Why Is It Called “Corned” Beef?

(Last Updated On: March 17, 2011)

Flat Cut Brisket Corned beef has been around for quite a while, since the 17th century. But why is it called “corned” beef? Back when beef was first corned, we didn’t have those delightful sweet ears we all enjoy. Corn just meant a small particle. So to corn beef was to pack it with a small particle – salt until the salt replaces the moisture in the beef, thus preserving it. The beef is typically pickled, that is put into a wet brine that contains salt, sugar, and spices. Those spices can include things like mustard seeds, juniper berries, allspice berries, peppercorns, cinnamon, bay leaves, and ginger, . Some manufacturers add potassium nitrate (saltpeter) to give the beef it’s pink color. Corned beef is made from brisket (click here to read more about brisket) that needs a long time to cook, so there is no way it will be pink without some help, that is where the saltpeter comes in. Some reports show the nitrates can lead to cancer, so some people look for uncured corn beef that is nitrate free.