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You need more than the ‘luck of the Irish’ when preparing corned beef (03/09/2006)

by Carol Ann Burtness, University of Minnesota Extension Service

If you cook corned beef with food safety in mind, you will have the luck of the Irish! Originally, "corned beef" was salted or brined during the winter to preserve it. After the long meatless Lent, this preserved meat was eaten. However, today's refrigerators let us eat fresh meats all year.

Corning is a form of dry-curing meat with "corns" of salt. Today, beef brisket is cured in a salt brine with spices, but we still maintain the name, "corned beef."

Today, corned beef is available as a sliced deli meat for sandwiches, or whole corned beef briskets are available and often served with cooked cabbage.

Check the "sell by" date of uncooked corned beef that's in a pouch with pickling juices. Store it unopened in the refrigerator five to seven days. Products with a "use-by" date can be stored unopened in the refrigerator until that date.

An uncooked corned beef brisket can be frozen if it is drained and well-wrapped. Keep in mind that salt encourages rancidity and texture changes, but the meat is still safe to eat. Try to use it within a month.

After cooking, store corned beef for three to four days in the refrigerator. You can also freeze cooked beef two to three months.

Corned beef requires long, moist cooking. No matter how the meat is prepared, cook until the internal temperature has reached at least 160 degrees F. Although "fork-tender" is a good indicator of doneness, we recommend using a meat thermometer or instant-read thermometer to be sure.

Corned beef may still be pink in color after cooking. Nitrites used in the curing process tend to affect the meat color. This does not mean the meat is not done--check the internal temperature with a thermometer!

Let the brisket stand about 10 minutes after removing from the heat to make slicing easier. In most cases, it is easier to slice diagonally across the grain of the meat.

After cooking a whole corned beef, cut it into several smaller pieces for faster cooking, or slice it. Place the meat in small, shallow containers and cool it in the refrigerator quickly.

Any corned beef leftovers should be refrigerated as soon as possible within two hours of cooking or reheating. Use cooked or leftover corned beef within three to four days, or freeze up to two months.

St. Patrick's Day is March 17, and the first day of spring is March 20. That means the "luck of the Irish" is more apt to be with you this spring if you follow good food safety guidelines when preparing corned beef!

(Carol Ann Burtness is a food science educator with the University of Minnesota Extension Service Regional Center, Brainerd ) 


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