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WHY WHY WHY Did My Corned Beef Come Out So TOUGH?!

Alrighty...so everything came out brilliant from the sauteed cabbage with shallots, roasted carrots, smashed reds with sour cream, Irish cheddar and chives, brown bread, soda bread, trifle etc...But the corned beef. Ugh. DOUBLE UGH. I am not one for boiling it ( I know, I know it should never come to a boil anyway....) and so I bake/steam mine in the oven instead.

I soak the corned beef for a few hours and change the water a couple of times to rid it of a lot of the salt that would come out with boiling, place the CB fat side up on the pan, rub it with the pickling spices and a bit of brown sugar, tent it with some aluminum, fill the bottom under the rack with some beer or water so it steams a bit and then put it in the 350 oven for about 4 to 5 hours. The last 15 or so minutes, I remove the foil and broil a bit adding some more brown sugar if necessary. Cut it thinly across the grain when serving.

Usually it comes out perfectly. This year it loooked gorgeous but was insanely tough.

What gives?

Many Thanks,
lisa

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  1. 4-5 hours at 350 sounds like an awfully long time.

    1 Reply
    1. re: monku

      It was a HUGE corned beef. If I were to boil it, the package said 4-5 hours. I wish I knew the weight.

    2. 350* is too high, same as boiling the hell out of it. Low and slow how ever you do it.

      2 Replies
      1. re: mrbigshotno.1

        Agreed. As soon as I saw the oven temp, I thought to myself "that's the culprit."

        1. re: mrbigshotno.1

          +1 on the temp. i braised for 2 hours on tuesday (stovetop, occasional bubble), refrigerated overnight, then 3 hours at 170 degrees in the oven on wednesday. finished with a spin under the broiler to crisp the fat. the grain in this piece was at an odd angle and i had to cut on a bias to go across the grain.

        2. Yeah, I'm afraid I agree that your oven temp was a bit too high...325 or lower would be best. By the way, I got my most tender corned beef ever, this year, by doing something weird: I started it on top of the stove, simmering, but about halfway through I wanted to add carrots and, later, the cabbage and the pot was too small. So, I took out the beef, put it in a pan and covered it with foil, and then finished it by roasting ((with some butter on top, before I popped it in the oven). Wow! Tender as could be! Happy accident. :-)

          2 Replies
          1. re: Beckyleach

            That's how I do it. But I finish it at 225˚ for several hours tightly wrapped in heavy duty foil with a heavy weight (a cast iron pot lid) on it.

          2. I cook mine in the crock pot; throw a can of guinness in there, rinse it off well (soak it if you feel the need) and put it in fat side up on hgh. Perfectly tender and yummy after about 6-7 hrs.

            16 Replies
            1. re: doughartyc

              Bring to a boil in uncovered pressure cooker with dark beer/ale and aromatic vegetables, peppercorns, bay leaves and 4 cloves. Skim. Cover and bring to high pressure. Cook 50 minutes. Cool down. Tender as can be, much more tender than stovetop, oven or crockpot. And delicious broth, not as salty as other ways.

              1. re: Karl S

                Thanks for taking the time to respond. I gave the whole huge slab of gorgeous-looking meat to my friend who will hopefully shred it up and make a hash out of it. Hate to waste food. Next year I am going with Karl S's idea. Sounds very easy.

                All Things Delish,
                lisa

                1. re: ZenFoodist

                  Pressure cookers don't save quite as much time as some think, but they really save time for tough large cuts and for making stock. The technique is to bring to a boil first, skim the protein scum off the top (making for a much less murky and bitter liquid), then cook (high pressure for a cut like brisket, low pressure for making stock). Then you have the cool down before opening. But it makes for liquid with much body and character.

                  1. re: ZenFoodist

                    <I gave the whole huge slab of gorgeous-looking meat to my friend who will hopefully shred it up and make a hash out of it. Hate to waste food.>

                    Why couldn't you make that hash? Then you wouldn't be wasting anything.

                    1. re: ChefJune

                      the HASH is what corned beef is all about for me... :-)

                      1. re: toodie jane

                        me too. and sandwiches. i make two every year and use them exclusively for these purposes.

                        mmm

                    2. re: ZenFoodist

                      If you don't want to boil it, you definitely shouldn't pressure cook it. That is like boiling on steroids.

                      1. re: jeremyn

                        What? Pressure cooking works! I usually do mine in the crockpot but my youngest son isn't crazy about corned beef. So this year, I did not buy one...then one of his old high school pals came into town yesterday and they both went out and had some corned beef & cabbage. !!! On my way home from work, I figured I'd buy a smallish cut and do it in the p.c. because I REALLY wanted some corned beef and cabbage, grew up with it every year for St. Patrick's Day--came out very tender! Mine was about 2 1/2 pounds...I cooked it for 45 minutes in p.c. and let the pressure drop on its own accord. I was very happy with the results! Jeremyn, just keep it in mind...never thought I'd use my p.c. for corned beef but it does work!

                        1. re: Val

                          I'm going to stay out of the braise vs. boil argument. I prefer braising, but that wasn't really my point.

                          However, the OP indicated that he was "not one for boiling" and that "it should never come to a boil anyway." If he truly feels that way, he should definitely avoid pressure cooking, because that is much hotter still.

                          1. re: jeremyn

                            It's a misunderstanding of boiling vs pressure cooking. Pressure cooking is not the same as boiling. It cooks at a different temperature that makes the issues of cooking just above the gelatization point different. You are thus able to reach the gelatization point *much* faster without the consequent loss of flavor to liquid that comes from boiling over a much longer period of time.

                            1. re: Karl S

                              I respectfully disagree.

                              There is no gelatinization "point". The collagen -> gelatin conversion is a standard chemical process that requires energy. Higher temperatures mean more particles are available with the energy that is necessary to make the reaction go. If you have a technical background, you google the Boltzmann distribution for more explanation. In other words, I could turn collagen to gelatin at 100 degrees farenheit. It would just take a long time.

                              I don't have a good enough biochemistry background to complete my argument. However, I suspect that the processes that leech fluid from meats, and thus dry out and toughen meat, are more thermodynamic than chemical. If that is true, the energy distribution is largely irrelevant, and what matters is average energy, aka temperature.

                              In theory, then, the ideal cooking method would be to cook meat at a very low temperature to avoid cell fluid leeching, but keep cooking it until the collagen -> gelatin chemical reaction finishes. This could take a long time. In my experience, meat cooked above an internal temperature of 150 degrees is dry and tough. Therefore, the best solution would be to cook your meat well below 150 degrees for as long as it takes to melt the collagen.

                              That should sound familiar. It's basically sous vide / water bath cooking. I'll admit that the theory above is probably missing some important details, but despite that, it comes to the same conclusion I've reached in the kitchen--sous-vide / water bath cooking at 130 degrees produces superior results to pressure cooking. No wonder we don't often see pressure cooker braises in high-end restaurants!

                              1. re: jeremyn

                                My corned beef cooked in the PC is noticeably more flavorful and tender than cooked by stovetop or oven braise, and the broth also has better body. What can I say more?

                                1. re: Karl S

                                  I don't have a pressure cooker, so I only get PC food when I'm at friends' houses. Admittedly, most of them are not great cooks.

                                  Someday I'd love to try it from a better cook (like you) who is committed to turning out an excellent product.

                                  Since you can never find PC food in a restaurant, that could be a while. Until then, I only have a (relatively weak) physical argument and my own experience.

                                  1. re: jeremyn

                                    Restaurants, you should be aware, are usually cooking primary-cut size corned beef; the replication of labor in cooking smaller cuts is inefficient for such establishments. You cannot cook that in a pressure cooker, but must use the oven or multiple burners on the rangetop.

                        2. re: jeremyn

                          Pressure cooking is sublime for corned beef.

                          1. re: Karl S

                            Yeah, and I never would have tried it if I didn't INSIST on having some on St. Patrick's Day (kept saying to myself "Well, you could go buy the meat on the way home from work and just put it in the crockpot tomorrow morning." Then: "No, I....want....some....TODAY!" And the only way it could happen was by using the pressure cooker which I looked up on-line when I got home.

                  2. Geez sorry to hear that. I think I can help.
                    Mine came out incredibly tender. I think I see what you might what to change next time.
                    I always do the corned beef in the oven Buy a flat cut, some are more triangle, these actually say "flat cut" on the packaging. I always roast at 325 degrees, 4 hours. But first heat the oven to 350 and then reduce the heat after 30 minutes.

                    I take the pickling stuff off and scrape it onto a dish, by washing the corned beef off. I transfer it all to a little spice bag for later. Then once its washed, dry it off and make a smear of brown sugar, yellow mustard and garlic powder. About 1/4 cup of brown sugar and mustard, and 2 T garlic powder. Then I roast it in a cup of half water and chicken broth (in a pyrex dish) one large onions quartered, and the pickling spice bag tied tight.
                    Wrap it well with foil completely. Put in on the middle rack, mid oven. Set the timer for 4 hours. Keep the temp at 350 for 30 minutes and drop it to 325. At 2 hours, I add the cabbage, red potatoes cut up, carrots, and one more onion sliced in crescents and 4 fresh garlic cloves sliced. Pepper and garlic powder over all. A little more of the mustard schmear, brushed over again.
                    After 4 hours, remove and let it rest for 5 mins cut it up an serve.

                    Ours was outrageously good.