Can You Overcook Corned Beef? And Related Questions

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corned beef brisket sliced

Corned beef is one of those dishes that benefits from a long cooking process. If you try to rush the process, the meat won’t be as tender, which could lead to disappointment. But can you overcook corned beef? Let’s find out.

Can You Overcook Corned Beef?

Yes, it’s possible to overcook corned beef. When this happens, the meat will be tough and dry. Keeping the temperature low and checking the internal temp of the meat should help you to avoid this fate. If all else fails, you can reheat the slices in a bit of liquid to help moisten them.

What Is Corned Beef?

Corned beef is a cut of meat, traditionally a brisket flat, that’s been cured in a brine. Though brisket is the preferred choice, you can also use a cut from the round primal. It’s called “corned beef” because the rock salt that was originally used in the curing process consisted of large grains called “corns.”

These days, you can use other types of salt for the brine. Kosher salt is a solid option, but table salt can work in a pinch as long as you adjust the quantity. Some recipes even call for additional ingredients, like sugar and whole spices. If you use a pink curing salt, it will give the corned beef that traditional reddish hue.

You can serve corned beef as part of a “boiled dinner” with cabbage and new potatoes, or use it as a sandwich filling. When it’s served on grilled rye bread with sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, and thousand-island dressing, the sandwich becomes a “Reuben.” Corned beef hash is an excellent way to use up any leftovers.

Irish dinner with corned beef

Common Mistakes

The brisket flat is cut from the steer’s lower pectoral region. As such, it gets a lot of exercise, which means the meat can be tough and chewy if it isn’t cooked right.

Cooking Too Fast

High heat is the enemy of great brisket, including corned beef. In order to render the meat tender, it needs to be slow-cooked at low temperatures. If you raise the temp too high, you’ll run the risk of overcooking the corned beef.

Cooking Too Long

The results will also be disappointing if you cook the meat for too long. You should remove corned beef from the heat when the internal temperature reaches 200 to 210 degrees. During the resting period, the temperature will continue to rise, so you’re looking at a final temp of about 215 degrees.

Preparation Methods

There are several ways to cook corned beef, and all of them are simple. However, experts differ on which method is the best one.

Many chefs prefer moist-heat cooking methods like braising. These methods are hands-off and very forgiving, making it difficult to overcook the meat. The key is to keep the liquid at a low simmer, not a boil. Otherwise, it will evaporate too quickly.

You can also use a grill or smoker to prepare corned beef. As we pointed out, it’s important to cook it at a low temperature. 225 to 250 degrees is preferable, although you can speed the process along somewhat by raising the temperature to 275.

The oven is another possibility. We’ve seen recipes that recommend setting the temperature to 300 or even 350. However, we prefer to use the same guidelines that we would for the smoker, keeping the temperature steady at around 250 degrees.

Tips On Making Perfect Corned Beef

1. After removing the corned beef from the brine, rinse it thoroughly under cold running water. This will help to remove any excess salt, which will improve the flavor of the finished product.

2. Allow the rinsed corned beef to drain well before cooking it. You can repeat the rinsing and draining process 2 or 3 times if you want to be especially thorough.

3. If using a moist-heat cooking method, make sure the pot is large enough to hold the entire cut of meat, plus enough liquid to cover it completely. Check the liquid level frequently throughout the cook and add more if necessary.

4. Cook the meat for 1 to 1-1/2 hours per pound, depending on the temperature.

5. Make sure to allow enough time for the meat to rest after it’s finished cooking. For best results, it should rest for at least 20 minutes.

How Can I Tell When Corned Beef Is Done?

First and foremost, the internal temperature of the corned beef should be at least 195 degrees. While it’s technically done when the thermometer creeps past the 145-degree mark, it needs to cook longer in order to attain the proper texture.

Once you’ve tested the temperature, you can do a second test by sticking a fork into a corner of the meat. If the fibers come apart easily when you give the fork a twist, then the corned beef is ready.

If it isn’t fork-tender the first time you perform this test, let it cook for another 20 minutes or so, then check it again. Continue in this manner until the meat is done.

Be forewarned that the brisket temperature will probably stall at around 150 degrees, and it may even stall a second time at a higher temp. This is a normal part of the cooking process, so don’t panic. If you crank up the heat to drive up the temperature, you could end up overcooking the corned beef.

Also, don’t forget to let the meat rest for 20 to 30 minutes before slicing it. When serving a boiled dinner, you can use this time to heat up the vegetables and prepare any side dishes.

Is There Any Way To Save Overcooked Corned Beef?

corned beef hash with eggs, tomato, onion, parsley

Should you accidentally overcook the meat anyway, all is not lost. You can salvage overcooked brisket and corned beef by reheating the slices with a moist-heat method.

Start by preheating the oven to 250 degrees. Set the sliced corned beef in a roasting pan with a small amount of liquid, such as beef stock, water, or beer. Cover the pan tightly with foil and place the pan in the oven.

Let the slices reheat for about 20 minutes. During this time, the moisture should rehydrate the meat, making it more palatable.

If the meat is too tough and dry to be enjoyed on its own, consider using it as an ingredient for another dish. Corned beef hash is a good way to disguise an inferior product. If you used beef stock or broth to rehydrate the slices, taste the meat first to determine whether the recipe will need any additional salt.

The Bottom Line

Is it possible to overcook corned beef? Yes, but it’s easily avoided. The cooking process is long enough to be forgiving. If you happen to make a mistake anyway, you should be able to salvage the results.

Best of luck, and happy grilling!

Darren Wayland Avatar


2 thoughts on “Can You Overcook Corned Beef? And Related Questions”

  1. Hi Darren, tks for your article, it is fairly detailed. One thing about the often quoted 145 degrees F, is that is the FDA’s recommended temperature for food safety only, which doesn’t mean it is pleasant to eat. This temperature is mentioned in many articles. What is required for well cooked corned beef is a slighty higher internal temperature, consistent with the connective tissue breaking down and softening…. this is where it get interesting. The ‘agreed’ temperature for this, is all over the place, but starting figure would be about 165 degrees F, but with a very long cook time…….tks, Peter (NZ)

  2. HI Darren…. I forgot to mention that the temperatures that I mentioned were the internal temperature of the meat being cooked, and not bbq , oven or cooking water temperature. (Cooking water for Corned Beef should always be ‘just moving’/lightly bubbling.)
    So it a matter of how long do you leave it using your chosen cooking method, to reach it’s correct internal temperature…… Tks, Peter


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