Corned beef is a traditional Irish American dish and St. Patrick’s Day meal. Slow cooker corned beef and cabbage is so simple to prepare, and a tasty meal any time of year.
It comes as a surprise to many when they learn that corned beef is not an authentic Irish national dish. The story of how it became connected with Saint Patrick's Day actually originates in America.
Today I'm sharing my slow cooker recipe for this Saint Patrick's Day specialty dish. I've previously shared my recipe for apricot glazed corned beef, where I finish cooking the brisket in the oven with a sweet and sticky glaze.
But before we dive into this crock pot recipe let's first explore the history and origins of this famous dish.
Table of Contents
- Irish Immigrants in New York Discover Corned Beef
- Why I Love Corned Beef
- Ingredients for Crockpot Corned Beef and Cabbage
- Recipe Tips and Substitutions
- Instructions for Crockpot Corned Beef
- Should I rinse corned beef before cooking?
- Which Corned Beef Cut is Best?
- What is corned beef seasoning made of?
- How to Store Cooked Corned Beef
- Recipe Card for Crockpot Corned Beef
Irish Immigrants in New York Discover Corned Beef
We previously explored how America transformed how Saint Patrick's Day is celebrated, even on the island of Ireland today. But corned beef is still not a popular dish in the Emerald Isle.
The reason why this dish became associated with Saint Patrick's Day is linked with Irish immigrants who arrived in New York in the late 19th century. Irish people eat bacon and cabbage rather than corned beef and cabbage.
However, pork or bacon is cured differently in America than it is in Ireland. Irish people arriving in American found it difficult to find a piece of bacon suitable for boiling like they did in Ireland.
Corned beef brisket was cooked by the Jewish settlers who lived alongside the Irish in the poorer quarters of New York City. The Irish soon adopted this kosher cut of beef to pair with cabbage and potoatoes. The Irish had found their perfect substitute for traditional Irish bacon.
A new Irish American tradition was born.
Why I Love Corned Beef
I did not grow up eating corned beef. I first sampled it when I came to America in 1988 and lived in Elmira, New York.
Corned beef was served at the local Irish pub on Saint Patrick's Day, and I was thrilled to sample this famous Irish American dish. I've been enjoying it ever since.
One great reason to love corned beef is leftovers. It's such a versatile ingredient, there are many options for using up any extras.
The morning after Saint Patrick's Day, I ususally throw together a skillet of corned beef hash. It's the perfect breakfast when paired with soft cooked eggs - a fantastic one pan meal.
I also love leftover corned beef sandwiches or sliders. They're so simple to make. Reuben sandwiches with thousand island dressing are simply delicious, or kick it up a notch and make a Reuben Grilled Cheese.
Diced corned beef is scrumptions served over pasta or mashed potatoes.
Plus it can be tossed into a big pot to make an ever so tasty corned beef and cabbage soup. The choices are endless for using up corned beef leftovers.
You'll find lots of appetizer recipes using leftover corned beef in my Saint Patrick's Day appetizer round up. Corned beef nachos or tacos anyone?
Ingredients for Crockpot Corned Beef and Cabbage
Here's a list of ingredients for making slow cooker corned beef.
You'll find exact quantities in the printable recipe card, together with nutrition information at the end of this post.
You can toggle between US and Metric equivalents and print the recipe card the way you like it.
Here's what you'll need...
- baby carrots
- baby red potatoes
- corned beef brisket
- head of cabbage
- black pepper
Recipe Tips and Substitutions
I choose water to cook this corned beef. This is a simple straight forward recipe.
You can substitute beef broth for the water if you wish. It adds far more flavor to the cooking broth.
Another idea is to use 3 cups of beef broth and one cup of Guinness for the cooking juices. It's ever so flavorful, and a true taste of Ireland.
If you use Guinness then add two teaspoons of brown sugar and a teaspoon of honey to the broth. It'll turn out delicious. The sweetness of the honey cuts the bitterness of the stout.
Another option is to substitute one cup of regular beer for one cup of the cooking water.
Instructions for Crockpot Corned Beef
Place the carrots, onion, and potatoes in the bottom of the slow cooker crock.
Do not add the cabbage wedges at this stage. It only gets added at the very end of the cooking process.
Add the water to the veggies.
Season the broth with salt and pepper as desired. I only use a small amount of each since I find there is plenty of flavoring in the seasoning packet that accompanies the corned beef.
You can use low sodium beef broth if you have dietary restrictions.
Lay the corned beef on top of the bed of vegetables with the fat side facing up.
Pour the apple cider vinegar over the meat. Sprinkle the meat with the contents of the spice packet.
Cover the slow cooker and cook on low for 7 hours.
Remove the lid and place the cabbage wedges into the crockpot to the side of the corned beef brisket.
Re-cover the crockpot and continue cooking for another hour or until the cabbage is tender and the meat is fork tender.
Total cooking time for a 3 to 4 lbs brisket in a 6-quart crockpot is usually 8 to 10 hours on slow.
I keep the slow cooker on low for the duration of this recipe. This means the brisket has more time to cook using low and slow heat. This method helps keep the meat tender and juicy.
If you are in a rush it should take about 5 to 6 hours on the high setting, but it's not my preferrd method.
When the meat is cooked remove it from the cooking broth. Stand it on a plate and let it rest under a foil tent.
Only cut the meat into slices once it has rested.
Keep the vegetables warm to serve with the meat.
Should I rinse corned beef before cooking?
Some cooks like to remove the corned beef brisket from the plastic wrapping and rinse it under running water. Some even steep it in a pot of cold water.
This step is not a requirment, especially when cooking the joint in a crockpot.
The purpose of rinsing the meat is to remove any excess salt. If you find the flavor of corned beef to be a little too intense, then steeping the meat in water or rinsing it might result in a milder more palatable flavor for you.
Also, beef brisket is brined before it is packed for shipping to your local grocery store. This brine is full of flavorings and salt. Some of the liquid remains in the plastic wrapping with the meat. By rinsing the meat you may wash off some of the flavors.
Which Corned Beef Cut is Best?
Corned beef is sold in American grocery stores as a flat cut corned beef or a point cut corned beef. The flat cut is far more popular and easier to find.
When cooked the flat cut is most tender and lean. It's the way to go in my opinion.
It can be sliced across the grain which makes it perfect for serving in evenly shaped slices and for making sandwiches with leftovers.
The point cut is typically cheaper and it's best if your recipe calls for shredding the meat rather than slicing it.
What is corned beef seasoning made of?
Corned beef is usually sold with a specialty seasoning packet. The exact contents of this spice packet varies by brand.
This little packet of added flavor is essentially a pickling spice blend. The most common spices used are peppercorns, bay leaves, mustard seeds, dill seeds, coriander seeds, all spice, cloves and of course salt. All of these spices boast warm and robust flavors which give the dish its distinctive appeal.
Garlic powder is seldom used as one of the ingredients in this spice packet, so feel free to mince a few garlic cloves to add to the cooking liquid if you especially like the depth of flavor garlic adds to meat.
Garlic is not a traditional ingredient for corned beef brisket.
How to Store Cooked Corned Beef
Remember to store the sliced cooked meat in an airtight container in the refrigerator for upto 3 days. Any leftovers should be refrigerated as soon as possible, and no more than 2 hours after cooking.
Leftovers can be frozen and will last in the freezer for up to 2 months.
I like to separate the slices of cooked corned beef with a piece of parchement paper. I then stack the slices and double wrap them in plastic wrap.
These wrapped stacks of cooked meat can be placed into a freeaer bag and sealed with no air. Alternatively they can be placed in a freezer-safe container.
Don't forget to label and date the packet before placing it in the freezer.
Recipe Card for Crockpot Corned Beef
Here's the printable recipe card.
You can choose to print the recipe with or without images.
Slow Cooker Corned Beef Brisket
- 1 pound baby carrots
- 1 large onion cut into wedges
- 3 pounds baby red potatoes halved
- 4 cups water
- 4 pounds corned beef brisket
- 1 corned beef seasoning packet
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 small head of cabbage cored and cut into large wedges
- ⅛ teaspoon salt optional
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper freshly ground
- Place the carrots, onion, and potatoes in the bottom of the slow cooker crock. Add the water to the veggies.
- Lay the corned beef on top of the bed of vegetables with the fat side facing up. Pour the apple cider vinegar over the meat. Sprinkle the meat with the contents of the spice packet. Cover the crockpot and cook on low for 7 hours.
- Remove the lid and place the cabbage wedges into the crockpot to the side of the corned beef brisket. Re-cover the crockpot and continue cooking for another hour or until the cabbage is tender and the meat is fork tender.
- Remove the meat from the broth. Let the meat stand for 10 minutes on a plate covered with foil before slicing. Serve with the cooked vegetables.
Nutrition Information is estimated based on the ingredients and cooking instructions as described in each recipe and is intended to be used for informational purposes only. Please note that nutrition details may vary based on methods of preparation, origin and freshness of ingredients used.
Wishing you all the very best for Saint Patrick's Day, and may your crock pot corned beef be the best you've ever made.
I hope you will enjoy a delicious corned beef dinner, and maybe even a few leftovers the next day.
I love to make Leftover Corned Beef Hash for breakfast on the day after Saint Patrick's Day.
Another great meal for leftover corned beef is Leftover Corned Beef and Cabbage Soup
Thanks for following my recipes and ramblings.
Slán agus beannacht,
(Goodbye and blessings)
Mairéad -Irish American Mom
Pronunciation - slawn ah-gus ban-ock-th
Mairéad - rhymes with parade