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Mar 15, 2008 10:52 AM

Naval Beef?

It comes in large, white plastic tubs with black lettering. I know it's salted beef, but if I took it home, (I've been sorely tempted, lo these many years) what would I find and what would I do with it?

How is the product produced? Is it cooked or just pickled? Any additives other than salt? What beef cuts are used? How would I prepare it?

What is its history?

I know that it is Maritimer thing; that it's central to Jiggs's Dinner; that it's inexpensive, and that there is/was a Newfie musical group by the same name. So, it must be good.

Naval beef can be found in many, many supermarkets here in Ontario and has been around forever. Why do I know nothing about it.

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  1. I was tempted too, and brought one home. The naval is a part of the brisket cut with bone in.
    So, you will get bones and fat with your cured (brined but not smoked) meat, in serving size chunks, uncooked.
    It is cooked Jigg's style in a large cauldron of water (to dilute the salt) with root vegetables and cabbage. Delicious, and you get to suck on the bones.
    It's that kind of meal!

    1. As far as history goes, salt beef was one of the main protein sources for sailors in the British Navy before the days of refrigeration. Presumably the "Naval Beef" you're seeing owes its name to this fact. The stuff comes up with regularity in historical novels, including Forester's Horatio Hornblower books and the Aubrey/Maturin series by Patrick O'Brien. It's just cheap cuts of raw beef (although provisioners were often accused of also using other, less commonly acceptable animals) preserved by packing in salt.

      5 Replies
      1. re: alanbarnes

        Alan, naval beef is specifically brisket, bone in. I looked for the Hormel chart (couldn't find it, maybe somebody has the link) where it is clearly shown. Here is an obscure Russian diagram, misspelled:

        1. re: jayt90

          It's spelled right. The navel end of the brisket is the end closest to the belly button. Navel=belly button. Naval=related to the navy.

          1. re: alanbarnes

            I was just down at Seaport Merchants, a Newfoundland food shop, and snapped this photo of what is most certainly "cured navel beef."

            Spice City Toronto: Adventures in ethnic food in the GTA

            1. re: Spice City Toronto

              I wouldn't rely on a producer's spelling as determinative of which cut of beef is involved; here's a picture of a big bucket of "Naval Beef." Presumably they're the same stuff.

              Which leaves the question - the plate (aka the navel) is a relatively cheap cut of meat that might be a prime candidate for salting. In which case you'd have naval navel beef.

              1. re: Spice City Toronto

                I bought the naval beef it is not my first time to buy the product but this time when I open the white pail some of the meal pieces was black instead of dark red or light pink. would you know what I should do with this? To you think the meat is bad?

        2. This is our favourite thing to make with naval beef... Jamaican Stew Peas and Rice. If you're like me and don't care for peas, don't write this off, because it's NOT peas... they are kidney beans, and the beef and rice is SO good; even if you pick out the "peas," you will enjoy it!