Super tender, flavourful brisket….with zero preservatives!
I have spent my entire adult life (up till about a week ago) wondering how corned beef got its name. I mean, there’s no corn in it (unlike peameal bacon, for example, which used to be coated with ground dried yellow peas, hence the name). As it turns out, this Irish-inspired dish gets its name from the corn-kernel sized chunks of salt that were traditionally used in its preparation. You can buy already-cured corned beef (made with regular sized salt) in many grocery stores, but it is super easy to cure it at home and a great way to avoid commercial preservatives. Nitrates are often used, partly to prevent the meat from taking on a perfectly safe but greyish hue when cooked; I used sliced, raw beet instead and it did the trick!
Unlike pastrami, which is cured and then smoked, corned beef brisket is typically boiled. For my experiment, I decided to cook the brisket in my Instant Pot and it came out just beautifully, and so much faster than boiling. A pressure cooker would do the job just as nicely. Rather than cooking cabbage and potatoes with the meat, as is often done, I highly recommend you prepare this amazing Colcannon, a traditional, delicious Irish dish that can be made ahead of time and reheats perfectly. These roasted carrots would be pretty awesome too.
- 3 – 4 pound (1.35 – 1.8 kg) beef brisket
- 7 cups (1.75 L) cold water
- 3/4 cup (185 mL) coarse kosher salt
- 1/3 cup (90 mL) brown sugar or maple syrup
- 1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
- 1 tablespoon (15 mL) each of coriander seeds, mustard seeds and black peppercorns
- 10 each whole cloves and allspice berries
- 1 tablespoon (15 mL) thinly sliced fresh ginger root
- 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) dried thyme
- 2 large bay leaves, crumbled
- 1 small purple beet, peeled and thinly sliced
- 4 cloves garlic, sliced
- 2 – 3 tablespoons (20 – 45 mL) olive or vegetable oil
- 1 bottle or can of beer
- 1 cup (250 mL) beef broth
- cold water to cover
- 1 tablespoon (15 mL) cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon (15 mL) cold water
- Put the meat in a sturdy zip lock bag. Add the water, salt, sugar, spices, beet and garlic. Seal the bag, squeezing out as much air as possible.
- Jostle the bag to dissolve the salt and sugar then place it inside a second bag or in a casserole dish in case it leaks. Put in the fridge and let sit for 4 – 7 days, flipping over whenever you think of it (every 12 hours or so is great).
- When ready to cook, rinse meat under cold running water to remove brine and seasonings. Cut into equal-sized pieces as needed to fit into your Instant Pot.
- Preheat Instant Pot on “Saute” for a minute. Add 2 tablespoons (30 mL) of the olive or vegetable oil then add meat (one piece at a time, if you’ve cut it) to hot oil and sear about 3 – 4 minutes per side until nicely browned, pressing down on the meat with a spatula if needed to ensure good contact with the pot. Remove the first piece (if more than one) and set aside. Add more oil if needed and sear the second piece of brisket then remove it as well.
- NOTE: Because you will be cooking under pressure, make sure your Instant Pot will not be more than 2/3 full when you add the meat and liquid.
- Place the steam rack inside the Instant Pot and put the meat on top of the rack. Pour beer and beef broth over the meat then add just enough water so that the meat is covered.
- TIP: Can’t find your steam rack? Use any metal or silicone trivet that fits, or a couple of medium-sized carrots cut to the right length, to prop up the meat).
- Close the lid and the vent valve on the lid. Press “Manual” then “Pressure” (twice if needed to get it to set on High) then keep pressing the “+” button until the screen displays 90 (minutes).
- Let cook on high pressure for 90 minutes. Let steam release naturally for 10 minutes then carefully open the venting valve to let the pot finish depressurizing. The cooked meat can stay in the pot as is for up to 30 minutes to keep warm.
- When ready to serve, place cooked corned beef on a cutting board and tent with foil. Remove steam rack from Instant Pot and set to “Saute”.
- Combine cornstarch and water in a small bowl then drizzle into the Instant Pot. Whisk as the mixture bubbles, heats and thickens. Cover pot and press “Keep Warm” while you carve the brisket.
- Cut meat into 1/4 inch (.6 cm) slices – it will be ‘falling apart tender’ so cut the slices a little thicker if you need to.
- Transfer the sliced meat to a serving platter then ladle the hot, thickened broth from the Instant Pot over top and serve immediately.
Serves 6 – 10 depending upon the size of your brisket.