Low and slow cooking is the perfect way to produce a tender corned beef dinner that will have your St. Patrick’s Day guests wanting seconds. This recipe for Slow Cooker Corned Beef and Cabbage with carrots and potatoes uses a beer-infused cooking liquid for juicy meat with incredible flavor.
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Why You Should Cook Corned Beef in a Slow Cooker
When it comes to a corned beef dinner, you have a few general cooking options: stovetop, oven, pressure cooker, or crockpot. Each method has its own merits, and which you choose depends on how much time you have to cook, and how hands on you want to be during the cooking process.
Here’s what I love about using the slow cooker:
- Since it’s the longest cooking method at the lowest temperature, the corned beef turns out meltingly tender, juicy, and flavorful every time.
- It’s easy and very hands off, with only 10 minutes of prep time to start. Except for two quick breaks after several hours to add the vegetables, this one-pot meal cooks itself.
- The slow cooker is built to regulate the cooking temperature efficiently, for results that are reliable. You don’t have to adjust the heat to maintain a simmer, as you would on the stove.
Want to try other corned beef cooking methods? Check out my reader-favorite recipes for Beer Braised Corned Beef with Whiskey Mustard Glaze (Dutch oven), or Instant Pot Corned Beef and Cabbage (Electric Pressure Cooker).
What Size Slow Cooker Do I Need to Make a Corned Beef and Cabbage Dinner?
Since this meal includes the corned beef and sides (potatoes, carrots, and cabbage), I use a large (6-7 quart) slow cooker so everything fits comfortably.
The cooker pictured in this post is the All-Clad 7 Quart Slow Cooker with cast aluminum insert. While this recipe is made entirely in the slow cooker, I love that the cast aluminum insert can be used on the stove for browning and sautéing.
Ingredients You’ll Need
- Corned Beef Brisket. I use a “flat cut” brisket for this recipe weighing 4 to 5-½ pounds. Be sure it has a nice fat cap for the best flavor.
- Yellow Onion and Garlic Cloves. To form an aromatic base for the brisket in the slow cooker. Halve the onion and cut it into ¼-inch slices. Lightly smash the garlic with the back of a chef’s knife and peel.
- Pickling Spice. A sweet and savory spice blend that infuses the beef with flavor. Most corned beef comes with a spice packet included. If yours doesn’t, use a store-bought blend, such as Savory Spice Pickling Spice or McCormick Pickling Spice.
- Dried Bay Leaves. Infuses extra flavor into the cooking liquid. If your pickling spice is bay-heavy, feel free to omit.
- Beer. We love the flavor that beer adds to the cooking liquid. Be mindful not to use anything too hoppy or bitter. If using stout, use either Guinness Draught (less bitter than “Extra Stout”) or Murphy’s Irish Stout. For a milder flavor, use a lager-style beer. Our favorite for corned beef is Samuel Smith Pure Brewed Organic Lager.
- Water. You’ll need enough water to just cover the corned beef (amount will vary by brisket and slow cooker).
- Potatoes. I use baby red and/or golden potatoes, 1-½ to 2 inches in diameter. Since these varieties are thin-skinned, there’s no need to peel. If using larger potatoes, cut them into 1-½ to 2 inch chunks.
- Baby Carrots. Use a bag of baby-cut carrots for convenience, or 4-5 large carrots cut into 2-inch lengths.
- Green Cabbage. Use a medium-sized head of cabbage, cut it into 6 to 8 wedges, with the core. (Check out How to Cut a Head of Cabbage into Wedges from The Spruce Eats.)
How to Make Slow Cooker Corned Beef
Step 1. Prep the Corned Beef
Before cooking corned beef, I always recommend rinsing it well under cool water to remove any residual brine. This will help ensure that your cooked brisket isn’t too salty.
Make a base layer of sliced onions and garlic cloves in the slow cooker insert and lay the corned beef over it with the fat cap up. I like to sprinkle half of the pickling spices over the onions and the rest over the brisket itself. Add in the bay leaf (or two, if they’re small).
Pour 1 cup of beer over the corned beef, followed by enough water to just cover the top of the brisket. You’ll need anywhere from 2 to 4 cups of water, depending on the thickness of your corned beef. (I needed 4 cups of water for the 5-½ pound brisket pictured here.)
If your brisket is irregularly shaped, it’s ok if a little bit of the fat cap peeks out from the top. Just be sure that all of the meat is fully submerged.
Step 2: Cook the Corned Beef
At this point, the recipe becomes mostly hands-off. Cover your slow cooker and set it to LOW for 8-10 hours, depending on the size of the corned beef and the cooked texture you prefer.
We like our corned beef to be tender but still sliceable. For the 5-½ pound corned beef pictured, 9 hours on LOW was the sweet spot.
If you like your corned beef to have more of a fall-apart, shredded consistency, go for the full 10 hours. If you’re cooking a corned beef closer to 4 pounds, check it at the 8 hour mark.
When the corned beef is ready, you’ll be able to slide a fork in and out of the brisket without resistance.
Step 3: Add the Potatoes and Carrots
After the corned beef has been cooking for about 3 hours, add in the potatoes and carrots. If you add them at the start, they will be quite overcooked and mushy by the end of the 8-10 hour cooking time.
Since we’re cooking on LOW, the potatoes and carrots will need to cook for 5-6 hours for a soft, fork-tender texture. Nestle them around the brisket, submerging them in the flavorful cooking liquid where possible. Place the lid back on the slow cooker and let it cook for a few more hours, until adding the cabbage wedges.
Step 4: Add the Cabbage
Just like the potatoes and carrots, the cabbage will become too soft if added to the slow cooker too early. We like to add the wedges with 2 hours of cooking time remaining for cabbage that’s soft and tender, but not falling apart.
If you prefer more of a crisp-tender texture to your cabbage, add it to the slow cooker during the last hour of cooking. For very soft cabbage, add it with 3 hours remaining.
The slow cooker is going to look quite full when you add the cabbage wedges. As long as you can seat the lid securely on the insert, this is fine. Depending on your brisket and slow cooker capacity, you might have to adjust how much cabbage you’re adding. (I could only comfortably fit 5 out of 6 wedges when making the dinner pictured.)
Don’t have room in your slow cooker for the cabbage? Try roasting it instead. My recipe for Roasted Cabbage Wedges creates caramelized, crispy edges that add delicious flavor to a corned beef dinner.
Or, skip cooking the veggies in the slow cooker altogether and serve the corned beef with a bowl of creamy Colcannon, an Irish mashed potato dish. This version is made with sautéed cabbage and leeks for a hearty side.
Serving Your Corned Beef Dinner
When everything is cooked (and the kitchen smells amazing!), remove the cabbage wedges, potatoes, and carrots to a platter and tent with foil to keep warm. Transfer the corned beef to a cutting board and let it rest for about 10 minutes (also tented with foil) before slicing.
The vegetables will have great flavor from the cooking liquid, but we like to dress them with a little melted butter, black pepper, and chopped parsley for garnish. Depending on the saltiness of the cooking liquid, they might need a pinch or two of salt, to taste.
When you’re ready to slice the corned beef, trim the fat cap to your liking (we like to leave a bit on the top). Use a sharp carving knife to cut the brisket against the grain into slices of your preferred thickness. We usually aim for slices that are about a quarter inch thick.
I like to strain some of the cooking liquid and drizzle it over the corned beef slices to keep them juicy on the serving platter. Some of our favorite accompaniments for the meal are:
- Mustard. We love Maille Old Style or Lakeshore Wholegrain Mustard with Irish Whiskey,
- Horseradish Sauce. Try my recipe for Creamy Horseradish Sauce or Roasted Garlic Horseradish Cream Sauce. (Easy to make while the corned beef is slow cooking!)
- Irish-American Soda Bread. Slathered with Irish butter, of course!
Do you prefer your corned beef with a crispy glazed crust? You can glaze the brisket after it finishes cooking in the slow cooker. For instructions, visit my recipe for Beer Braised Corned Beef with Whiskey Mustard Glaze and follow the instructions starting at the “Glaze and Serve” section of the recipe card.
Q. Can I cook this recipe on high heat in my slow cooker?
A. While some recipes provide times for cooking corned beef on high, I only recommend cooking this recipe on low. I find that higher temperatures don’t result in a brisket that’s as tender. Low and slow is the way to go here.
Q. Do I have to use beer in the cooking liquid?
A. Unsalted beef broth or stock can be substituted for beer.
Q. How do I store the leftovers?
A. Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days. I like to spoon a little of the strained cooking liquid into the container to keep the meat juicy.
Want to repurpose your leftovers? Try making Corned Beef Hash and Eggs, Reuben Sandwiches, or Deli-Style Corned Beef Sandwiches with Russian Dressing and Coleslaw!
Slow Cooker Corned Beef and Cabbage
- 4 to 5-½ pound corned beef brisket (I use flat cut), rinsed in cool water
- 1 large yellow onion , halved and cut into ¼-inch slices
- 4 large garlic cloves , peeled and lightly smashed with the back of a chef's knife
- 1 large dried bay leaf (or two small)*
- 2 tablespoons pickling spice (or the seasoning packet that came with your corned beef)
- 8 ounces beer (see note)**
- 2-4 cups water
- 1-½ to 2 pounds baby potatoes (red or golden, 1-½ to 2-inches in diameter)***
- 1 pound baby carrots ***
- 1 medium green cabbage , cut into 6-8 wedges
- melted butter, chopped parsley, salt, and pepper , for garnishing the vegetables (optional)
- Mustard, Creamy Horseradish Sauce, or Roasted Garlic Horseradish Sauce , for serving the corned beef (optional)
Cook the Brisket
- Place onions and garlic cloves in the bottom of a 6 to 7 quart slow cooker insert. Sprinkle with half of the seasoning packet or pickling spice. Lay the corned beef over the onions with the fat cap up. Sprinkle the rest of the spice packet over the brisket.
- Pour the beer over the corned beef, followed by enough water to just cover the brisket. Add the bay leaf to the liquid. Put the lid on the slow cooker and set it to LOW heat for 8-10 hours. (The corned beef will be ready when you can slide a fork in and out of the center of the brisket without resistance.)
Add the Potatoes and Carrots
- With 5-6 hours remaining on the total cooking time, add the potatoes and carrots to the slow cooker. Nestle them around the brisket, submerging them in the cooking liquid where possible.
- Replace the lid on the slow cooker and continue cooking on LOW until adding the cabbage.
Add the Cabbage
- With 2 hours remaining, add the cabbage wedges to the slow cooker. (The insert will look full. This is ok as long as you can replace the slow cooker lid snugly.) Cover the slow cooker and continue cooking on LOW for the remaining time.
- (2 hours of cooking on LOW results in fork-tender cabbage. For very soft cabbage, add the wedges to the slow cooker with 3 hours remaining. For crisp-tender cabbage, add the wedges with 1 hour remaining.)
Slice the Corned Beef and Serve
- Remove the cabbage, potatoes, and carrots from the slow cooker. Place them on a serving platter or in a bowl and tent with foil to keep warm.
- Remove the corned beef rom the slow cooker and place on a cutting board. Tent with foil and let rest for 10 minutes. Trim the fat cap, as desired, and slice the meat against the grain into ¼-inch slices.
- If desired, strain some of the cooking liquid and drizzle it over the corned beef slices on the platter. We like to drizzle the potatoes, carrots, and cabbage with melted butter, season to taste with salt and pepper, and garnish with chopped parsley.
- Serve the corned beef with your favorite mustard or horseradish sauce (recipe links in the notes below).