And what does it have to do with St. Patrick's Day?

No St. Patrick's Day celebration is complete here in the U.S. without corned beef, but is it actually an Irish tradition? And what is it anyways?

Whether you just want to know what's on your reuben sandwich, or you're learning how to cook corned beef for your Irish feast, find out what this cured meat is all about.

Braised Corned Beef Brisket
Braised Corned Beef Brisket | Photo by KGora

What Is Corned Beef? What Is Corned Beef Made Of?

Corned beef is a salt-cured meat. In other words, it is made through a curing process. During this salt curing process, the meat sits in a salty brine for a little over a week. This essentially pickles the meat. Typically, brisket is used for corned beef, as it's a tough cut of meat that is made tender during the long curing process.

Once the meat has finished curing, it's slowly cooked. The result? A tough cut turns into a tender, flavorful, and salty meat main.

Corned beef can refer to either the cut of beef that you cook at home, or the canned salt-cured beef product. It's especially popular in Irish and Jewish cuisine, but it's perhaps most famous for being served around the world on St. Patrick's Day.

What Is Corned Beef Hash?

Corned Beef Hash is mostly a leftover dish. Chopped corned beef, either canned or homemade, cooked potatoes or frozen hash browns, onions, and spices are pan fried until tender and warm. That mixture is often served with poached or fried eggs.

What Is the Difference Between Corned Beef and Pastrami?

While both corned beef and pastrami are made of brisket, pastrami comes from the highly fatty navel end of the brisket. Both corned beef and pastrami are cured in a salt brine, but corned beef is boiled afterwards whereas pastrami is smoked.

The two meats are also served differently: corned beef is added to hot dishes such as Corned Beef and Cabbage, or, as a deli meat, an ingredient in the classic Reuben sandwich with sauerkraut. The traditional Pastrami on rye sandwich is seasoned with spicy brown mustard.

Why Do People Eat Corned Beef on St. Patrick's Day?

Turns out corned beef is more of an Irish-American dish, according to the Irish Central. Here's what they really eat in Ireland on St. Paddy's Day. The traditional St. Patrick's Day meal in Ireland is centered around bacon (or what Americans might call ham). So how did beef come to dominate the celebration here in the States then?

In 19th century Ireland, beef was considered a luxury item and was not readily available to most people. However, when Irish immigrants arrived in America, the opposite was true. Corned beef was the meat they could most easily get their hands on. Many attribute this to the close proximity of Irish and Jewish communities in the Lower Eastside of Manhattan during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

And as for why we often serve corned beef with cabbage on St. Patrick's Day? It was simply one of the cheapest options available to Irish immigrants at the time.

Where to Buy Corned Beef

Around St. Patrick's Day, many larger grocery stores and supermarkets will stock pre-brined and boiled corned beef. If you want to buy this product in another season, ask your butcher if they can get their hands on corned beef.

And if not, you can always cook your own corned beef. It's quite easy, and much of the time spent making it is entirely hands-off.

How to Cook Corned Beef

If you've picked up a package of fresh beef brisket for your celebration, there's more than one way to cook it. Refer to this guide on how to cook corned beef.