Corned beef—the succulent marriage of savory, sweet and salty—is a true pleasure, and cooking a cut of corned beef is one of the simplest culinary challenges.
But before you begin your traditional Irish–American corned beef dinner by tossing a corned beef into spiced water, along with a pack of potatoes and a cannonball of cabbage, you need to select the best corned beef.
You will find two kinds of packaged corned beef brisket:
With a nearly uniform rectangular shape and even thickness, the flat cut is comparatively lean. Select this cut to keep a fat and calorie cap on your St. Patrick’s Day feast.
From the pointed end of the brisket, the point cut is thicker, less uniform and possesses a great deal of marbling, or intramuscular fat. If you’re hankering for full-blown corned beef flavor, this is the cut for you.
Do packaged cuts look like too much meat for your family? Remember that since corned beef cuts are plumped with a salty brining solution that simmers away, both cuts will shrink 30 to 40 percent while cooking. A 3 to 4 pound corned beef will come out of the pot weighing about 2 to 3 pounds, which—once excess fat is cut away—feeds four people with a little meat left over.
Spice packets contained in packaged corned beef are flavorful, but for the very tastiest corned beef, add an additional 10 whole garlic cloves to the cooking water along with the packet.