipe states and place in a baking dish, fat side up. If you’d like, place some carrots or potatoes around the brisket. Add water to cover two-thirds up the side of the brisket. Cover with foil, making sure the foil isn’t touching the meat, and roast 2 to 2 1/2 hours, or until tender. Add more water if the brisket begins to dry out.
Remove foil the last 30 minutes of roasting. Remove from the oven and serve.
If you want to try something different, try this slow-cooker Guinness-braised Corned Beef with Vegetables.
Guinness-Braised Corned Beef with Cabbage, Potatoes and Carrots
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Total time: 4-6 hours (in a slow-cooker)
For the corned beef:
- 2 bottles (11.7 ounces each) Guinness beer (or other stout beer)
- 1/4 cup dark or light brown sugar
- 3-1/2- to 4-pound uncooked brisket for corned beef, rinsed well and patted dry
- 1 tablespoon pickling spice or packet from corned beef
- 1 small onion, peeled, cut in half
- 1 head garlic, halved
For the vegetables:
- 1 small head savoy cabbage
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 5 carrots, peeled, cut into 3/4-inch chunks
- 1 pound of red-skinned potatoes, cut into 3/4-inch chunks
- 1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons freshly minced fresh parsley
In a slow cooker, whisk together the beer and brown sugar. Add the brisket, it should be completely covered by the beer. Add the pickling spice, onion and the garlic. Cover and set on high. Slow-cook for 4 to 6 hours or until the corned beef is tender. Remove the brisket to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm. Discard the onion and garlic, and strain the liquid. Reserve 2 cups of the cooking liquid.
Cut the cabbage into 8 wedges. Use toothpicks to hold wedges together. In a separate large, deep skillet, heat the canola oil over medium-high heat. When hot, add the cabbage wedges and cook until browned, about 5 minutes on each side. Add in the carrots and potatoes.
Pour in the reserved cooking liquid, bring to a simmer and cover. Reduce heat to low and cook for 10-15 minutes. Use tongs or a large spoon to carefully remove the cabbage and reserve. Continue cooking the carrots and potato another 5-10 minutes or until cooked through. Remove the cooked vegetables to a plate. To the remaining cooking liquid in the skillet, whisk in the butter.
Slice the corned beef against the grain and serve with the cabbage and vegetables. Pour a bit of the sauce over the corned beef just before serving. Garnish with parsley.
Makes 4 to 6 servings.
Test Kitchen is Tribune News Service column by Susan Selasky, the food writer and Test Kitchen director for the Detroit Free Press, where she develops and tests recipes and answers readers’ questions about all things food. Contact her at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @SusanMariecooks