Battle of the Beef

The other night we had battle of the beef, corned beef that is, since we were celebrating St. Patrick’s Day.

I grew up eating corned beef on St. Patrick’s Day and it was always prepared in the classic New England style:  boiled with carrots, potatoes and cabbage. I’ll admit it, I’ve never really cared for boiled meat.  I will even admit that I was always a little confused about corned beef, given its texture, color and saltiness.  I thought it was actually a type of ham.

So when I grew up and started celebrating St. Patrick’s Day on my own, I sought out a new way to prepare corned beef that was more to my taste.  Some friends from Texas introduced me to their unique method:  boil the corned beef the traditional way,  but then rub it down with a spice and brown sugar mixture and throw it on the grill.  For years now I’ve made my corned beef Texas style, as I found this method just as flavorful as the traditional but with an extra sweet crunch.

This year I found myself in a perplexing situation.  The polar vortex that has hit the Chicago area hard left my grill trapped in ice.  There was just no way I was going to be able to use it for St. Patrick’s Day.  I started investigating alternative ways to cook corned beef and that is when I stumbled upon the idea of slow roasting it in the oven.

Since I had purchased two packages of corned beef (we were having our neighbors over and I wanted to be sure I would have leftovers), I decided to do a little taste test and try both methods.


One corned beef I put in a large pot and covered with water, added a can of beer (pilsner), onion, garlic, peppercorns, bay leaves and chili pepper flakes.  I brought the whole mess to a boil and then simmered it for about 5 hours.


When the meat was done, I took it out of the pot and let it rest for about 5 minutes.  Then I covered it with a brown sugar spice mixture and put it under the broiler to get the meat crispy.  Broiling worked pretty well given that grilling wasn’t an option.


The other corned beef, I slow roasted at a low temperature in the oven for 5 hours.  I put the beef in a roasting pan on top of a sheet of foil, fat side up and then I sprinkled the spice packet that comes with the beef on top.


Then I slathered the meat with equal parts grainy mustard and honey and sprinkled brown sugar on top.  I covered the corned beef with foil and put in a 325 degree oven.


Everybody at the dinner party really enjoyed both types of corned beef, but I think that the roasted one came out the best.  The meat was really tender but firm enough to cut into thick slices.  The meat wasn’t stringy and the outside was crunchy and delicious.  I read that parboiling the meat before hand makes it less salty, which I didn’t do this time, but I may try the next time I make it.


Next year I plan to slow roast the corned beef because it was so easy.  The meal was prepared in one simple step and came out perfectly.


Texas Style Corned Beef Brisket

1 bottle beer
4 bay leaves
1 t red chili pepper flakes
3 whole cinnamon sticks
12 peppercorns
3 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 large onion, peeled
1 4-5 pound corned beef, flat cut*

Put all of the ingredients in a large pot.  Cover with water and bring to a boil.  Turn down to a simmer and cook 4-5 hours.  Cool 5 – 10 minutes and then proceed to rub.

* I recommend the flat cut of corned beef only because it isn’t as fatty and doesn’t shrink as much as the point cut when cooked.


1/2 C brown sugar
1/2 t cloves
1/2 t ginger
1/2 t dry mustard
1/4 t celery seeds
1/4 t caraway seeds

Mix together the ingredients in a bowl.  Pat rub all over the meat.  Sear on a hot grill or put under a broiler until crunchy.

Serves 6

Slow Roasted Corned Beef (adapted from the blog

4-5 pound corned beef (with seasoning packet), flat cut
1/3 C honey
1/3 C whole grain mustard
2 T brown sugar

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Combine the honey and mustard in a small bowl.  Line the bottom of a roasting pan with foil.  Place the beef fat side up and cover with seasoning packet.  Cover with honey mustard mixture and sprinkle brown sugar on top.  Cover the meat with foil and put in the middle rack of oven.  Cook for 4 hours.  Remove foil the last hour to allow to crisp on top.

Serves 6


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