Why Is My Corned Beef Shiny & Different Colors?

Corned beef takes its name from the corns (coarse grains) of salt used to prepare it.
Corned beef takes its name from the corns (coarse grains) of salt used to prepare it. (Image: salt jars image by Horticulture from Fotolia.com)

Don't panic: shiny, iridescent corned beef is safe. Named for the "corns" of salt used to make it, corned beef sometimes has a colorful shine that might alarm you, but is no cause for concern.

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Food Safety

This iridescent coloring of the beef has nothing to do with the quality or safety of the meat. Meat with this characteristic is perfectly safe to eat.

Chemical Composition

Cured meats may contain nitrites or other chemicals that can produce a colorful sheen on meat products.

Biological Elements

Myoglobin and hemoglobin, two proteins found in beef and other meat products, can also contribute to colors on the exterior of the corned beef.

Exposure

Exposure to both light and oxygen can cause these colors to become more pronounced, so make sure to tightly seal meats like corned beef to minimize this effect.

The Bottom Line

A shiny appearance or multi-colored surface is normal on corned beef. When in doubt, verify the sell-by date printed on the product.

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