Corned beef makes a filling and festive choice for St. Patrick's Day, but you can also enjoy it all year. One cost-savvy option is purchasing corned beef on sale, then freezing it for later use. If you plan to boil your meat on the stove, you won't even have to thaw it before you start to cook. Just make sure you start with fresh, raw beef and observe the proper precautions.
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Choosing Corned Beef
Corned beef comes in three major cuts: the whole brisket, the flat and the point. The point contains more fat and more flavor, but it usually costs more. The flat is fairly lean and more consistent in thickness, but it needs careful cooking to prevent toughness. You can also buy the whole brisket and get the best of both worlds. You can expect the meat to shrink by 25 to 40 percent due to the added brine, so take that into account when you determine the size of your cut.
You don't have to cook your corned beef as soon as you bring it home. To preserve it for later use, drain the brine and put the entire piece directly into the refrigerator. According to American Foods Group, corned beef lasts up to six months in the freezer. The United States Department of Agriculture recommends freezing it for just one month to get the best quality, however. After that, the meat is safe to eat but may not taste as good.
Defrost or Cook Immediately
If you want to cook a frozen piece of corned beef, you can either place it directly in the pot or defrost it for faster cooking. If you choose to defrost, place the meat in the refrigerator with a pan or bowl under it to catch any liquid. Do not defrost meat at room temperature, since it can increase the risk of food poisoning. If you want to cook your corned beef immediately, simply follow your usual recipe and cook it about 50 percent longer. Do not prepare frozen corned beef in a Crock-Pot, however. The relatively low temperatures can increase the risk of bacterial growth or other problems.
While many people refer to corned beef and cabbage as a “boiled dinner,” it's best not to let the dish reach boiling temperatures. Allowing your corned beef to boil can make it leathery and tough with an uncooked interior. Instead, simmer the meat at relatively low temperatures for several hours or cook it in the oven covered with foil to keep the moisture in. This produces a tender piece of meat with better flavor than boiling.