This Slow Cooker Corned Beef and Cabbage is the simplest way to make a moist, juicy corned beef for a traditional St. Patrick's Day feast. A common Saturday dinner for Irish North Americans, it just wouldn't feel like St. Patrick's Day without this deliciously tender corned beef recipe.
What is corned beef?
Corned Beef is a beef brisket preserved and then cured in salt and pickling spices. The brisket is a tough cut of meat. However, the curing process of making corned beef, along with a slow and moist cooking method, renders it tender and juicy.
Why is it called "corned" beef?
According to Wikipedia, the word “corn” comes from the Anglo Saxon language and describes any small, hard particle or grain. The term “corned beef” may refer to the granular salt used in the curing of the beef.
Is corned beef really Irish?
Yes, and no. According to the Smithsonian magazine, people in Ireland do not actually eat corned beef. Instead, lamb or pork is much more common for St Patrick’s Day feasts. This stems from an ancient Celtic view of the cow as a sacred animal.
That being said, Irish immigrants to the U.S. and Canada have been celebrating St Paddy’s day with corned beef and cabbage for decades. In other words, it’s safe to say that corned beef and cabbage is really Irish!
Here's What You Need to Make this Slow Cooker Corned Beef and Cabbage Recipe
- Corned beef brisket: I prefer the leaner, flat cut of meat for slow cooker corned beef and cabbage. Although it will still be tender after slow cooking, the leaner flat cut doesn’t fall apart and is perfect for slicing.
- Pickling Spice: Sometimes corned beef briskets are sold already dressed with pickling spice, or with a spice packet included. If this the case for you, omit the pickling spice in the recipe.
- Veggies: I used peeled and sliced carrots, halved baby red potatoes, an onion, and 1 small green cabbage for this delicious slow-cooker stew recipe.
- Beer: To stay true to the Irish theme, I always like to use Guinness for this recipe, but you an use any beer you prefer! To make this recipe gluten free, you can skip the beer and use water instead.
- Herbs: A bay leaf and a few sprigs of fresh thyme really freshen up the full flavored dish.
How to Make Slow Cooker Corned Beef and Cabbage, Step By Step
Step 1: Prep the Ingredients
First, sprinkle the top of the brisket with pickling spice, pressing it into the meat. Next, put potatoes, carrots, onion, bay leaf and thyme into the slow cooker. After that, stack the brisket on top of your vegetables and seasonings, then pour the water and beer over everything.
Step 2: Cook Low and Slow
Now, cover the slow cooker and cook the corned beef and veggies on low heat for 5 hours. After about 4 hours, add the cabbage to the slow cooker, cover and cook for another hour, or until meat and vegetables are very tender.
Step 3: Slice and Serve
Finally, when the meat and vegetables are fully cooked and mouthwateringly tender, transfer the meat to a cutting board and slice. Serve your delicious slow cooker corned beef and cabbage with the vegetables, and dijon or grainy mustard.
Tips for Your Delicious Slow Cooker Corned Beef
Get the right cut of beef
There are two cuts of brisket for corned beef; the point cut, and the flat cut. The point cut is fattier and well-marbled. The flat cut is much leaner. Although the point cut, because of the extra fat, will be a bit moister and more tender, it also tends to fall apart when cooked.
Repurpose your leftover corned beef
If you have leftover corned beef, great! You can make Reuben sandwiches or corned beef hash. Also, corned beef is also a tasty addition to omelets, soups and pasta dishes.
Double check your slow cooker heat and timing
Slow cookers vary greatly from model to model. My Breville slow cooker cooks quite hot, even on low, and the cooking time for this recipe is based on that. You may need a longer or shorter cooking time depending on your own slow cooker.
Like all cured meats, corned beef contains sodium nitrite. Sodium nitrite is a food additive that prevents bacteria from growing (and also gives corned beef its pink colour). Sodium nitrite may cause damage to blood vessels, leading to heart disease. However, many vegetables contain higher levels of sodium nitrites than those in cured meats. Eating cured meats in moderation, along with a healthy diet of fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts and grains, is safe. Get more information on sodium nitrites here: sodium nitrate and sodium nitrite facts.
Yes, you can freeze corned beef after it’s cooked. And, if you want to freeze leftover cooked corned beef for future sandwiches, it’s handy to freeze it in individual sandwich sizes.
The beer in this recipe is optional, but it does add flavour, especially if you use a Guinness stout. You can replace the beer with water, if you prefer.
I mentioned earlier, brisket is a tough cut of meat. However, slow, moist cooking methods will make it tender and juicy, and the usual cooking method is to boil the corned beef on the stovetop. This would mean simmering it for about 3 hours for a three-pound brisket. This slow cooker corned beef and cabbage recipe eliminates the need for tending to a boiling pot. In addition, you end up with a delicious, tender and moist result.
Using a gluten-free beer or omitting the beer will make this recipe gluten-free.
Looking for more Irish-style recipes?
- Irish Soda Bread
- Beef & Guinness Irish Stew
- Irish Bread Pudding
- Slow Cooker Red Cabbage Apple Braise
- Easy French Onion Soup with Lager
Slow Cooker Corned Beef and Cabbage
- 3 lb corned beef brisket
- 1 tablespoon pickling spice*
- 4 carrots peeled & sliced into bite sized pieces
- 12 baby red potatoes cut in half
- 1 onion peeled & quartered
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 8 oz beer
- 2 cups water
- 1 small green cabbage cored & cut into 6 pieces
- Sprinkle the top of the brisket with pickling spice, pressing it into the meat.
- Put potatoes, carrots, onion, bay leaf and thyme into the slow cooker and put the brisket on top of them
- Pour the water and beer over everything.
- Cover and cook on low 5 hours.
- Add the cabbage to the slow cooker, cover and cook for another hour, or until meat and vegetables are very tender.
- Transfer the meat to a cutting board and slice.
- Serve with the vegetables, and dijon, or grainy mustard.
- Sometimes corned beef briskets are sold already dressed with pickling spice, or with a spice packet included. If this the case for you, omit the pickling spice in the recipe.
- Slow cookers vary greatly from model to model. My Breville slow cooker cooks quite hot, even on low, and the cooking time for this recipe is based on that. You may need a longer or shorter cooking time depending on your own slow cooker.
- The beer in this recipe is optional, but it does add flavour, especially if you use a Guinness stout. You can replace the beer with water, if you prefer.
- Using a gluten-free beer, or omitting the beer will make this recipe gluten-free.