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Cook Corned Beef Safely For St. Patrick's Day

Posted: March 14, 2015

Since St. Patrick’s Day is this week, you may be planning on a traditional Irish meal of corned beef and cabbage...

Originally this meal was served for Easter Sunday in rural Ireland after a long Lenten fast. Today families enjoy it year round.
     Corned beef should be handled with care just as any other meat or poultry product.  Mishandling may cause foodborne illness. Below are some safe food handling tips for corned beef from the USDA.
     Bring the meat home immediately after purchase and refrigerate it promptly. Uncooked corned beef in a pouch with pickling juices which has a “sell-by” date or no date may be stored 5 to 7 days in the refrigerator (40 °F or less), unopened. Products with a “use-by” date can be stored unopened in the refrigerator until that date.
     If drained and wrapped in airtight moisture-resistant materials, uncooked corned beef can be stored in the freezer for one month.
     Defrost frozen beef in the refrigerator, by the cold-water method (submerging the package in cold tap water, changing the water every 30 minutes), or in the microwave. Beef thawed in the microwave should be cooked immediately.
     Corned beef is made from less tender cuts such as the brisket, rump or round, so long, slow, moist cooking is required. Several appliances that lend themselves to safely cooking corned beef are a slow cooker, oven, stove, and microwave.
     “Fork-tender” is a good indication of doneness, but use a food thermometer to be sure. Cook all raw corned beef to a minimum internal temperature of 145°F as measured with a food thermometer before removing meat from the heat source. For safety and quality, allow meat to rest for at least three minutes before carving or consuming.  
     After enjoying your St. Patrick's Day meal, cut the meat into several pieces for faster cooling. Place the beef in small, shallow containers and refrigerate leftovers promptly -- within two hours of cooking or reheating. Use cooked-ahead or leftover corned beef within 3 to 4 days, served cold right from the refrigerator or reheated until steamy hot. Or freeze up to 2 months.

     For additional food safety information about meat, poultry or eggs, call the toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854). The Hotline is available in both English and Spanish Monday – Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Eastern time. Recorded food safety messages may be heard 24 hours a day.

Karen Thomas is a family and consumer sciences educator for Penn State Extension in Lackawanna County.