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Corned beef and cabbage is all in timing: Perfect St. Patrick's Day 2014 feast

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Corned beef and cabbage is one of the easiest dinners to cook and it is also one of the easiest dinners to ruin. Your St. Patrick’s Day 2014 boiled dinner doesn’t have to consist of stringy corned beef and soggy cabbage, which are the two biggest mistakes made with the contents of this traditional Irish-American dinner. When it boils down to it, it is all about the timing. (Pun intended!)

Many recipes call for the “fork tender” test of the corned beef to indicate it is ready for the table. This "fork tender" test is suggested by the International Business Times in their March 14 article on cooking your St. Patrick’s Day meal. This is great advice for veteran cooks of this dish, but for those who seldom cook this Irish dinner, they may mistake stringy for "fork tender."

Many folks prepare corned beef and cabbage only once a year on St. Patrick’s Day so the difference between “fork tender” and stringy corned beef can be a fine line. For someone who doesn't cook this dish often, it can be hard to distinguish between the two different consistencies of the meat.

While all the contents of the traditional corned beef and cabbage dinner are all boiled, there are three different cooking times needed for a successful dinner. You don’t fill a pan with water and throw in your corned beef, potatoes, carrots and cabbage all at once, this is one of the biggest mistakes made by many.

The timing of corned beef and cabbage:

For a 5-lb corned beef, after you bring it to a boil, you usually simmer it for about 4 hours, which is what the directions on the package recommends. Instead of the 4 hours, simmer the meat for 3 ½ hours and then take the corned beef out of the oven and wrap it in aluminum foil. Then for the last half-hour of cooking the meat put it in a pre-heated 350-degree oven.

This is one of the best tips for a perfect corned beef. The water-logged meat gets this time to settle and some of the water is removed from the meat, but it doesn’t dry out. The corned beef should stay in the oven for no more than 30 minutes. You will notice the difference when cutting the meat and when tasting the corned beef. This gets rid of the rubbery consistency.

Potatoes and carrots should be added into the pot and cook for about 1 ½ hours in the pot with the corned beef, if you cook them for any longer you will have mush on your plate. When adding these two vegetables, bring the water to a boil again and then simmer for the remaining cooking time.

It is the cabbage where most folks make another big mistake when cooking this boiled dinner. The cabbage leaves should be separated and put on top of the simmering water. Put the cover back on the pot and cook for 15-20 minutes. Cabbage will become almost transparent or void of color and take on a seaweed like consistency if it is cooked too long.

You can have the best cut of corned beef and the most expensive organic vegetables, but your dinner will be in ruins if you don’t time it just right.

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