Comment: "A chewy, smoky exterior and a truly glorious flavour – corned beef like never before". Dairy farmer Craig Hickman reckons he has a winning recipe to redeem this much maligned cut of meat.

Is there a cut of meat more polarising than corned silverside?

Whenever I tweet about corned beef, and to be fair I tweet about it quite a lot, I'm greeted with either nods of approval or disturbingly graphic approximations of people retching.

There doesn't seem to be much middle ground.


Some people don't like the smell, others find it too bland or too salty, and the detractors are universal in their disapproval of "boiled meat".

If you're fortunate enough to occasionally fill your freezer with an entire cattle beast, you'll be familiar with the struggle of using the least-favoured cuts.

For some it's schnitzel and for others it's stewing steak, but in my household it's always been corned beef, possibly because I'm the only one who will eat it.

Even I have to admit that corned beef gets a bit boring after you've cooked your sixth or seventh for the year and there's still more sitting in the freezer. I swear my butcher sometimes gives me other people's just to mess with me.

In order to liven things up, I started experimenting, adding chilli powder to the recipe for a bit of zing, substituting jam for the sugar component in a quest for fruitiness, even adding whole oranges to the crock pot when I thought nobody was looking.

My biggest corned beef breakthrough came when, after a party, we had a surplus of wine cluttering up the pantry. What the hell, I thought, as I tipped a whole bottle of sauvignon blanc into the crock pot, thus doing my bit to conserve water.

The result was amazing: rich, tender and fruity. I tweeted my discovery and Twitter was soon abuzz with people experimenting with different wines; thank goodness for the $7 clean skin! If you're thinking of giving it a go, I highly recommend trying it with a Cabernet sauvignon.

First, build your smoker


All these were merely variations on the same boiled beef theme and I wanted to try something really different, so the obvious solution was to build myself a smoker.

Most smoking recipes you find on the internet are American, and I soon learned that corned beef in America is made from the brisket, not silverside, but I've never been one to let details like that get in my way.

Through Twitter I also learned that American recipes calling for the use of chilli powder actually mean a chilli seasoning mix; this is not something you want to learn through trial and error!

The recipe itself is dead simple.

First, build your smoker. Then defrost and soak your corned silverside in water for two hours.

Mix together two tablespoons of ground black peppercorns, half a tablespoon of ground coriander seeds, half a tablespoon of onion powder, one teaspoon of dried thyme, one teaspoon of paprika and one teaspoon of garlic powder.

Remove the beef from its bath and pat it dry. I smeared the meat with mild American mustard as a binder, but that's purely optional. Cover the meat with the rub and wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

The next morning allow the meat to come up to room temperature as you fire up the smoker, I aimed for a temperature of 120 degrees C. Remember that smoking is inexact; my corned beef would be ready when the internal temperature hit 90 degrees, which in this case was about seven hours.

Once off the smoker, I wrapped it in foil and let it rest for another hour.

I couldn't resist trying it hot and it was truly glorious. The fat had rendered out, there was a chewy, smoky exterior – and wow, aren't coriander seeds a true spice revelation?

The true delight came the next day after the meat had spent the night in the fridge and the flavours had matured and set.

The keen-eyed amongst you may have recognised the rub as essentially a pastrami mix minus the sugar; I'm not claiming that's what I made, but it's close enough that I'll never have to buy pastrami again.

- Craig Hickman is a dairy farmer and avid Twitter proponent from Ashburton. @dairymanNZ