Extension Logo
Extension Logo
University of Minnesota Extension

Prepare corned beef for flavor and safety

Corned beef.

What is corned beef?

Cook corned beef with good food safety tips in mind and you will have the "luck of the Irish". Originally, "corned beef" was salted or brined during the winter to preserve it. After the long meatless Lent, this preserved meat was eaten. Today's refrigeration provides the opportunity to eat fresh meats all year.

Corning is a form of dry-curing meat with "corns" of salt. Today, beef brisket is cured in salt brine with spices but we still maintain the name, "corned beef". Corned beef is available as a sliced deli meat for sandwiches or whole corned beef briskets are available and often served with cooked cabbage.

Buying and storing corned beef

  • Check the "sell by" date of uncooked corned beef in a pouch with pickling juices.
  • Store it unopened in the refrigerator 5 to 7 days. Products with a "use-by" date can be stored unopened in the refrigerator until that date.
  • An uncooked corned beef brisket can be frozen if it is drained and well-wrapped. Keep in mind that salt encourages rancidity and texture changes but it is still safe to eat. Try to use within a month or two.
  • After cooking, store corned beef for 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator. You can also freeze cooked beef 2 to 3 months.

How to cook corned beef

Corned beef requires long, moist cooking which can be done in the oven, on top of the stove or using a slow cooker. No matter how the meat is prepared, cook until the internal temperature has reached at least 160 degrees F. Although "fork-tender" is a good indicator of doneness, we recommend using a meat thermometer or instant-read thermometer to be sure.

Corned beef may still be pink in color after cooking. The pink color is from nitrites used in the curing process and tends to affect the meat color. This does not mean the meat is not done - check the internal temperature with a thermometer!

Although "fork-tender" is a good indicator of doneness, we recommend using a meat thermometer or instant-read thermometer to be sure.

  • Let the brisket stand about 10 minutes after removing from the heat to make slicing easier. In most cases, it is easier to slice diagonally across the grain of the meat.
  • After cooking a whole corned beef cut it into several smaller pieces for faster cooling or slice it. Place the meat in small, shallow containers and cool it in the refrigerator quickly.

Storage of leftover corned beef

Any leftovers should be refrigerated as soon as possible within 2 hours of cooking or reheating. Use leftover corned beef within 3 to 4 days or freeze up to 2 months.

May the “luck of the Irish be with you”... if you follow good food safety behaviors when preparing corned beef!

Carol Ann Burtness, former Extension educator, Kathy Brandt, Extension educator and Suzanne Driessen, Extension educator

Reviewed in 2021

Page survey

© 2023 Regents of the University of Minnesota. All rights reserved. The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator and employer.