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Is Corn beef an Irish dish?

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In all the talk about authenticity, no one mentioned (as far as I can tell) the single greatest shot across the bow of the authenticity battle-ship--corn beef for st. patrick's day.

Maybe it is a ethnic pride thing for me, but it is my understanding that no one eats corn beef in Ireland, except for maybe expat New Yorkers flying it in from Carnegie.

Does it make a difference?


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  1. Is the Pope Catholic?

    1 Reply
    1. re: mc michael

      Who knows? Is the Pope Italian?

    2. Corned beef is something entirely different in Ireland. It comes in a can and is more like Hormel's deviled ham than anything else in America. What we call corned beef in America is called salted beef in Ireland, and almost never eaten. It's considered unpalatable.

      The most authentic Irish dish is probably lamb stew with a side of boiled spuds. In my experience, the Irish think it's weird that Irish-Americans associate corned beef with Ireland.

      1. I've actually had corned beef & cabbage in Ireland, though perhaps my aunt thought she was making an "American" dish to make us feel at home.

        I think the dish being replicated is bacon & cabbage; Irish bacon being salt-cured instead of smoked, and readily available in bulk sizes. I think some enterprising pub owner back in the day tried to serve bacon & cabbage on St. Pat's day and substituted corned beef for the bacon.

        1. Everyone knows that corned beef was brought to the new world by that famous Irish immigrant Seamus O'Schwartz.

          1. According to the following link, "The traditional meal is Irish bacon and cabbage. When Irish immigrants were flooding the shores of the USA they were poor and couldn’t afford such a delicacy as Irish bacon. So they borrowed the cheaper alternative of corned beef from their Jewish neighbors."

            Link: http://www.briansbelly.com/featured/s...

            1 Reply
            1. re: Nancy Berry

              Dig the fried wonton sandwich recipe. Now that's what I call Irish cooking. (Hey, I'm allowed--I happen to be a cook of Irish heritage myself.)

            2. Corned Beef The following is compiled from several sources.

              Corned beef can be called Irish in one sense but not another. Since the medieval ages it was produced in Ireland and sold for export. No self respecting Irishman would touch the inferior stuff but it was of high regard in Europe and England. The French used to ship it to their slave colonies in the Caribbean until much cheaper New England salt cod fish took it’s place. During early times most of the cows in Ireland were milk cows and it was the inferior stock that was corned, using French salt that was traded for. Then during the 1600-1700’s it was picked up by the wealthy landlords and two grades became available. The low quality stuff and the high quality delicacy that became a high profit industry for the upper class and beef in general became unavailable for the Irish down trodden peasants. Pork has always been the historical Irish meat, not beef.

              The English Navy took on corned beef as a major part of their provisions (competing with but never overtaking salt cod.) It was in the 1600’s that the English gave it the name corned, due to the corn kernel size pieces of salt used in the process. It was the best way beef could be had on board ship due to it's preservation qualities. Called "barrel beef" as it was stored in huge barrels of brine. It became popular in the sailing towns of Northern New England, here in America partially because of the tastes developed by the sailors that continued to when they were home as well that it was cheap.

              As in Ireland most cows in New England were milk cows, not beef cows. Beef was imported from England and the during the 1830's in huge tins from Australia. Later on the beef was imported salted and canned (corned) from South America since this was cheaper than fresh local beef from around 1860 on when there was a major disease outbreak in the beef cows of England. (Originally the cows there were raised and killed for only their hides which were more valuable than meat and the carcasses were left to rot out on the pampas but the meat shortage and canning changed all that.) During the great Irish potato famine many Irish immigrated to the US and settled in New England. Corned beef was cheap and available and so were cabbage and potatoes. This led to the "New England Boiled Dinner" a combination of boiled corned beef and vegetables, especially using cabbage and potatoes. So the tradition of Irish eating corned beef is more of an Irish-American thing.

              The Irish considered fresh beef and high quality corned beef as too expensive for the average man and it was reserved for the wealthy and for export. At some point high quality corned beef was eaten in Ireland as a rural Easter celebration meal after the fasting of Lent, but as soon as widespread fresh meat was available this was much preferred. It is not considered the "Irish National Dish" in Ireland and is mostly served to tourists. It seems that the Irish would rather have the good stuff. Look at their taste in stout beer and whiskey.

              In WWI and WWII canned corned beef (called bully beef) was served to US troops and the taste for it was continued. (Why, I don’t know, since bully beef was horrid stuff.)

              J. Forester

              8 Replies
              1. re: The Rogue

                I am Irish-American, originally from the Boston area, and all I know is that I have had corned beef and cabbage on every March 17th since I was old enough to eat solid food, which represents alot of years. I went to college in Atlanta (major culture shock there) and will never forget someone asking me when St. Patrick's Day was. I could understand how maybe they didn't know when Patriots' Day was (almost), but St. Patrick's Day?

                1. re: Pat Darnell

                  That's weird... I wonder if they were pulling your leg about not knowing when St. Patricks day was.

                  I lived in rural middle Georgia just south of Atlanta, for several years 1994-1996, and everyone knew about St. Patricks Day. Savannah, Georgia has the second largest St. Patricks Day celebration in the US, right after NY and before Boston.

                  Georgia has a very large Irish-American population. There is even a town called Dublin about an hour from Atlanta, famed for it's amazing high school football team that regularily has players recruited to the NFL teams.

                  1. re: Pat Darnell

                    One of the nice things about getting corned beef from local supermarkets in the Boston area is that we can readily get gray corned beef brisket, made without the nasty medicinal chemicals. It's far superior to the pink stuff, even if it looks much more dead. Braised for several hours, it is tender and not as salty, either.

                    But I don't like braising the cabbage with the beef; it can be OK, but easy to ruin. Instead, cabbage should be cut in wedges, steamed and then gently heated in a saute pan with butter, salt and freshly ground black pepper.

                    Add some roasted root vegetables and real mashed potatoes (or mashed potatoes and whipped rutabegas combined) similarly dressed and seasoned, and you have a fine if not refined meal.

                    1. re: Karl S.

                      My not-so-sainted Irish grandmother would turn in her grave at the thought of mashed potatoes (with or without rutabagas) with a boiled dinner. The potatoes (budaters) must be boiled in unsalted water and served as bland as possible. God forbid that they should have any flavor. As with the cabbage, it isn't fit to eat unless you can smell it boiling three blocks away.

                      1. re: Jim H.

                        LOL!!!!!! I coulda posted that one!
                        And my husband *hates* the way I say "budatahs" (which I keep "down cellar")....

                      2. re: Karl S.

                        I no longer boil the cabbage with the meat either. Steamed cabbage, served with lots of butter and pepper is great, although I had no real problem with the boiled-to-death-in-greasy-water version, except my kids wouldn't eat it. I buy my corned beef from the local butcher shop, where they corn their own. I haven't bought that nasty pink stuff in plastic bags for many years. Steamed carrots are a must with this meal too, but the potatoes have to be boiled with the meat.

                        1. re: Karl S.

                          Read the label carefully.

                          Nowadays you commonly see corned beef for sale which is "tenderized with papain"-I thought you were supposed to boil it until it was tender. It looks like it's been pierced by thousands of small needles, has the texture of waterlogged sponge rubber, and the taste of an inferior spam.

                          1. re: Karl S.

                            This is yet another example of how coarse peasant dishes are transformed as the peasants become prosperous. Many an Italian-American has gone to Italy for a "real" pizza or lasagna and returned sadly disillusioned.

                            (I grew up on Cape Cod, where my mother often made boiled dinners, but with fresh brisket rather than "that salty stuff".)

                      3. "it is my understanding that no one eats corn beef in Ireland, except for maybe expat New Yorkers"

                        I am Irish, born and bred in Dublin, and let me tell you this....whoever gave you this info was waaaaaay off. lol.
                        Myself and my family have been eating my grandmothers corned beef cabbage and potatoes since we were knee high, corned beef is definitely eaten in Ireland, its a staple part of our diet and has been for many generations.

                        1. Probably depends on the family. Beef is not huge in Ireland...more pig and lamb. But the wealthier families probably were able to afford beef.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: rizzo0904

                            Beef is just as big in Ireland as any other meet, especially these days lol. Where are you getting this info from? Cause its way wrong hahahaha.

                            1. re: MichaelaRose

                              I was reading about a fundraiser being held here (NH) on or near St. Patty's day. The chef (from Ireland) said they would not be serving corned beef as beef was not a staple in Irish diets and is an "American" tradition. The chef said in Ireland they eat more bacon and pork produccts. She also commented that St. Patrick's Day was never a celebratory day over there, but a somber, religious day. Now, however, Ireland has adopted more of the American way of celebrating the day.

                          2. My grandparents are from Ireland. They've passaway, but on St. Patrick's Day my grandmother had a fit over the corned beef. She served slab bacon instead of corned beef and we ate it with boiled potatos and cabbage.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: jarona

                              Agreed that Bacon was also prepared in the same way, however Beef and corned beef is definitely and always has been as popular as other meets. I am from Ireland, inner city Dublin to be precise... I know for sure that its has always been around.

                              1. re: MichaelaRose

                                I am Canadian of Irish decent, I had never heard of a Boiled Dinner until a Maritime friend, from Nova Scotia, gave me her recipe, a Corned Beef and Cabbage dinner, Oh so good, and very Irish. We here in Canada can even order Green Beer at the Pubs on St. Paddys Day!!!!