Everything You Didn't Want to Know About Corned Beef

Corned beef and cabbage is the traditional dish to eat on St. Patrick’s Day... in America, that is. Although corned beef isn't actually very popular in Ireland, Irish Americans love to celebrate their heritage by eating corned beef and cabbage. Even wannabe Irish join in on the fun on March 17th. St. Patrick's Day is considered a national holiday in Ireland, but those with Irish heritage have been celebrating the holiday in America since the 1700's. Corned beef and cabbage has become recognized as traditional food for St. Paddy's Day, but in fact, the dish is more American than Irish. Read on to learn more about corned beef.


Corned beef and cabbage dinners are eaten almost exclusively on St. Patrick’s Day. The rest of the year corned beef consumption in the U.S. consists mostly of Reuben sandwiches and canned corned beef hash.

The corn in corned beef

The fresh cuts of corned beef you find at the grocery store are usually the brisket cuts. The brisket is from the front part of the cow. The beef is called “corned,” which refers to the curing method of the meat. Corned beef used to be dry-cured using “corns” of salt. Today, corned beef is brined with salt water. The method of preserving meat using salt has been around for millenniums, but the combination of corned beef and cabbage originated with Irish Americans in the 1800’s.

Corned Beef and Cabbage

Corned beef and cabbage is a result of the Irish dish bacon and cabbage. The people in Ireland didn’t often eat beef during times of need, eating bacon joint instead. But when the Irish came to America, they learned from their Jewish neighbors about corned beef, which was cheaper and easier to find.

Reuben Sandwiches

Reuben sandwiches are made with rye bread, corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, and Thousand Island dressing. The origin of the Reuben is the source of much dispute. One story holds that Arthur Reuben invented the sandwich in 1914 at his New York City restaurant. Another account says that a grocer named Reuben Kulakofsky created the sandwich in Omaha, Nebraska in the 1920’s to feed a group of poker players at a late-night game. Whatever the beginning of the Reuben sandwich, the end result was a delicious and popular sandwich found at many delis nationwide.

Corned Beef Hash

Corned beef hash is a mixture of corned beef, potatoes, and onions all chopped up together and cooked on the stove. It is often served for breakfast with eggs. A canned version is available at grocery stores.

This can't be edible
This can't be edible

Canned Corned Beef

I have my doubts as to whether canned corned beef is really corned beef at all. Personally, it reminds me of cat food. During the World Wars, canned corned beef was given to soldiers on the front, who nicknamed the meat “bully beef.” Much of canned corned beef is actually imported from South America.

Is it good for you?

Corned beef isn’t exactly a healthy choice for dinner. Let’s just say you should save it for St. Patrick’s Day only. And even then you might want to balance it with a healthy dose of Guinness. Although it contains good amounts of vitamin B12 and zinc, corned beef is high in cholesterol, saturated fat, and sodium.

Corned Beef Facts

  • Corned beef and cabbage is an Irish American dish.
  • "Corned" refers to the size of the salt used to cure the beef.
  • Corned beef is considered a spring dish, because it used to be cured over the winter.
  • Pastrami is really corned beef that is smoked.
  • President Abraham Lincoln ate corned beef and cabbage at his inauguration dinner in March 1861.
  • One of President Grover Cleveland’s favorite dishes was corned beef and cabbage.

Comments 43 comments

itakins profile image

itakins 6 years ago from Irl

Rose West-

Great hub-The corned beef we get here is actually more like a bacon joint-I think I've only had it half a dozen times in my life-although I believe it's popular in some parts of the country.

Canned corned beef-perish the thought-yuk!

I have to admit bacon and cabbage-especially if the cabbage is cooked in the bacon water-now that's delicious,and very Irish.

Rose West profile image

Rose West 6 years ago from Michigan Author

itakins, thanks for reading and confirming what I've heard about corned beef in Ireland. I would love to try genuine bacon and cabbage - sounds delicious!

Jane Grey profile image

Jane Grey 6 years ago from Oregon

I loved the fun facts to know and tell, though now I'm officially grossed out about canned corned beef!

tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa

Thanks for this intersting read - and some of the things I really didn't want to know. Another nickname for the canned variety, especially when served with a tomato and onion relish, is "canned missionary"! LOL! I leave it to your imagination to work out how that came about.

Have to confess I have never before thought of corned beef as connected in any way to Ireland. So that was a new one for me!

Love and peace


Rose West profile image

Rose West 6 years ago from Michigan Author

Jane, definitely opt for fresh over canned when eating corned beef! I don't even like to think about eating the canned kind.

Tony, I warned you in the title :) I've never heard the nickname "canned missionary"... oh dear, doesn't sound good! It really is funny to me how Americans think corned beef is Irish, when they really don't eat it there anymore.

WriteAngled profile image

WriteAngled 6 years ago from Treorci, Cymru

I didn't even know there was any corned beef that doesn't come in cans! The canned stuff is vile. I wouldn't dare give it to my cats, because they would surely take some kitty revenge if I did.

Rose West profile image

Rose West 6 years ago from Michigan Author

WriteAngled, thank you for stopping by! Worse than cat food, haha :) Yes, canned corned beef is gross, but I do know some people who actually enjoy it for some reason.

Michael Cavinta 6 years ago

I really love corned beef. Thanks for sharing this wonderful information, now I know the history of my favorite food. Corned beef is a really versatile food, you can eat it with eggs and coffee in the morning, and have it with beer in the evening. Great post!

Rose West profile image

Rose West 6 years ago from Michigan Author

Michael, thank you so much for reading! I'm glad you enjoyed learning about this interesting food.

fiona_33 profile image

fiona_33 6 years ago from UK

A fun and informative hub. Never really thought about corn beef despite eating it on a regular basis.

Rose West profile image

Rose West 6 years ago from Michigan Author

I'm glad you came by, fiona_33! Thank you for reading.

Steve 6 years ago

Well my sister in law suggested canned corned beef hash as an omelate. And then my wife suggested canned corn beef in taquitoes. None the less I cracked open a can and good god... Looked nasty but tasted great! I'd much rather try an authentic corned meat, one with a good cut and cured properly over several weeks.

Rose West profile image

Rose West 6 years ago from Michigan Author

Hi Steve, tasted great? Really? The canned kind comes nowhere close to the "real" kind :) Thanks for visiting!

blackjava profile image

blackjava 5 years ago from Canada

I had that "bully beef" when I was in the army back in 63. It was part of our rations wen we did field exercises. Unfortunately you often found bits of hide and hair in the mix. Turned me off canned corn beef forever :)

Rose West profile image

Rose West 5 years ago from Michigan Author

blackjava, thanks for your visit! Hide and hair? Now that's just gross! Yet another reason canned corned beef should be banned corned beef :)

crystolite profile image

crystolite 5 years ago from Houston TX

Interesting article which i enjoyed coming across.Useful information that is well shared to every bodies understanding.

Rose West profile image

Rose West 5 years ago from Michigan Author

Hi crystolite, I'm glad you enjoyed this!

bel 4 years ago

Surely if it's fresh corned beef will taste better, like most things. I've bought some of the canned variety in my local, and it is actually pretty good and tasty, and not very expensive. With a bit of nice english mustard and good bread it can go a long way...but it may just be me. (by the way, no hide nor hair here)

Rose West profile image

Rose West 4 years ago from Michigan Author

Hi bel, I think fresh is definitely better, but I know people who prefer the canned, as well. Plus, you're right, it is cheaper. I guess it's a matter of taste :)

shawzo 4 years ago

found a clump of what looks to be cow hair attached to skin...(really digusting) in a can of libby's corned beef today...I vomitted everything i ate immediately. Never touching processed food looked like those fake eylashes that girls wear but a big chunk...GROSSS!!!!!

Rose West profile image

Rose West 4 years ago from Michigan Author

Okay, that has to be one of the nastiest things I have ever heard. I don't think I will even come close to being in contact with canned corned beef ever again!

Eric 4 years ago

Cut some slices of canned corn beef and cook them over high heat in a cast iron skillet until the edges are almost crispy. take these slices and use them to make a traditional Reuben sandwich. I think A reuben made this way is as good or better than one made with actual corned beef from the deli

liesl5858 profile image

liesl5858 3 years ago from United Kingdom

I have to say we like corned beef and we eat it a lot. When times are hard we can't complain we can afford to buy a tin of corned beef for dinner.

tonymead60 profile image

tonymead60 3 years ago from Yorkshire

an interesting hub, thank you for sharing. Your recipe sounds very good and I will certainly give it a try.



voted up

Debs 3 years ago

Canned corn beef could be used to slowly poison my millionaire husband, i'm getting ideas

Kcin 3 years ago

In South Africa certain corn beef cans clearly state on the labels that it contains Beef- & other animals' hearts. Wish we had the nicer variety with brisket, etc, then I would've eaten the stuff.

Rose West profile image

Rose West 3 years ago from Michigan Author

Hmmm...not too appetizing!

belinda 2 years ago

Here in australia i grew up eating bully beef an cabbage. Mum used to serve it with rice. I liked it then and still do. I must admit if you buy the really cheap stuff its not to great but the more you pay the better quality. Ive never come across hair or skin or anything gross. And ive been eating it once a week for 22 years. Ive had the real stuff but not only does it take a lot of prep i find the canned better. Like someone said earlier of slicing and pan frying it is good to. I usually have that with sunny side up eggs, mushrooms,toast and beans on occasion when i haven't managed to buy bacon. If your finding bits of hair or skin in your canned stuff maybe look at the place its made. High quality canned corned beef in australia costs me ruffly $6-8 depending on the supermarket.

iguidenetwork profile image

iguidenetwork 2 years ago from Austin, TX

The title of the hub is misleading... I initially thought that corned beef might be harmful, which is sad considering I love corned beef... When I got to read your hub I was relieved hehehehe. Really enjoyed the fun facts. I really thought of corned beef as pastrami, only from a can. Thanks for sharing :)

dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 2 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

It is always interesting to learn about where foods originated. I have heard about corned beef and cabbage for years associated with the Irish. I recall it was some comic strip but of hand can't remember which one.

Rose West profile image

Rose West 2 years ago from Michigan Author

Hi belinda, thanks for your comments! Sounds like you have better-quality corned beef over there in Australia :)

Rose West profile image

Rose West 2 years ago from Michigan Author

Hi iguidenetwork, so glad you enjoyed this!

Rose West profile image

Rose West 2 years ago from Michigan Author

Hi dahoglund, thanks for reading! I love finding the origins of things too :)

tehgyb profile image

tehgyb 2 years ago from Easton, Pennsylvania

Very interesting hub. I haven't done much research into the topic, but the title caught my attention for sure!

Good stuff, look forward to reading more of your work!

Adriennemarie profile image

Adriennemarie 2 years ago from Deptford, NJ

Very interesting hub. On a few occasions, I have found myself explaining to people that the Irish in Ireland don't traditionally eat corned beef (or any beef, for that matter). I always thought it was called corned beef because they cows they obtained it from were corn fed.

Nathan Eddy 2 years ago

What about the fact that Corned Beef is the cheapest form of grass-fed beef, insomuch as South American beef is the last bastion of grass-fed as the rule rather than the exception.

Rose West profile image

Rose West 2 years ago from Michigan Author

So glad you found this interesting :) It was definitely fun to write!

Rose West profile image

Rose West 2 years ago from Michigan Author

Funny how people have so many misconceptions about this :)

paul w 2 years ago

i love Hormel's deluxe canned corned beef. This is going to sound like a criticism, but it isn' me, it tastes like the best canned tuna ever when eaten cold. It isn't fishy, but it is a brine-cured and canned meat, like canned tuna.

so it has the flavor of a very non-fishy tuna...and that's not a bad thing.

Cooked, the stuff falls apart like cheap dog food, but it has the flavor of salty, overly fatty hamburger, which really is what it is.

Scott A McCray 2 years ago

Not an every day food for me, but I do like it - both canned and cook 'em yourself briskets. I've saved some how-to pages on doing the corning process from scratch - I plan to try that this winter.

Kitty 16 months ago

I grew up eating "fresh" corned beef (often called corned silverside) and was disgusted by the thought of the canned stuff (because we all "know" about the gross stuff that goes into canned stuff, right?)....until I stayed with a Filipina. When she asked if I wanted corned beef for lunch, I never even thought it would be the canned stuff so I ate it (it was mixed with cubed potato and onion) and it was delicious. I had it quite a few times while I was there and didn't click until months later while I was googling for the recipe that it was the canned stuff. Maybe the quality is better here in Australia? But fresh is definitely worth the effort...if I could find the winning recipe I wrote on a scrap of paper

Chuck 5 months ago

It seems that canned corned beef suppliers became health food crazy and now market a ghastly product with little or no fat and juices. Blah is a good definition of its taste. The Aussies put out a brand that isn't bad but it's hard to get. Anybody have any suggestions? For something I'm going to eat only a few times a years I say nuts to healthy, where's the flavor?

Mark 6 weeks ago

How can you tell that your cornbeef and cabbage is bad?

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