Beef (usually brisket, but also round) cured in a seasoned brine. Sometimes the brine is pumped through the arterial system. The term "corned" beef comes from the English use of the word corn, meaning any small particle (such as a grain of salt). Two types of corned beef are available, depending on the butcher and the region. Old-fashioned corned beef is grayish-pink in color and very salty; the newer style has less salt and is a bright rosy red. Much corned beef is now being made without nitrites, which are reputed to be carcinogenic.
From The Food Lover's Companion, Fourth edition by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst. Copyright © 2007, 2001, 1995, 1990 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.