Corned Beef Vs Roast Beef

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Beef is a versatile meat that can be prepared in a number of ways. Corned beef and roast beef represent two of the most popular preparation methods for beef. But how do they differ?

What are the differences between corned beef and roast beef? While there are a few similarities between corned and roast beef, there are mostly differences between the two. The key differences between corned beef and roast beef include their origin, taste, the different cuts used to make them, the preparation method, and the nutritional value they provide.

In this article, we have compared all aspects of corned beef and roast beef. Continue reading to learn more about corned beef and roast beef and why they are often confused. 

What Is Corned Beef?

Corned beef is beef cured in salt. To make corned beef, you need to preserve the beef cut in a brine solution for several days, typically a little over a week. The brine pickles the meat and makes it tender.

This is a simple technique for tenderizing meat. Salt is used to tenderize meat even when cooking steaks. 

The secret behind the power of salt to turn tough and chewy meats into delicate cuts is that salt relaxes the proteins. It breaks down the muscle fibers in the meat.

If salting the meat a few minutes or hours before cooking can have a noticeable effect on the texture of the meat, imagine how tender the beef cut becomes when you keep it in brine for several days. 

One of the most peculiar things about corned beef is its name. Someone who has never eaten corned beef may be tricked into thinking that it is a dish made with corn.

In reality, the term ‘corned beef’ was invented by the British in the 17 century. They used the word corned to describe the size of the salt granules. They were as big as corn kernels! 

Corned beef is associated with St. Patrick’s Day as this is when it is widely consumed. This holiday is widely celebrated across the US, Canada, Australia, and of course, Ireland.

Irish corned beef was especially popular from the 17th to 19th centuries. This was thanks to the high-quality salt and the large number of cattle the Irish had. 

What Is Roast Beef?

The name of roast beef is quite self-explanatory—it’s beef roasted in the oven. Unlike corned beef, roast beef is not cured. You simply season the meat before roasting it. 

Roast beef is a traditional meal in many countries, including the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia

What Are the Differences Between Corned Beef and Roast Beef?

Even the names of these two dishes suggest that they have similarities. However, there are also many differences between corned beef and roast beef.

Let’s compare roast beef and corned beef to see what makes them similar and different at the same time. 


Roast beef is a national English dish. In fact, it is a part of British identity. It dates back to the early 18th century when roast beef was mentioned in the ballad “The Roast Beef of Old England”.

In fact, roast beef is so English that in the 18th century the French called the English people “rosbifs“. 

Roast beef is the traditional meal of Sunday lunch or dinner.

The history behind the English roast goes back as early as the 15th century when the British ate a lot of meat, especially on Sundays, which made Sunday roasts a great British tradition.

Sundays roasts are still a thing. The modern beef roast is made in the oven. Now, however, it is a part of Sunday meals not only for family dinners but in pubs and restaurants too.

But this doesn’t mean people in other countries don’t eat roast beef. Roast beef is a simple dish commonly eaten in different parts of the world, including the United States

In contrast to the rich history behind the British roast beef that is also reflected in British arts, the origin of corned beef is unknown.

There are debates among experts whether this method of curing beef comes from ancient Europe or the Middle East. 

As mentioned earlier, corned beef is a popular St. Patrick’s Day food. And as St. Patrick’s Day is an Irish holiday, many are convinced that this cured meat is an Irish tradition. 

But salt curing has been a technique for preserving meat used by people since the beginning of time. This makes it hard to decide on the origins of corned beef especially when there is evidence in both European and middle-eastern history. 


Corned beef and roast beef are quite different in terms of their flavor profile. As corned beef is salt-cured beef, it has a salty and briny taste. Depending on what spices you have used to brine the meat, it can also be spicy. 

As roast beef is not cured in salt, it is obviously not as salty as roast beef. Roast beef usually takes on the flavor of the spices added to it while roasting.

Rosemary, basil, thyme, ground black pepper, mustard, and garlic are some of the most popular seasonings used for roasting beef. 


Both corned beef and roast beef have a soft texture if cooked right. However, the long curing process tenderizes the beef significantly which makes it a little more tender than the beef roasted in the oven. 

Cuts Used

The most common beef cut used to make corned beef is the brisket. This is the cut of beef obtained from the lower breast.

The brisket of beef is tough as the area it comes from is well-exercised and has plenty of connective tissues. The thicker part of the brisket is also very fatty. 

As this cut of beef is so tough, it is perfect for dishes with a long cooking time. 

When it comes to roast beef, there is a wider range of options you can choose from, including the eye of round and top sirloin. The former comes from the hind part of the beef while and is a lean cut.

The latter, top sirloin, is a tender and lean cut from the primal loin of beef. This is the area where the most tender beef cuts come from. 

You can also use tri-tip for roast beef. This is a low-fat cut sirloin cut with a rich beefy flavor. 

Preparation And Cooking Time 

The preparation of corned beef takes a long time if you have decided to make it from scratch. First off, it takes days for the tough beef brisket to brine. You can use not only salt but other spices too to flavor the meat.

You should let the brisket sit in the brine solution for a minimum of 5-7 days in the fridge before you use it

As brining the beef is such a long process, many people prefer buying the beef pre-brined and cooking it using their favorite method. You can boil, slow cook, or bake corned beef

The cooking time for corned beef depends on what kitchen appliance you are using to cook it—the stove, the oven, a slow cooker, pressure cooker, or the microwave.

In general, however, it takes around 50 minutes to cook a pound of beef

The name of roast suggests that it can only be roasted. Thus, as opposed to corned beef, there is only one cooking method for roast beef

As for the cooking time, a lot depends on your oven and the temperature you have set it to. If you have set the temperature of the oven at 375°F, cook the beef 20 minutes per pound


Both corned beef and roast beef are good sources of protein and nutrients such as potassium, iron, vitamin B-6, and cobalamin (vitamin B15). These foods are also low in carbohydrates which makes them great for low-carb diets. 

One of the main differences between corned beef and roast beef lies in their sodium content. Corned beef is much higher in sodium as a result of its preparation method

Is Roast Beef Healthier Than Corned Beef?

Consuming both roast beef and corned beef can have health benefits. Both are good sources of protein and nutrients such as B vitamins, potassium, and iron.

However, as opposed to roast beef, corned beef is processed beef which is not the healthiest food. In case you didn’t know, all meat that has been salted is considered processed along with meat that has been smoked or dried. 

It is the high amount of sodium in corned beef that makes it a less healthy choice than roast beef. Foods that contain a lot of sodium may make your blood pressure go up and ultimately lead to poor heart health. 

Roast beef, while it has a significant health value in terms of protein, minerals, and vitamins, its consumption should be within healthy limits for you to get the benefits of the dish. 

Both roast beef and corned beef can be a part of a balanced diet. 

How To Serve Corned Beef

As corned beef and roast beef both come from the same animal, it is only natural that they will pair well with one and the same ingredients and side dishes. But how do you serve corned beef and roast beef?

Unlike roast beef that is most often thought of as a hearty dinner dish, corned beef can be eaten for any meal of the day.

You can eat it for breakfast in the form of a corned beef hash, have the famous corned beef Reuben sandwich for lunch, or serve corned beef with cabbage for a traditional dinner. 

Don’t think of corned beef as a boring protein. With the help of different side dishes, you can put together delicious plates making corned beef the star of the show. 

Here are some ideas for side dishes for corned beef. 

  • Asian-style cabbage salad
  • Glazed carrots and blanched green beans 
  • Potato gratin or roasted potatoes
  • Sauerkraut 
  • Deviled eggs or fried eggs
  • Pasta 

You can also use leftover corned beef to make casseroles, soups, chowders, and a range of different sandwiches and wraps. 

How To Serve Roast Beef

Roast beef is most commonly served as a main meal. However, as it is simply roasted beef, it needs sides and perhaps sauces to make a complete and balanced plate. 

While Yorkshire pudding is the traditional side dish for roast beef, it is very versatile in terms of pairings and can be served with a number of different sides.

The key is making sure your plate is balanced in terms of both nutrients and flavors. 

Here’s what sides go well with roast beef

  • Scalloped potatoes
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Mushrooms in a balsamic sauce
  • Crunchy and savory green beans 
  • Roasted beets and glazed carrots
  • Blanched asparagus
  • Rice

Just like corned beef, there is a lot you can do with roast beef leftovers. In the majority of the cases, people use roast beef leftovers to make filling sandwiches. But roast beef leftovers have more potential than you can imagine. 

You can use roast beef leftovers to make pasta dishes, enchiladas, salads, tacos, empanadas, Shepard’s pie, stews, etc.

Storage and Shelf Life 

The storage conditions and shelf life of corned beef depend mainly on whether it is fresh or cooked.

If you have bought uncooked corned beef, pay attention to the “use by” date. Unopened corned beef typically lasts around 1 week in the fridge. 

If it is packed well, it may be good for another week past the date indicated on the packaging.

In such cases, however, make sure to closely inspect the salt-cured brisket before using it and discard if you notice such signs as an off odor, changes in appearance, including color changes, and slimy texture. 

If you want to extend the shelf life of uncooked corned beef, freeze it. However, keep in mind that freezing works well for corned beef only when it is well-drained and wrapped well.

The freezer will extend the shelf life of uncooked corned beef to 1-2 months

Cooked corned beef is only good for 4 days. You should keep cooked corned beef in the fridge at all times. 

The shelf life of roast beef is not very long. Once roasted, the beef should be eaten within 4 days. Store it in the fridge in an airtight container. Alternatively, wrap it tightly in aluminum foil. 

Freezing cooked roast beef is an option too. Wrap the leftovers with aluminum foil and place them into a freezer bag. An airtight container will work too.

Roast beef lasts up to 3 months in the freezer after which it may start to show signs of spoilage or develop a bland flavor. 

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