On Buying Corned Beef
Corned Beef is not a cut of meat it is a process. You marinate a piece of meat in water mixed with salt, spices and they usually use saltpeter, (to give it that reddish color all the way through), for about 3 weeks.
It You can "corn" any piece of meat. It is called corning because they used to use salt pellets the size of kernels of corn to do this process.
Most Corned beef is from the brisket of the beef, but it doesn't have to be. In the deli of a grocery store you often see corned beef that is lean and made from the round.
So what is a brisket?
Brisket comes from an old European word that had many spellings like Bruschet, that meant the breast of an animal.
If you look into a cow's eyes head on, look down and see the breast , you are looking at part of brisket, then it goes below the animal as well.
You can see where the brisket comes from that is right under the Chuck.
This is the whole brisket which is usually about 18 inches in length.
I buy the whole brisket when I am smoking it on the BBQ.
Usually in the stores I see the Corned Beef brisket cut into 2 parts. The point cut and the flat cut.
The point cut (one end comes to a point) is the thicker piece and has more fat. It looks to me kind of like a slab of bacon in some respects, it is streaked with fat and is 2 pieces of meat layered between a thick ridge of fat. It is wondeful tasting and I always pick this piece over the flat cut. If some of your guests don't like the pieces with the fat you can cut them out. I would also suggest you could buy the flat cut as well. and offer both choices. Leftovers make great sandwich's or corned beef hash .
I think both cuts are very flavorful though if cooked properly.
What is the difference between Pastrami and Corned Beef.
Pastrami has different spices on it It is usally rubbed with black pepper, Salt, marjoram, garlic and basil and then smoked.
Pastrami ..sounds flavorful poetic and spicy and comes from the Romanian word Pastrama. Probably from pastra (preserve) , as in …when the fall comes we "pastra" the beef. It was thought that when it came to the states to make it sound more like salami they started to call it , pastrami.
Other studies show that Pastrama meant ….wind dried meat..….I imagine the first pastrami …..salt cured , with rustic spices …curing outside on the farm, letting the wind dry it. I know the first thought is …food poisoning. But it is a common practice today to take beef on camping trips in a zip lock plastic storage bag rubbed with salt and pepper and just put it in your backpack. The bacteria wouldn't want to eat through that salt and pepper crust anymore than you would.
Like Corned Beef, Pastrami can be made from any cut of meat, but it is usually made from the brisket.
For more on the history of the word pastrami you can go here
to make your own pastrami here is a recipe.