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Why Is It Called Corned Beef?

Corned beef has become a traditional St. Patrick’s Day staple and is also used in other cuisines around the world. Have you ever wondered why it’s called “corned” beef when there’s no actual corn involved?

Corned beef is a salt or brine cured cut of beef. Since the origin of the word “corn” comes from an Old English word meaning “large grain,” the term “corned” refers to the large grains of rock salt traditionally used to preserve the beef. These days, corned beef can be made using either a dry rub or wet brine of salt and spices, where it sits for 7-10 days before being boiled and eaten.

Since boiled beef will turn gray, most recipes call for potassium nitrate (also known as saltpeter) or sodium nitrate to help preserve the pink color through the curing and cooking process. Whether you make your own or buy it pre-cured, corned beef is delicious sliced and served with simple boiled vegetables or piled high onto a reuben. Just make sure to save the leftovers for corned beef hash the next morning.