How to Cook Corned Beef for a Classic Irish-American Dinner

Cooking corned beef is easy and results in a tender, moist dish. Find out our best tips on making the most delicious corned beef and cabbage for St. Patrick's Day (or any day you need a comforting meal).

If you've ever attended a St. Patrick's Day celebration (Irish ancestry or not), there's a good chance you enjoyed a plate of corned beef and cabbage. While the juicy cured beef brisket is a staple for the March holiday, it's actually a uniquely American tradition. Named for the "corns" of large grains of salt used to cure the meat, corned beef became popular way back in the 17th century when Ireland exported it to the British. Fast-forward to the 18th century when Irish immigrants brought corned beef with them to the United States, and the rest is history. Now that we've covered those fun corned beef facts, read on to find out how to cook corned beef to perfection on the stove top or cook corned beef using your trusty slow cooker.

overhead view of corned beef, cabbage, potatoes, and carrots
Jason Donnelly

How to Cook Corned Beef

The traditional way to cook corned beef is by brining it over a period of time (ours takes 5 days, so plan ahead!) before simmering slowly on the stove top. Follow this corned beef recipe for exact measurements or try our New England boiled dinner recipe for the full one-pot meal including cabbage and veggies. Anyone that's new to cooking corned beef at home might not know what to look for when selecting a cut of brisket to buy at the store. Seek help from your butcher or read further down the page for info on the different cuts to choose from.

Step 1: Make the Corned Beef Brine

Fill a large pot with water, salt, garlic, brown sugar, and homemade pickling spice. Bring to a simmer, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and let stand until it reaches room temperature. Transfer to a 2-gallon resealable plastic bag or brining bag ($5, Bed Bath & Beyond) set in a large shallow pan.

Test Kitchen Tip: If your corned beef came with a spice packet, feel free to use that instead.

Step 2: Let the Corned Beef Chill

Place the corned beef into the bag with the brine and seal. Chill the meat in the fridge for 5 days, turning occasionally.

Step 3: Cook Corned Beef

Remove the brisket from the bag and give it a good rinse before transferring it to a large pot. Cover with fresh water and add the rest of your pickling spice by wrapping it in a double-thick square of cotton cheesecloth tied with kitchen twine. Bring the water to a boil and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 3 hours or until corned beef is fork tender. Add cabbage, carrots, and onion to the pot for the last 15 minutes. Discard the spice bag.

Step 4: Cut Corned Beef and Serve

Transfer the corned beef to a cutting board and thinly slice meat across the grain. Add the meat to a serving platter and surround with vegetables from the pot using a slotted spoon. Season with salt and pepper, if desired.

Corned Beef and Cabbage
Jason Donnelly

How to Cook Corned Beef in the Slow Cooker

Since corned beef brisket takes a long time to cook, lean on your trusty countertop appliance to prevent you from having to keep watch over the pot on the stove. Our slow cooker corned beef recipe skips the 5-day brine and opts for doing it all in the same day to turn out equally juicy, delicious results.

Step 1: Trim and Season Corned Beef

Trim fat from the corned beef. If necessary, cut to fit into your slow cooker liner. Using the spice packet or your own pickling spice blend, rub the spices into the meat with your fingers.

Step 2: Slow-Cook Corned Beef

Place cabbage, carrots, onion, and potatoes in the slow cooker. Pour water over vegetables before topping with the corned beef brisket. Cut and serve as directed above.

How Long to Cook Corned Beef in the Slow Cooker

For a 3- to 4-pound corned beef brisket, plan to cook it in a slow cooker for 10 to 12 hours on the low heat setting or 5 to 6 hours on the high heat setting.

Corned Beef Cuts

Corned beef is made from beef brisket, cut from the chest of the cattle just below the chuck. It consists of two distinct areas separated by a layer of fat. The point cut (aka the deckle) is a well-marbled, fatty cut on top of the flat cut, a bigger, leaner section. Trimmed flat cuts are more commonly found in markets since it's more attractive and slices nicely. A point cut produces juicier cooked meat (thanks to all that fat), and is better for shredding. When the entire brisket is intact (both cuts included), it is sold as an 8- to 12-pound piece known as Texas brisket or packer cut.

Hungry Yet? Complete your St. Patrick's Day feast by adding hearty rye bread or Irish soda bread to the plate. The meat is also delicious when served with horseradish and/or coarse-grain mustard. In the event you have leftovers, try some of our favorite corned beef recipes.

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