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Is it better to boil or slow cook corned beef?

Corned beef is a salt-cured brisket that has been a staple ingredient in many cuisines for centuries. While corned beef can be cooked using various methods, the two most common are boiling and slow cooking. Both have their advantages and disadvantages when it comes to flavor, texture, and ease of cooking. This article will examine the key differences between boiling and slow cooking corned beef to help you determine which method is better for your needs.

Key Factors to Consider

When deciding between boiling and slow cooking corned beef, here are some of the main factors to keep in mind:

  • Flavor – Does one method produce better flavor or a preferable flavor profile?
  • Texture – Which results in a more desirable texture – sliceable yet tender?
  • Time – How much active cooking time and total time does each require?
  • Convenience – Which is simpler and requires less monitoring/attention?
  • Equipment – Do you need special equipment for one or both methods?

Evaluating these key factors will help determine which method – boiling or slow cooking – will work best for your specific needs and preferences.

Boiling Corned Beef

Boiling is the traditional and most common way to cook corned beef brisket. Here is an overview of the boiling process:

Overview of the Boiling Process

  • Submerge the corned beef completely in a large pot of water or other braising liquid like beef broth.
  • Bring the liquid to a boil then reduce to a gentle simmer.
  • Simmer the corned beef for 2.5-3.5 hours until fork tender.
  • Remove the corned beef from the pot and let rest before slicing.

Benefits of Boiling

  • Simple, straightforward method using just a pot on the stovetop.
  • Produces classic corned beef flavor – salty and mildly spiced from curing.
  • Tender, sliceable texture.
  • Active cooking time is hands-off once simmering.
  • Pot likker (broth) can be used to make hash, stew, or soup.

Downsides of Boiling

  • Can become dry or stringy if boiled too long.
  • Less concentrated in beefy flavor compared to slow cooking.
  • Requires monitoring water level during long simmer.
  • Total cooking time is 2.5-3.5 hours.

Slow Cooking Corned Beef

Slow cooking in a slow cooker or Crockpot is a more modern take on cooking corned beef that offers some advantages.

Overview of the Slow Cooking Process

  • Place corned beef in slow cooker and add enough liquid to come 1-2 inches up the sides.
  • Cook on low setting for 8-10 hours.
  • Remove corned beef, shred or slice, and serve.

Benefits of Slow Cooking

  • Very hands-off method with no monitoring needed.
  • Concentrated, robust meaty flavor.
  • Fork tender and shreds easily.
  • Liquid can be used for serving sauces or gravy.
  • Makes the house smell wonderful.

Downsides of Slow Cooking

  • Total cooking time is 8-10 hours.
  • The texture can become too shreddable and fall apart.
  • Doesn’t produce the classic briny corned beef flavor.
  • Requires a slow cooker appliance.

Comparing Key Factors

Here is a direct comparison of some of the key deciding factors between the boiling and slow cooking methods:

Factor Boiling Slow Cooking
Flavor Classic salty, briny corned beef flavor Richer and more concentrated beefy flavor
Texture Sliceable but still tender Fall apart tender and shreds easily
Active Cooking Time 2.5-3.5 hours simmering No monitoring needed after prep
Total Cooking Time 2.5-3.5 hours 8-10 hours
Convenience Requires monitoring water level Completely hands-off
Equipment Needed Large pot Slow cooker or Crockpot

As shown in the table, each method has strengths and weaknesses that make it preferable depending on your priorities. Boiling offers more traditional flavor and texture but requires more hands-on work. Slow cooking produces deeper flavor with no monitoring needed, but takes significantly longer.

Choosing Between Boiling and Slow Cooking

With the differences compared, here are some guidelines for when boiling or slow cooking corned beef may be a better choice:

When to Choose Boiling

  • You prefer the traditional salty, briny corned beef flavor.
  • You want nice sliceable brisket for sandwiches or serving plates.
  • You don’t mind the hands-on simmering time.
  • You need it cooked faster in 2.5-3.5 hours.

When to Choose Slow Cooking

  • You want extremely tender, fall-apart corned beef.
  • You want maximum beefy flavor concentration.
  • You want a completely hands-off cooking method.
  • You have 8-10 hours for it to cook.

Tips for Success with Each Method

If you opt for boiling corned beef, here are some tips to get the best results:

  • Use a large pot and water level so the brisket is fully submerged.
  • Bring to a gentle boil then reduce to a simmer.
  • Skim any scum that rises to the top.
  • Add spices like peppercorns, garlic, and bay leaves to the water.
  • Flip the brisket halfway through cooking.
  • Use a meat thermometer and cook until 205°F internally.

For slow cooked corned beef success, try these tips:

  • Trim off excess fat to prevent greasiness.
  • Rub spices like brown sugar, cloves, and pepper into the meat.
  • Add vegetables like potatoes, carrots, and onions.
  • Use beef broth or Guinness as the braising liquid.
  • Let rest 20 minutes before shredding for serving.

Final Thoughts

The best cooking method for corned beef comes down to your time constraints, desired flavor and texture, and willingness to monitor the cooking process. For quicker cooking with classic flavor, boiling is ideal. If you want ultra-tender meat infused with concentrated beefiness and no effort after prep, slow cooking makes an excellent choice.

Now that you know the main differences between and considerations for boiling vs. slow cooking corned beef, you can determine the better method for your preferences. Either way you cook it, corned beef makes for a wonderfully delicious centerpiece to any St. Patrick’s Day feast or hearty dinner any time of year.