Corned beef is a style of meat that is often made from tougher cuts of beef, such as the rump, round or brisket. Turning these meats into corned beef requires "curing" or "pickling" -- a process that many home cooks find too time-consuming. As a result, many people choose to purchase a brisket that has already gone through the curing process.
The brisket is a specific cut of meat from an area near the cow’s shoulder and leg. It is a muscle that is used when walking, which is why it is tougher than many other cuts. Briskets come in either a point cut or flat cut, with the point slightly rounder with more fat.
For a piece of brisket to become corned beef it must first be cured. The curing process once consisted of using pellets, or “corns,” of coarse salt rubbed into the meat to prevent spoiling. Since the advent of refrigeration, the beef is soaked in salt water along with common spices like black peppercorn and bay leaf. You can get cured corned beef brisket from your supermarket sealed in a plastic bag.
Since the brisket is a tougher cut of meat, longer and slower cooking times produce the most tender results. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and place the corned beef brisket in a baking dish with the fat facing up. Barely cover the entire brisket with water, place the cover on the dish and cook for one hour per pound; for a three-pound brisket, that’s three hours. You can also place the brisket fat side up in a pot on the stove, covered with water. Bring the water to a boil and then simmer for one hour per pound. Add any vegetables during the last 20 minutes of cooking. For a slow cooker, cover the brisket with water and cook on high for the first hour, and then for 10 to 12 hours on low, or continue on high for five to six more hours.
When your corned beef brisket is ready, allow it to rest for 10 to 15 minutes, and then slice it diagonally against the grain. Slicing with the grain makes the meat chewy and tough. Serve it with your choice of vegetables, rice or potatoes and save any leftovers for sandwiches later on.