Corned beef is one of those dishes that demand all your effort and a great deal of time. However, tender meat that melts in your mouth and packs a ton of flavor is certainly worth it.
But how long does it take to cook corned beef? It is recommended to cook corned beef for 50 minutes per pound. It may take 2-10 hours to cook corned beef depending on the cooking method you choose as well as the size of the cut. A pressure cooker will be the quickest way to cook your brined brisket.
This article is all about tips and tricks on how to transform a brined brisket into perfectly cooked corned beef as well as speed up the cooking time without sacrificing your desired result.
What Is Corned Beef and How Do You Make It?
Corned beef is not a dish you can put together quickly. It requires some time and effort to make a simple brined beef brisket so flavorful and tender as to melt in your mouth.
The reason why corned beef takes long to cook is that brisket is a relatively tough cut of meat. It needs some work to be done to be flavorful and tenderized. Beef brisket is the best part for making corned beef, as it has the perfect fat content.
While corned beef does come from brisket, the two are not the same. The difference between brisket and corned beef is that corned beef has gone through the brining/curing process and has a different flavor.
If you want to make corned beef from scratch, you will need days to prepare the meat. Firstly, you will need to brine the beef, i.e. let it sit in salted water (1 cup of salt to every gallon of water).
During the brining process, you can add some pickling spices, like coriander, allspice, peppercorn, cloves, mustard seeds, and red pepper flakes to give the meat your desired flavor.
Refrigerate the brisket in brine for 10 days. If you are short on time, you can cure the meat in brine for a shorter duration, but be aware that you may not achieve optimal results.
If brining the meat for days seems a lot to you, you can buy a pre-brined brisket. Doing this will help you avoid the long prep time for corned beef and you will only have to cook the meat with your preferred method.
How Long Does It Take to Cook Corned Beef?
The time you will spend on cooking corned beef largely depends on how you are cooking it. The general rule is 50 minutes per pound of beef.
There are multiple ways you can cook corned beef:
- On the stovetop
- In the oven
- In a slow cooker
- In a pressure cooker
- In the microwave
The last two are the quickest methods of cooking corned beef, but we don’t recommend using the microwave if you’re trying to achieve the highest quality.
How To Know Corned Beef Is Done
If you don’t have a thermometer to tell you the internal temperature of the meat indicating that is done, the easiest method is checking the meat with a fork.
Once the brisket has cooked for as long as it needs depending on its weight, poke it with a fork to see if it is tenderized enough.
If the fork doesn’t encounter any resistance and you can easily tear away some of the meat, then your corned beef is most likely done.
The meat may still have a slightly pink color to it. This doesn’t indicate that the meat is underdone.
The minimum internal temperature of properly cooked corned beef should be 145°F. If you don’t have a thermometer to check it, cook the meat for as long as the recipe suggests.
Some recipes suggest removing the meat from the heat once the temperature reaches 160°F or higher.
Tips for Cooking Corned Beef Quicker
The best way to shorten the preparation time of corned beef is to buy a pre-brined brisket.
When it comes to speeding up the cooking time, we do have a few tips for you, but this meal will still require a good amount of time to cook properly.
Here are a few tips to help you speed up the cooking process of corned beef if you don’t have the time to cook it for multiple hours.
1. Choose The Right Cuts
While there is an accepted rule regarding the cooking time of corned beef, which is 50 minutes for every pound of beef, a lot depends on what cuts you choose.
Many choose to use the entire brisket and it is certainly the way to go if you want the most flavorful corned beef.
However, to save time, you may also pay attention to which part of the brisket you are cooking. These portions consist of the point and the flat, two muscles with different properties.
The flat has a consistent thickness which increases the chances of getting it evenly cooked faster. It is also the leaner part of the brisket.
If you have the point of brisket at hand, the thin end will take less time to become tender than the heavier one. The point of the brisket is considered to be its most delicate part as it is more marbled with fat.
2. Choose The Right Cooking Method
If you have access to a wider range of cooking appliances, picking the right method to make corned beef is key. How long corned beef takes to cook largely depends on the method you are using.
Cooking the meat in the oven, on the stovetop, or in a slow cooker takes the longest. Expect to spend 3.5-5 hours cooking corned beef for a brisket weighing around 5 pounds.
The slow cooker may take even longer (up to 10 hours) if you set it on the low setting.
If you have access to a pressure cooker, then you can cook perfectly tender corned beef in just under 2 hours (for a 5-pound brisket).
If you’re curious about the differences between a pressure cooker and a slow cooker, we have another article for you.
Most home chefs who are keen on saving time opt for this method, as it is the quickest method that produces great results.
Another method of cooking corned beef relatively quickly is using the microwave. While some chefs may not approve of this, and we do not recommend it, it can work if done correctly.
It will take around 2.5 hours to cook a 5-pound beef brisket in the microwave (20-30 minutes per pound). However, make sure to keep an eye on your brisket and provide enough moisture so that it does not dry out.
You can do this by setting your brisket in a large microwave-safe dish filled with 1 1/2 cups of water. To ensure that it is cooked evenly, turn your brisket every 30 minutes and cover it with a microwave-safe material.
3. Don’t Check It Often
While cooking corned beef in any way besides the microwave, it is important to check it 1-2 times to see if there is enough liquid for the beef to cook in.
We know you may be impatient for your dish to cook, but lifting the lid too often and checking it won’t help the process. In fact, it will produce the opposite effect.
The more you open the lid to check how your brisket is doing, the longer it will take to cook, as the heat from whatever appliance you’ve chosen will escape.
To avoid lifting the lid and extending the cooking time, we recommend keeping some boiled water at hand.
If you happen to see that there isn’t enough liquid for the meat, you will be able to pour some water in right away without having to remove the lid or open the door one more time.
Does Cutting the Brisket Speed Up Cooking Time?
If you cut up a large piece of meat into smaller portions, you will speed up the cooking process. Doing this may work with a number of other dishes but not corned beef.
Smaller pieces of beef brisket will cook quicker, but they will not be as tender as they should be once cooked.
It is better to try and start cooking the brisket earlier rather than cutting it up and having chewy pieces of meat.
What Not To Do When Cooking Corned Beef
There are a few common mistakes that can ruin a properly brined brisket that could have turned out heavenly. Here is what you shouldn’t do when cooking corned beef.
1. Cooking on High Heat
Corned beef should be cooked on low heat. Cooking it on high heat may shorten the cooking time, but it will not produce the desired result.
Instead of having pieces of meat that are fork-tender, you will end up with something rather tough and rubbery.
2. Undercooking Corned Beef
No matter how much of a hurry you are in, don’t cook the meat for less time than you should.
The meat may be done within the first couple of hours of cooking, but it may have not reached the degree of tenderness corned beef is expected to have.
If you undercook your beef and it was home-brined, you will also run the risk of contracting foodborne illnesses, such as salmonella or gastroenteritis, from bad bacteria that hasn’t been dealt with during the cooking process.
It is likely that bad bacteria will die off during the brining process, as it is a form of curing the meat, but in some cases, bacteria can survive and make you sick if the meat is not cooked thoroughly.
3. Overcooking Corned Beef
You may think that you can’t overcook something that cooks for so many hours. However, there are some mistakes that can lead to overcooked corned beef.
Firstly, boiling it on high heat will ruin your brisket.
Secondly, cooking it for too many hours will result not in a brisket you can slice, but simply a pile of meat that falls apart when touched.
4. Not Adding Enough Liquid
Not having enough liquid to cover the beef while it simmers on low heat won’t provide the fork-tender result you are looking for.
If you want the meat to be very tender, you should keep the liquid level high at all times while the meat is cooking.
Up Next: The 5 Best Cooking Wines For Beef