A corned beef is beef that has been pickled or cured. The word "corn" comes from an Old English usage that refers to a process that dry-cured meat in the days before refrigeration by packing them in coarse salt pellets, or “corns” of salt. "Corn" describes the size and shape of the coarse rock salt that is traditionally used for brining because it resembled a kernel of grain. If you live in the UK, this would be a Corned Silverside or "salt beef".
The brisket can be the Flat or Plank Cut that is leaner and has the distinctive grain we see in the slices. The Point Cut is a rounder, thicker cut with more fat in it and may be a little more expensive. Either cut will shrink by about a third during cooking. Be sure to add additional quantities if you plan to have leftover corned beef to use in recipes like stovies, bully beef stew, Ruben sandwiches, or hash.
Cooked in a regular pot, a corned beef takes about 4 hours, but in the pressure cooker, the cooking time is cut down to only about 50 minutes. Corned beef can be cooked a day in advance, refrigerated, and reheated by steaming in the pressure cooker for about 6-8 minutes. A corned beef is usually boiled to draw out the salt and fat, you can use water, but I like Guinness stout to add flavor... and because it sure goes good with a big corned beef sandwich the next day.
You can stretch your food dollar by buying a smaller corned beef and adding a wider assortment of root vegetables such as rutabagas, turnips, parsnips, sweet potatoes and onions. You also switch from cabbage to kale or Brussels sprouts. The leftovers can be mixed and mashed for new dishes like Dutch Whip, or make Irish Potato Farl, Colcannon, Irish Champ, or Kale Colcannon.
Corned Beef with all the Fixings
Lock the lid in place. Bring to 15psi over high heat, immediately reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting to stabilize and maintain that pressure. Cook 50 minutes. Remove from heat and use the natural release method before opening the lid. A corned beef will have a natural pinkish-red color after cooking. This does not mean it isn't done. Nitrite is used in the curing process and this fixes the pigment in the meat and gives it the distinctive color. Transfer the meat to a cutting board and cover it with foil and a folded towel and let it stand for 10 to 15 minutes before slicing. This allows the meat to absorb its natural liquids, and it will continue to cook itself at the same time.
Test for doneness; the meat should be "fork-tender", meaning that a fork goes through it like its soft butter. If you can easily pull up a sliver of meat with a fork, it is a good indication of doneness. The internal temperature should be at least 160°F. If necessary, return to pressure for an additional 10 minutes and repeat the natural release, but do not overcook or your corned beef will be dry and stringy.
Step Two: The Vegetables
While the meat is resting, its time to cook the vegetables. Include at least 1lb of assorted vegetables per serving, increase as you like to add variety, stretch your budget, and for planned leftovers. Choose from a variety of root vegetables like carrots and parsnips, red or white boiling potatoes, turnips, rutabagas, boiling or yellow onions. Cut the pieces to a similar size -- I like hefty 2 inch chunks -- so they cook uniformly.
Use any variety of cabbage cut into thick 2-3 inch wedges, or use Kale or Brussels sprouts instead.
You can also add any type of cut hard winter squash, sweet potatoes, or any other veggies your family likes.
Discard all but 1 cup of the cooking broth. Place the cut root vegetables in a large steamer if you have one. Alternately, just put the cooking rack in the pressure cooker and add the cut root vegetables. If your pressure cooker is large enough, add the cabbage wedges on top of the cut root vegetables. Lock the lid in place. Bring to 15psi over high heat, immediately reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting to stabilize and maintain that pressure. Cook 4 minutes. Remove from heat and use the quick or cold water release method before opening the lid. Using a slotted spoon, remove vegetables from pressure cooker and put the root vegetables and cabbage in separate serving bowls.
Alternatively, steam the cabbage separately using a second pressure cooker, or wait and cook them after the root vegetables are done. You can also steam cabbage wedges in a covered regular pot in about 15 minutes.
Step Three: Plating
To carve, slice the meat across the grain, otherwise it will be just about impossible to cut and shred in the process. Cut in thin slices and arrange them on a warmed platter. Include the condiments of your choice, a grainy mustard, horseradish, or malt vinegar is usually a pretty good selection. I also add a loaf of good bakery rye bread, Irish Soda bread or dark pumpernickel to serve with the meal, and be sure to pick up enough sandwich makin's for the leftover corned beef.
Refrigerate leftover brisket and vegetables separately, and use within 3 to 4 days. The corned beef can be frozen for about 2 to 3 months.