Corned beef refers to beef that is soaked in a mixture of water, salt and pickling spices. The soaking process helps break down the connective tissues in meat, so it's often used for tougher cuts. Brisket is a large cut from between the cow's breast and shoulder and is a common choice for corned beef. It needs a low cooking temperature and a longer cooking time to become tender.
The cooking temperature of a corned beef brisket depends on the cooking method. Never quick cook brisket over a high temperature. It may heat through and be safe to consume, but it will be tough and chewy. If you want to cook your brisket in the oven, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends keeping the temperature between 325 and 350 degrees and allowing about one hour per pound. For stove-top cooking in a large pot, use high heat until any added water starts to boil, then lower the temperature to medium heat. Once it's at a medium temperature, it will take about one hour per pound.
You can cook corned beef brisket in a slow cooker as well. Set the temperature to high for about five hours or low for about 10 hours. For microwaving uncooked brisket, set the power to about 30 percent until it's half-way cooked, then raise the power to 100 percent. The USDA states the beef needs to microwave for about 20 to 30 minutes per pound.
To ensure you used the correct temperature settings, it is essential to check the internal temperature of the corned beef brisket after the estimated cooking time. Use an instant-read meat thermometer and stick it into the thickest part of the brisket. According to the USDA, if it is properly cooked, the temperature should be 160 degrees. If the temperature is well below the safe temperature and you've cooked it for the estimated time per pound, it could be indicative of your oven or other equipment having reduced settings. In this case, it is acceptable to raise the temperature; for example, you can turn the oven up another 20 degrees or raise the stove to medium-high heat.
It can be tricky to determine if corned beef was cooked at the proper temperature for the right amount of time because it retains a bright pink color even when it's cooked through. According to the USDA, the pink color is due to nitrate that is added during the soaking process. If you've cooked corn beef brisket at the right temperature, you should easily be able to cut through it with just a fork. If the meat is tough and requires a knife, you may have cooked it at too high of a temperature. You don't have to throw it out if you overheated it. Use a sharp knife to slice the tough meat into thin slices and heat it with broth to make it softer.