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St. Patty’s Day Food Safety

Posted in Food Safety,Our Blog on March 13, 2019

The beginning of the year is full of holidays that everyone likes to celebrate.  March 2019 has added Fat Tuesday and Ash Wednesday to their March holiday season.  However, March 17 will always be celebrated as St. Patrick’s Day.  It is a very special day of celebration and several big cities such as Chicago, Boston and New York hold big parades and other festivities to honor the occasion.  Food safety may not be on the minds of the patrons, but it should definitely be on the minds of the food preparers.  Whether you are a consumer or preparer, it is important to remember to always wash your hands. Here’s your personal guide to St. Patty’s Day Food Safety.

Signature Dishes

Signature Dishes for St. Patrick’s Day are corned beef and cabbage.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) put together the history of how these two became the signature dishes of St Patrick’s Day.  Corned beef gets its name from the large chunks or “corns” of salt used to the cure the meat.  It is believed that the 17th century Irish used this method for curing pork then later adapted it for beef when then the British land owners brought the first cattle to Ireland.  Most Irish people could not afford corned beef until the 18th century when they immigrated to America where salted beef was inexpensive.

Cabbage is rich in nutrients but was also inexpensive.  Corned beef and cabbage made a hearty, nutritious meal that quickly became a staple for working class Irish-Americans.


Corned Beef

Uncooked corned beef in a pouch with pickling juice which has a “sell-by” date may be stored for 5 to 7 days in the refrigerator (40° F or less) unopened.  If the product has a “use-by” date, it can stored unopened in the refrigerator until that date.

Corned beef requires long, moist cooking because it is made from one of several less tender cuts of beef like the brisket, rump or round.  It can be cook on the top of the stove, in the oven, microwave, or slow cooker.  Nitrite is used in the curing process which means corned beef may still be pink in color after cooking, but that does not mean it is not done.  The nitrites fix the pigment in the meat and affects the color.


Pick a tight, compact head of green and red cabbage.  It should look crisp and fresh with very few loose leaves.  Leafy varieties should be green, with stems that are firm and not limp.  Be sure to avoid cabbage that have leaf damage.

Cabbage can be stored in an airtight plastic bag for up to seven days.  It needs to be stored in the crisper/vegetable drawer of the refrigerator.

Before cooking, remove the outer leaves if they are limp or loose.  Cut cabbages into quarters then wash well under running water.


Corned Beef

Because corned beef can be cooked several different ways, the USDA does not recommend one particular cooking method as the best.  Listed below are different cooking methods from various sources.  The cooking times are based on corned beef that is not frozen at the time of cooking.  Use a food thermometer to be sure that beef is done, although “fork-tender” is good an indication of doneness.  All raw corned beef should be cooked to a minimal internal temperature of 145° F before removing from heat source.  Allow the meat to stand for about 20 minutes after removing from the heat.  This will make it easier to slice, and its best to slice diagonally across the grain of the meat.

  • OVEN: Oven should be set for 350° F or no lower that 325° F. Brisket must be placed fat-side up.  Pour about an inch of water into the pan then cover the meat with foil.  Keep meat covered throughout the cooking time.  Cooking time is 1 hour per pound.
  • OVEN COOKING BAG: Preheat oven to 325° F. Add 1 tablespoon of flour and ½ cup of water to the bag.  Close the bag.  For a 2 to 3-pound corned beef brisket, cook for 2 ½ to 3 hours.  For a 3 to 5-pound corned brisket, cook 3 to 3 ½ hours.
  • STOVE: In a large pot, place brisket fat-side up and cover it with water.  Bring water to a boil; then reduce the heat and simmer.  Cook time is 1 hour per pound.  Vegetable may be added during the last 20 to 30 minutes of cooking time and cooked to tenderness.
  • SLOW COOKER: If using root vegetables, such as potatoes and carrots, put them in the bottom of the slow cooker.  Brisket should be placed on top of vegetables (if using) or placed at the bottom of cooker.  Pour 1 ½ cup of water over meat or enough to cover meat.  Cover cooker and cook on high setting for the first hour of cooking. Then cook for 10 to 12 hours on the low setting or 5 to 6 hours on high.
  • MICROWAVE: Cooking time is 20 to 30 minutes per pound.  In a microwave safe casserole dish, place brisket and add 1 ½ cup of water.  Cover with lid or vented plastic wrap.  Microwave medium-low (30 percent power) for half the cooking time.  Turn meat over and rotate dish.  Microwave on high for the remainder of the time or until it reaches minimal internal temperature.


Just like with the corned beef, there are several different ways to cook cabbage.  However, when it comes to food safety, the consensus seems to be to make sure that the cabbage has been thoroughly washed before cooking.  There is no best way to cook the cabbage, but it must be cooked until it is tender.


Any corned beef left over should be refrigerated promptly, within 2 hours of cooking.  Eat any leftover corned beef within 3 to 4 days or freeze 2 to 3 months.


Why celebrate you ask? Saint Patrick, patron saint of Ireland, established monasteries, churches, and schools in Ireland during the 5th century.  He died on March 17, 461.  Ireland celebrates his day with religious services and feast.  St. Patrick’s Day has evolved into a celebration of Irish heritage and nationality for Irish-Americans.

By: Keeba Smith, Contributing Writer (Non-Laywer)