The combination of curing, slow cooking, and moisture saturation can change a tough cut of meat into a tender juicy delicacy. Corned beef is a prime example of this, and is popular for use in sandwiches, a breakfast hash, as the main protein dish, or combined with vegetables in a stew.
Once cooked, corned beef only lasts for 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator, making its shelf life rather short, especially if you have cooked a large portion. To avoid any waste of this carefully prepared meat, you can store it in the freezer, keeping it safe to eat for a couple more months.
There are a few things you’ll have to consider when freezing corned beef to ensure that the quality is well preserved. Below is a guide to freezing corned beef, including how to package and thaw it for the best long-term quality preservation.
Types of Corned Beef
Corned beef is made from less tender cuts of meat such as brisket, beef round, or rump. It involves the preparation of the meat by curing it with large grains (also known as corns) of salt and a brine solution.
Corned beef can also be described as pickled meat which has been soaked in brine with spices for several days. Other ingredients that are often added to the brine liquid are pickling spices, garlic, sugar, bay leaf, and peppercorns.
Due to the tough cut of meat used, it generally requires a slow, long, and moist cooking method and can be prepared on the stove, in the oven, in a slow cooker, or even in the microwave.
Even after it is cooked, it will still retain a pink color. This is due to sodium nitrate which is an ingredient added to prevent bacterial growth. Similarly, bacon, ham, and hot dogs will retain a pink tinge despite being fully cooked.
In North America, corned beef can be purchased uncooked, cured or pickled in a seasoned brine. It can also be bought as ready-cooked meat, canned, or pre-sliced at some delicatessens.
This meat treat is known as a key ingredient in grilled Reuben sandwiches, served with a filling of cheese, sauerkraut, and dressing. Corned beef however is also served as the main protein, with vegetables, incorporated into a stew, and even enjoyed for breakfast in the form of a hash.
Can I Freeze Corned Beef?
Yes, corned beef can be frozen, but it should be properly prepared before going into the freezer. In addition to draining the brine and ensuring that the meat is well wrapped, you also need to keep in mind that the flavor and texture will start to decline with prolonged freezing.
The good news is that when properly stored, you can enjoy delicious corned beef from the freezer for 2 to 3 months after it has been cooked or purchased. Follow the steps below to get the best out of your frozen corned beef.
How To Freeze Cooked Corned Beef
Step 1: Cool
Cool the corned beef completely to room temperature. Wrapping and freezing the meat when still warm will result in freezer burn and spoiling of the texture and flavor.
Step 2: Cut
Slice the cooled corned beef or cut it into appropriate portion sizes so that you can remove only the amount you need from the freezer at any given time.
Step 3: Wrap
Wrap each portion in cling film or foil. Then place the wrapped corned beef into a resealable freezer bag. Press out any air before closing the bag. You want to protect the meat from any exposure to air or moisture.
Step 4: Label & Freeze
Label the bag with the date and contents to keep track of how long it has been stored.
How To Freeze Whole Uncooked Corned Beef
Step 1: Drain
Remove the corned beef from the store packaging and drain the brine. Pat the meat lightly with a paper towel to remove excessive moisture. If frozen in the brine, the texture of the corned meat will change due to the moisture content and the salt in the brine will cause rancidity.
Step 2: Wrap
Wrap the corned beef in cling film or foil. Ensure that no areas are left exposed and that all corners are well sealed to protect the meat from contact with air and moisture. Then place the wrapped corned beef into a resealable freezer bag. Press out any air before closing the bag.
Step 3: Label & Freeze
Label the bag with the date to keep track of how long it has been in the freezer.
How To Thaw Frozen Corned Beef
Always defrost frozen corned beef in the refrigerator, not the countertop. Keep it in the packaging and transfer it from the freezer to the refrigerator to thaw overnight.
If the corned beef has not been cooked, you can cook it from frozen and do not need to thaw it first. You will, however, have to extend the initial cooking time.
With so much effort going into the preparation of corned beef, you really don’t want to waste a single mouthful. Luckily, you don’t have to consume the entire corned beef brisket in 3 days since you can freeze the leftovers safely for delicious future meals.
When freezing corned beef, you need to drain the brine and make sure it is very well sealed and protected from air and moisture. As long as those precautions have been taken, you can whip up a delicious meal with corned beef at your convenience.
Up Next: How to Freeze Cooked Ham
Image by depositphotos/apazuhanich