The easiest, tastiest corned beef dinner is made right in your crock pot. This Slow Cooker Corned Beef recipe will give you tender, juicy meat every time, but don’t stop there! Brush with a simple (but boldly flavorful) sweet mustard glaze, then broil for just a few minutes to amp up the flavor before serving.
It’s savory, salty, sweet, and, tangy, and everything in-between– truly the best corned beef you’ll ever eat. Made with cabbage, potatoes, and carrots, this recipe is all you need for a full St. Patrick’s Day dinner.
My favorite thing about celebrating St. Patrick’s Day is probably the corned beef and cabbage, so it’s safe to say that I’m not here to totally revolutionize it. In fact, most of this recipe will involve making your corned beef the same way you have for years: thrown in the slow cooker with all of the sides right along with it, pickling spice packet to boot, while pretentious frills are tossed to the wayside.
However, I’m going to insist on one thing: If you’re only going to make crock pot corned beef once or twice a year, be sure you do it right. That means majorly upping the flavor factor; ditching the unappetizing, greyish exterior; toning down the salt; and, of course, including all of the sides– potatoes, carrots, and cabbage, all.
SO WHAT MAKES THIS CORNED BEEF THE BEST?
- It’s easy. As I mentioned above, save for a brief visit to the broiler, this corned beef recipe lets the slow cooker do all of the hard work.
- You wind up with perfectly tender meat. Low and slow’s the way to go. Brisket (the cut of meat typically used for corned beef) is a naturally tough cut of meat. However, it’s got a lot of connective tissue, so when it’s cooked over low heat for a long period of time, the collagen in the meat melts and largely remains in the meat, keeping the meat moist and making it incredibly tender.
- It’s flavorful. Using beer as part of the liquid component to cook the corned beef enhances the overall flavor, and cooking the sides right with the corned beef allows them to absorb some of that beefy, salty taste as well. But best of all is the final step…
- It’s got the glaze. The sweet mustard glaze is really the game-changer here, in my opinion. It’s made mostly of condiments you’d commonly serve with corned beef– mustard and horseradish– plus butter and some brown sugar so that the sweetness can balance out all of the saltiness. Letting it caramelize on the corned beef until dark in spots makes for a beautiful presentation, as well!
WHAT CORNED BEEF DO I BUY?
Making the best corned beef starts in the grocery store, so make the best choices about what you pick up.
The most common cuts of corned beef include round roast, flat cut brisket, and point cut brisket. Round roasts tend to have the least fat– and most importantly, the least marbling– so try to avoid round roast if possible.
Instead opt for flat cut or point cut. Either will do. Flat cut will give you the most uniform shape and slices, while point cut will likely wind up a bit more tender, as it typically has the most marbling out of all of the cuts.
No matter what you do– and this is probably a given– just make sure that you are getting pre-corned corned beef. We won’t be doing the pickling process ourselves here.
HOW TO PREPARE THE CORNED BEEF
- Rinse with cold water. You heard me right, rinse that baby off. I’m a lover of salt (truly, huge fan), but corned beef is SALTY with a capital… everything. Your corned beef will still be plenty salty after all’s said and done, but it needs this step to restore some balance.
- Cut off some of the extra fat on the fat cap. If we’re going for tender, why would we cut off any of the fat cap?! I know. But the truth of the matter is that that entire fat cap just isn’t going to melt. I repeat–no matter how low and slow you cook it, a huge fat cap will never render down and be anything more than a mouth full of fat. Leaving that fat intact will only result in you having to cut around it later, and it takes up precious space in your slow cooker. Instead, leave about 1/4″ of fat on the brisket, which is enough to add moisture and flavor.
- Add the liquids and veggies. Add the potatoes and carrots at the same time as the corned beef, but save the cabbage for later. Top the corned beef with the seasonings from the packet it comes with, and cover with beer and water.
- Cook. Cook until the corned beef is fork-tender, about 7-8 hours on low. Then finally add your cabbage, cover, and cook for about 2 hours more.
WHAT’S IN A SEASONING PACKET, AND CAN I MAKE MY OWN?
This recipe calls for adding the seasoning packet that comes with the corned beef– and 99.9% of the time (that’s a made up statistic, but the point is, almost all of the time) your corned beef will come with that packet if you’re in the US. But what if it doesn’t? Or what if you simply want to make your own? No problem.
Simply combine the following:
- 3 bay leaves
- 16 whole peppercorns
- 1 tablespoon mustard seeds
- 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
And, for more flavor, add any or all of the following optional ingredients:
- 12 whole juniper berries
- 2 cardamom pods
- 8 allspice berries
- 8 whole cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon dill seeds
- 1 cinnamon stick, broken in half (remove before serving)
Use your mixture exactly like you would the pre-packaged seasonings. You will definitely have more than you need to cover the top of the meat, so just store any leftovers it in a plastic container for next time!
CAN I MAKE THIS IN MY PRESSURE COOKER / INSTANT POT?
Yes! Here’s some tips on how to do it best.
First things first: Unlike most instant pot recipes, I’ll advise against using the bare minimum amount of liquid here. Keep the amounts the same– you really do need a fair amount of liquid in order to balance out the saltiness of the beef.
Secondly, for the pressure cooker version, you’re going to leave the veggies out at first. Only start off with your beef and associated ingredients.
Cook your 3 to 4 pound corned beef at high pressure for 85 minutes with a 20 minute natural release for best results. Then remove your corned beef, strain out all but 1 to 1 1/2 cups of liquid, and add in your vegetables. Cook on high pressure for 4 minutes with manual release, and dinner’s ready!
WATCH THE VIDEO
- 1 (3 to 4 pound) ready-to-cook corned beef brisket with spice packet
- 1 (12 ounce) bottle beer
- 2 cups water
- 1 1/2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, quartered
- 4 large carrots, peeled and trimmed
- 1/2 small head green or savoy cabbage, outer leaves removed, cut into wedges
- 3 tablespoons melted butter
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar, lightly packed
- 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- Rinse the beef with cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Trim some of the fat from the fat cap, leaving a layer about 1/4″ thick of fat on top.
- Transfer the corned beef to the slow cooker, with the fat cap facing up. Add the spices from the packet on top of the fat cap. Place the potatoes around the beef, and place the carrots around or on top. Pour over the beer and water.
- Cover and cook on LOW for 7-8 hours.
- Lay the cabbage wedges on top of the corned beef and cook on LOW for another 2 hours, or until the vegetables and beef are tender.
- Heat the broiler to high. Stir together the melted butter, brown sugar, horseradish, and dijon mustard in a small bowl. Using tongs, remove the corned beef from the slow cooker and put it on a nonstick or foil-lined sheet pan. Spread the glaze mixture all over the top and sides of the beef and place it under the broiler. Cook until the glaze bubbles and caramelizes in spots, about 4 minutes.
- Let the corned beef rest for 5 minutes, then slice against the grain into 1/2-inch pieces. Serve the beef slices on a platter alongside the vegetables.