Why Is Corned Beef So Expensive? [Plus 5 Best Alternatives]

When I was growing up, corned beef was always a staple in my grandmother’s kitchen either for special occasions or Sunday lunch. Now that I have a family of my own, I find myself wanting to fill their lives with some of the traditions and meals I grew up with. 

I recently wanted to recreate one of my favorite childhood dishes: corned beef hash. I decided to stop by my local butcher shop to pick up some fresh corned beef and I was shocked to see how expensive it was! Continue reading to learn what goes into making corned beef and why it can be so expensive. 

Corned beef is so expensive because it is made from beef brisket, which is one of the most expensive cuts of beef available. The process of making corned beef is very labor intensive as well, which plays an additional role in the final price. 

Since it comes from a higher-quality cut of beef, there are many health benefits to corned beef and so many ways to enjoy it. Corned beef is very versatile and can be enjoyed in a variety of dishes, which is why it is such a staple in people’s homes. 

The Price Of Corned Beef

The price of corned beef varies depending on where you buy it, and how it’s packaged. Most commonly, corned beef has been found in cans, but it can also be found at butcher shops and delis. 

Corned Beef$34.00/lb
Pastrami$24.99/lb
Roast Beef$10.98/lb
Ham$7.98/lb
Turkey Corned Beef$5.69/lb
Corned Beef Seitan$9.99/lb

If you’re like me, you may have memories of your grandparents opening a can of corned beef for dinner.

You can still find canned corned beef at grocery stores for around $2-$5 per can. Most canned corned beef in the U.S. is imported, which is why the price can be on the higher end. 

Canned corned beef may not be for everyone, but luckily you can find it fresh at butcher shops or delis across the U.S. Buying corned beef from a specialty shop will be considerably more expensive than in a can, the price can be anywhere between $20 – $45.

Corned Beef

While the price of corned beef is significantly more expensive at a butcher, the product will be much fresher and may use better ingredients. Corned beef is already processed meat, but you will have to weigh the pros and cons of buying a product that is processed in a manufacturing plant versus a mom-and-pop shop.

Why Is It So Expensive?

Corned beef is no longer a cheap alternative to most meats, it can be considered a luxury because of the higher price. Let’s talk about what goes into making corned beef so expensive. 

Corned beef comes from a higher-quality cut of beef brisket, which in itself is very expensive. The high price is also due to the processing method used to create corned beef, which can take hours or days depending on the recipe that is used.

If you buy your corned beef at a smaller shop, you may notice a difference in taste from the common canned corned beef. This is because smaller shops commonly use higher quality ingredients to make their corned beef on a smaller scale, which will naturally lead to a higher price. 

Canned corned beef is usually much higher in sodium, cholesterol, and calories. While it may be cheaper for a can of corned beef versus a cut of higher quality beef, you should definitely take a look at the nutritional content before you make it a staple in your diet. 

What Makes It Unique?

Although corned beef and beef brisket are from the same cut of beef, they have a lot of differences. Corned beef is unique because, unlike brisket and other meats, it is brine-cured before it is cooked. 

Corned beef is brined in a solution of sodium nitrite, which gives it its distinct pink coloring. Sodium nitrite is a food additive that helps prevent the growth of bacteria that can cause food to spoil and food poisoning. 

Because of the curing process, corned beef and beef brisket are not interchangeable in most recipes. Corned beef has a much different flavor than beef brisket and is generally saltier than most meats. Brisket, on the other hand, can easily take on the flavors it is seasoned with before being slow-cooked.

What Does It Taste Like?

Most people would compare the taste of corned beef to bacon or salami, although the aroma and flavor are much more intense. Corned beef is known for its tender and soft texture with balanced notes of spice, sweetness, and saltiness. 

Corned beef can be too salty for some people due to the brining process it goes through, but some prefer the distinct flavor over some popular alternatives.  

Health Benefits Of Corned Beef

Since corned beef comes from such a high-quality cut of beef, it has many health benefits. It is an excellent source of protein, vitamin B12, and iron. Corned beef also has high counts of selenium, which is essential for creating your thyroid hormones. 

While corned beef has many health benefits, it is both red meat and processed meat. Because it is cured in salt and other spices, it is very high in sodium. The higher amounts of sodium in processed meat like corned beef may raise blood pressure in some people, or even contribute to a higher risk of heart disease. 

Just like any other processed meat, corned beef should be enjoyed in moderation. 

How Is Corned Beef Made?

Contrary to its name, corned beef has nothing to do with corn. “Corning” is the process of curing meat in a saltwater solution, or brine. Corned beef is a beef brisket that is cured with rock salt and other herbs. 

Once the brining process is complete, the brisket is then slow-cooked. Slow cooking the corned beef then turns this tough cut of beef into one that is super tender and flavorful. 

When corned beef is being made at a large factory, this process takes place on a much larger scale. But when you purchase corned beef from a smaller shop, it is usually processed individually or made to order. 

Where To Find It?

Corned beef can be found at many major grocery stores in the U.S. If making it from scratch is your thing, you can find a cut of beef brisket from your favorite butcher shop as well and try your hand at making it at home. 

Many delis and restaurants may also have corned beef on special occasions, such as during St. Patrick’s Day. If you’re lucky, you may even find corned beef on the menu all year long!  

How To Enjoy Corned Beef

Corned beef is most traditionally enjoyed when it has been boiled with cabbage or sauteed with potatoes for a hash. It can also be sliced up and added to a sandwich, or even enjoyed with pasta.

Corned beef can even be used in potato soup, chili, or casserole for a new spin. A delicious idea is even to use corned beef as the meat in your shepherd’s pie – which sounds perfect for a cold winter night!

There are many different ways to cook or enjoy corned beef, its unique flavor and texture can add a new spin on some of your favorite dishes! 

Corned Beef

Make Corned Beef At Home

Making corned beef at home is not an easy task. Some of the highest-rated recipes on the internet call for up to 250 hours of prep! Now don’t worry, most of the prep takes place on its own so you don’t have to watch your creation the whole time. 

Once your brining solution – normally a mix of salt, sugar, and various spices – is ready, you will pour it over your cut of brisket and place it into your refrigerator for 3-10 days. After it’s finished brining, you will place the brisket in a pot and cook at low heat until it is fork-tender. 

Once the corned beef is cooked, you’re free to enjoy it however you like! 

5 Best Alternatives To Corned Beef

If corned beef isn’t for you, there are many alternatives out there with similar flavors to corned beef. Getting a similar flavor to corned beef doesn’t have to involve eating beef at all, in fact, it can consist of eating turkey or even a healthy plant-based option!   

1.Pastrami

Pastrami is a popular corned beef alternative because it is also salt-cured processed meat. Pastrami can be made from the brisket, or a leaner cut of beef called the deckle. 

While the processing methods of pastrami and corned beef are very similar, the pastrami is usually coated in spices before the curing process. This gives the finished product its own crust of spices, which is a big distinction from corned beef.

2. Roast Beef

If you’re simply searching for the taste of beef, roast beef may be your answer. Most people enjoy a cut of roast beef in the slow cooker all day, this gives the meat time to break down to its tender juiciness. Others may buy pre-cooked sliced roast beef at the deli counter to enjoy on a sandwich.

This cut of beef is generally more accessible than corned beef with a significantly milder flavor.

Roast Beef

3.Ham

Ham

Ham is the first on our list not to come from a cow. It has a much milder flavor than corned beef, though both are cured. It can be made at home or slices can be enjoyed on a sandwich, salad, or even on pizza!

4.Turkey Corned Beef

Turkey corned beef is a slightly healthier option than traditional corned beef because it contains much less fat. Sacrificing flavor won’t be an issue with turkey corned beef though, as it uses the same processing method as traditional corned beef.

5.Corned Beef Seitan

Corned beef seitan is the only plant-based option on our list! Corned beef seitan is made using something called vital wheat gluten and a similar brining solution found in traditional corned beef. This is a great alternative for those who are looking for the taste they love without sacrificing their dietary restrictions. 

Is It Worth the Cost?

Overall, corned beef is a unique dish that can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. It can invoke memories for some, and create new traditions for others.

You may still be asking yourself if corned beef is worth the higher price, and you will have to weigh the pros and cons yourself. If you’re looking to keep up with traditions of enjoying corned beef at certain holidays or special occasions, going for a higher-priced cut of beef is definitely worth it. 

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