Corned beef needs to be cooked for a long time with low heat and plenty of moisture. A slow simmer in a large pot is the recommended method.
Corned beef brisket is made up of two muscles. The ‘first cut’ or ‘flat cut’ is the larger and leaner muscle while the ‘web cut’ or ‘point cut’ is smaller, more fibrous and fatty. These two muscles are connected by a layer of fat known as the ‘deckle’. Because the fibers in these two muscles run in different directions when whole, the best way to prepare corned beef brisket is to separate the first cut and web muscle along the deckle before cooking. Although you can cook a whole brisket without any trimming.
When preparing large amounts of corned beef or any brisket ( We usually prepare nearly 600 pounds for St Patrick’s Day celebrations at Tweeds Pub), it is preferable to ’split’ the brisket prior to cooking. Leaving the layer of fat that joins the two muscles together intact will add considerably to the cooking time. Cooking a whole brisket will also make trimming and slicing more difficult.
To split the brisket, lay it on a cutting board with the ‘non-fatted’ side facing up. Look for the ‘deckle’ or fat layer that separates the two sides of the brisket. This layer of fat extends fully between the two muscles. Insert a boning knife into the fat line and carefully run the sharp edge of the blade along that line while pulling back the ‘first cut’ of the corned beef. Continue this until you are completely through the deckle and the flat cut and point cut are apart. Trim away and discard any excess fat.
The rule to follow when preparing corned beef is ‘low and slow’. A crock pot or slow cooker is the ideal appliance to prepare this cut of meat. But when you are preparing for hundreds a large stockpot or steam kettle works best. If you are using the stovetop method, fill a large stockpot half full with water and bring to a light simmer. Add your brisket and reduce the heat to medium. Split brisket will take about 3 hours at a slight simmer, while whole briskets can take as long as 6 to 7 hours depending on the weight. Remember to save the brine for adding flavor to your cabbage and other vegetables for your boiled dinner.
To test the ‘doneness’ of your brisket, remove a cut from your stockpot and slice a piece about a quarter inch thick, remembering to slice against the grain. Sample your brisket. It should be tender enough that you can bite through it without falling apart. If your slice seems very chewy and tough then it needs to cook a little longer. Check every fifteen minutes afterwards until you achieve the desired result. When you are ready to slice the brisket, cut each piece in half against the grain and take a piece of each muscle and slice together on a slicing machine AGAINST THE GRAIN!
Corned beef is the essential slice of meat to build a classic reuben, to grind into breakfast hash and to stack high atop cabbage