Corned beef is one of the most tender and flavorful dishes we tend to enjoy on St. Patrick’s Day. While a complete meal of traditional corned beef and cabbage is easy, delicious and cozy, what exactly is this flavorful salted meat?

What is Corned Beef?

Corned beef is a beef brisket that has been salt-cured and has its own special blend of spices (mustard seed, allspice, coriander, juniper berries, cloves, black peppercorns, and cardamom pods). The name “corned” comes from the size of the salt kernals, not from actual corn in this recipe.

Brining corned beef turns brisket, which is a tough piece of meat,  into a tender and delicious meal through the curing process. Corned beef is often served on St. Patrick’s day but it’s also used to make other recipes like Reuben sandwiches!

uncooked corned beef on a plate next to carrots and potatoes

What Part of the Cow is Corned Beef?

Corned beef is an Irish American favorite. It is a beef is brisket, which comes from the breast section of the cow. The brisket that is salt-cured and brined in a selection of savory herbs and pickling spices. The pink color of corned beef comes from sodium nitrate (which is used in many types of meat like bacon, beef jerky or hot dogs to name a few).

The brisket can be cut in a flat cut (as seen here) or a pointcut but the flat cut produces the best and most tender corned beef.

Corned beef can also be made from round steaks, which is located at the rear leg of the cow. Normally tough cuts of meat like the brisket and the round benefit from slow, moist-heat cooking processes that, when seasoned and marinated correctly, produce a flavorful and economical entrée for a large family or an even larger crowd!

The Difference Between Corned Beef and Pastrami

While both corned beef and pastrami have a similar cooking method resulting in a pink cut of meat, the main difference is the cut of beef you use.

Corned beef is made from brisket, which comes from the chest of the cow. Pastrami is made using a shoulder cut of beef called the deckle.

uncooked corned beef in a pot

The Best Way To Cook Corned Beef

Making Crock Pot Corned Beef brisket is a snap! Just set in water with more pickling spices and let it simmer away until tender.  A great way to make a festive meal for company! Add in some potatoes, onions, carrots, or other vegetables.

Crockpot corned beef makes an excellent stew with cabbage, or simply carve off a few slices and serve with mustard on a hard roll with some sauerkraut. A classic Rueben sandwich is corned beef on rye bread, with sauerkraut, melted Swiss cheese, and thousand island dressing.  Corned beef is as versatile as it is tasty!

Corned beef, no matter how cooked, is done so at a low and slow temperature that creates a deliciously juicy corned beef and gets its flavoring from the seasoning packet, rather than the browning process.

How To Make Corned Beef Tender

  • Cook it very low and slow, corned beef needs time for the connective tissues to break down. High heat can cause the meat to be very tough.
  • Ensure that there is enough liquid for cooking.
  • If the corned beef has been cooked at a low temperature and is tough, it most likely needs to cook longer.
  • Cut the corned beef across the grain.

Delicious Corned Beef Recipes

seasoned beef on a plate to show What is Corned Beef with a title
seasoned meat showing What is Corned Beef with a title
close up of beef with seasoning to show What is Corned Beef and a title
beef in the pan cooking and plated to show What is Corned Beef with writing


Like our recipes?
Follow us on Pinterest!

Follow us on Pinterest

Recipes you'll love

About the author

Holly is a wine and cheese lover, recipe creator, shopping enthusiast and self appointed foodie. Her greatest passion is creating in the kitchen and making deliciously comforting recipes for the everyday home cook!
See more posts by Holly

Follow Holly on social media:

pinterest facebook twitter instagram

Free eBook!

Subscribe to receive weekly recipes and get a FREE Bonus e-book: Quick & Easy Weeknight Meals!

You can unsubscribe anytime by clicking the “unsubscribe” link at the bottom of emails you receive.

Latest & Greatest

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. my father used to make salt beef at home as a special treat {Irish} It was deliciuous. this looks like I can do this myself. Will have a go….!5 stars

  2. The best corned beef I’ve ever had. So tender! That its super easy as well is a bonus. The corned beef hash recipe for leftovers was equally delicious .5 stars