If you make corned beef every year for St. Patrick’s Day, chances are good that you boil it with the spices that often come with the meat. But there’s more than one way to cook corned beef.
Steaming works especially well with a fatty cut of meat like corned beef because the steam actually melts the fat, so some of it drips off during steaming.
We put a corned beef brisket in a steamer basket lined with cabbage leaves. We did not use the spice packet that came with the corned beef, or any seasonings in fact; only the cabbage. Our 3 1/2-pound brisket took about three hours to cook tender, but it came out full of flavor.
When we trimmed the fat off the top and sliced it, it felt firm but was tender and juicy. It did not fall apart and lacked the stringiness common in boiled beef.
Cabbage wedges and small whole carrots were added in a steamer basket above the corned beef during the last 30 minutes of cooking, so their juices would drip down on the meat. The cabbage had an amazing flavor, sweet and almost delicate. A few of us tried the cabbage that had lined the steaming basket; it was very limp but had acquired a wonderful flavor from the corned beef juices.