Corned beef is a St. Patrick’s Day tradition around my house. There is no going out to a restaurant to eat corned beef brisket. The Irish in me wants to do it myself and cherish the leftover corned beef. I’ll show you my method of how to cook corned beef in the oven.
Since cooking corned beef is generally a once-a-year meal, cooked on March 17, it can be a bit intimidating. It is really not and it’s just a matter of cooking this salted, tough piece of beef long enough to make it tender.
What Part Of The Cow Is Corned Beef Made From
The cut of meat is called the brisket and it comes from the breast of the cow. It is relatively fatty and tough with lots of connective tissue. The whole brisket weighs around 10 pounds and is processed into either a flat cut or a point cut.
Flat cut is what I buy all the time because it is a rectangular shape. It is also known as the first cut.
The point cut is more fatty and tough and is kind of point-shaped. Since it is tougher, it requires more cooking time than the flat cut.
Why Is It Called Corned Beef?
Back in the 16th and 17th century, beef was preserved by salting it. It turns out that the English used large salt pellets that reminded them of corn kernels. And, so we have “Corned Beef.”
What You Will Need To Make The Corned Beef
First off you need a corned beef brisket. The ones I have seen are usually between 3 and 4 pounds. The beef will shrink by up to 1/3 when it is cooked, so a 3-pound brisket will feed 4 to 6 people with generous side dishes. The brisket here was 3.87 pounds and would feed 6 to 8 people.
When I cook for St. Patty’s Day. I cook 2 briskets. One for the daily meal and the second for making Reuben sandwiches. They are such a treat, especially with MaryJo’s homemade rye bread.
The corned beef gets cooked in an oven-safe pot or cast iron Dutch oven that has a lid. The pot needs to have at least a 4 to 6-quart capacity.
Then along with the brisket, the pot gets some added aromatics. Yellow onion, carrots, celery, and some bay leaves are what I use.
For the liquid, I use chicken broth and water to nearly cover the meat. This helps to add flavor and to tenderize the beef.
Prepping The Brisket
As you can see, the corned beef comes in a plastic bag with lots of bloody liquid. I like to use plastic gloves when handling the meat.
It will need to be rinsed under cold water which will also rinse off some of the salt that has been added.
Next, the fat cap is usually pretty thick so I trim off all but about 1/4 inch. A sharp knife makes this pretty simple to do.
Then, wash and give the vegetables a course chop. No need to get fancy here as they will be discarded after cooking. They give the leftover broth plenty of flavors though. I keep the broth and make a delicious quick gravy out of it to drizzle onto the vegetables and beef.
Place the veggies and beef, fat side up, into the pot. The brisket usually comes with a seasoning packet containing crushed bay leaves, mustard seeds, coriander seeds, peppercorns, and anise seeds. I just sprinkle it onto the fat cap.
Next, add the chicken broth and water. The broth I’m using here has been made from a rotisserie chicken carcass. You can find out how to make it in this post, “How to Make Chicken Stock”. I had just about 4 cups of this boney broth from one carcass.
When you add the broth and water, be careful not to wash the seasonings off the top. Or, be smarter than me and add them after you have added the liquids. Doh!
Oven Cooking The Corned Beef
Cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and place it into the oven. I use a 300°F temperature. The meat will need to be cooked for 3 to 5 hours depending on the size of the meat.
Some recipes call for a 350°F oven, but I figure that the liquid surrounding the meat is only going to boil at 212°F, so the additional oven temperature is not going to make that much difference in cooking time.
Set a timer for 3 hours. Once you hit 3 hours, check the meat for tenderness. You want it to be fork tender. That is when a fork slides into the meat fairly easily. This nearly 4-pound cut of beef was cooked for 3 hours and 45 minutes.
Once the corned beef is done cooking, remove it from the pot onto a cutting board or platter. Use a kitchen spider or strainer to remove most of the vegetables from the broth and discard them.
Then, hold a wire strainer over a large jar or bowl and pour the broth in. Store the broth refrigerated. It can be used to make a very tasty gravy.
Tips and Tricks
Number 1. Cook the corned beef brisket a day or two before you eat it. This is the way that I’ve been doing it for quite some time.
The brisket is so tender when removed right from the oven that it is hard to cut without shredding it into pieces.
I store the brisket in an oven-safe casserole dish with some of the broth and cover it with plastic wrap in the refrigerator overnight.
When the meat is cold it is super easy to slice into quite thin slices. Then it goes back into the casserole dish with the broth and gets covered with foil to retain the moisture. Heat it back up in a 350°F oven for 25 to 30 minutes and it’s ready to be served.
This works out well because you can also roast carrots and potatoes in the same amount of time for an easy, no-hassle St. Patrick’s Day meal. This is especially true if you are having company over.
You can see how the meat has firmed up when it is cold and these 1/4-inch slices are a breeze to cut. You could also use an electric meat slicer for even thinner cuts which are suitable for Reuben sandwiches.
Here is the meat ready to go into the oven. Just enough for 2 people and the remaining brisket was sliced, tightly wrapped, and refrigerated for Reubens the next day.
Additional Cooking Methods
For those who prefer an even easier and faster way of cooking corned beef, you can use a crock pot or pressure cooker method.
The crock pot method involves placing the rinsed beef in a slow cooker along with the cooking liquid and vegetables, then cooking on low heat for 8-10 hours, or until the beef is fork tender.
The pressure cooker method, such as the Instant Pot, can cook corned beef in a fraction of the time.
Add the rinsed beef, vegetables, and enough broth and water to cover the beef to the Instant Pot, and cook on high pressure for 90 minutes, then let it natural pressure release for 15 minutes before opening the lid.
Regardless of the cooking method, the best part of corned beef is the fork-tender, flavorful meat. The connective tissue in the beef breaks down during the long cook time, resulting in a slice of tender meat with a vibrant pink color.
Serve with your favorite sides, such as horseradish sauce, cabbage recipe, and fresh parsley.
How To Cook Corned Beef In The Oven
- 1 3 to 5 lbs Corned Beef brisket, flat cut
- 1 yellow onion, peeled and quartered
- 3 carrots, cleaned and coarse chopped
- 2 celery stalks, cleaned and chopped
- 3 bay leaves
- 4 cups chicken broth, substitute vegetable broth
- 4 cups water
- seasoning packet that comes with the meat
- It is recommended to prepare and cook the corned beef a day before you plan to serve it. This makes carving the beef easier and there is less hassle when preparing the side dishes along with the corned beef.
- Adjust the oven rack to the middle and preheat the oven to 300°F.
- Rinse the brisket under cold water and then trim the fat cap leaving about 1/4" of fat on the meat.
- Place the beef, broth, water, onion, carrots, celery, bay leaves, and the seasoning packet into a large Dutch oven, (or other oven-safe pot). Cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid or foil and place it into the oven.
- Bake until the meat is fork-tender which will take 3 to 5 hours depending on the size of the brisket. Start checking the meat at 3 hours.
- Once cooked, place the meat in a baking dish. Strain all of the broth using a mesh strainer into a large bowl or jar. Discard all of the vegetables.
- Add 1 or 2 cups of broth to the baking dish with the meat and cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Also, refrigerate the cooking liquid if you intend to make gravy.
- To serve the corned beef, place the brisket on a cutting board and slice against the grain into 1/4" slices. Then return the slices to the baking dish with the cooking liquid and cover with foil. Place the dish into a preheated 350°F oven for 25 to 30 minutes. serve hot.
- The reserved cooking liquid makes good gravy. Use my recipe for making chicken gravy from broth as a guide. Then I like to add a heaping teaspoon of Dijon mustard or 1 or 2 teaspoons of vinegar. This is perfect for making Creamed Chipped Beef over toast.
- Store leftovers refrigerated in an airtight container for 3 or 4 days. You can also freeze cooked brisket, but only for 1 or 2 months as it will lose flavor and the texture will turn soft.
- The nutrition information is for one 6-ounce serving of cooked corned beef. It is around 70 calories per ounce.