Best Way to Cook Corned Beef Brisket in a Slow Cooker

Corned beef and cabbage

Corned beef and cabbage

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Most of us associate corned beef brisket with St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, but it’s a welcome addition to the table any day of the year. On a pleasant Sunday or a busy Saturday, a slow cooker corned beef brisket is easy peasy and wafts sumptuous spices throughout your house.

What is corned beef brisket?

Basically, brisket refers to the pectoral muscles of the cow. It’s a tough meat. After cooking, however, it’s tender and tasty. Brisket is great for barbecuing, roasting, and smoking, all lengthy processes to allow this meat to break down and release its flavor. See my recipe for the best smoked brisket rub here!

Wondering which smoker to buy? Visit this post for a review of the Medina River Outdoor Patio Smoker/Grill Combo!

“Corned” refers to an old English term, “corning,” which means particles. The corning process used spices and coarse-grained salt. Today’s corned beef is usually cured in brine. However, you can make your own corned beef brisket with coarse salt, spices, and lots of patience.

Learn about how to brine delicious smoked salmon.


To save time, just buy a cut from the butcher or grocery store. Ask for uncured corned beef with no nitrates, if possible (nitrates have been linked to cancer).

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Corned beef generally comes with a packet of spices. If yours doesn’t, no problem. Buy a packet of pickling spices and use 2 or 3 tablespoons.

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Traditionally, vegetables are served with corned beef brisket. The go-to veggies are cabbage, onions, potatoes, celery, and carrots, but you can make a delicious corned beef brisket with only chunks of onion for a bed.

You’re also going to need two 8-ounce cans of beer or stout, 2-3 garlic cloves, and a bay leaf or two. If you don’t want to use beer, water or beef broth will do.

Don't forget the potatoes!

Don’t forget the potatoes!

To the crock pot!

  1. Clean and cut your veggies into chunks. If you want, you can leave the carrots whole, or use baby red potatoes and baby carrots for less muss and fuss. Cut the onions into quarters. Chop the celery into 2- or 3-inch sticks. Cut the cabbage into chunks. Just get ‘er done – we’re hardly trying to be artistic with this recipe.
  2. Make a bed at the bottom of your slow cooker using the potatoes, onions, celery, and carrots. For a minimalist approach, just use onions cut into big chunks. You can add roasted carrots and boiled potatoes on the side if you wish.
  3. Peel two or three garlic cloves, smash them with the back of your knife, and toss them in.
  4. Place the brisket over the vegetables, tucking it in around the edges to fit your slow cooker like a lil’ brisket baby.
  5. Pour the beer, broth, or water over the whole thing. Add some of the brine from the corned beef brisket package if you like salty flavors.
  6. Sprinkle the spices over the meat
  7. Toss in a bay leaf or two.
  8. Put the cabbage chunks on top of the meat and spices.
  9. Cover and cook on low for about 8-10 hours, depending on size, or on high for 5-6 hours. If you’re facing a busy day, the low setting is perfect.
Plated and ready to eat!

Plated and ready to eat!


Now your house smells like brisket heaven, your meat is sizzling and tender. You’re ready to plate it, and your guests are just as ready to eat! As hard as it may be, let the meat rest for awhile or you’ll have trouble slicing.

Use a very sharp knife, but be aware that slow cookers make the meat slightly crumbly because it’s so tender. Slice and plate with veggies surrounding it like walls around a castle.

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What’s the “right” sauce for corned beef brisket? Two types of basic sauces stand out: mustard, or honey mustard, sauce and horseradish sauce. Some cooks combine them into a mustard-horseradish sauce. If your cookbook doesn’t have a variant of either, just search for “best sauce for corned beef” and you’ll be overwhelmed with choices.

The basic horseradish cream sauce is made with either cream or sour cream, lemon juice or vinegar, spices, salt and pepper, and horseradish. It’s tastier if you use grated fresh horseradish and let the flavors combine while the brisket is cooking.

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Mustard sauce takes a little longer, but it’s totally worth it! Start with mustard. I recommend whole grain, but regular yellow mustard works just as well. Add brown sugar or honey to sweeten it, and two eggs to thicken. Add a trickle of vinegar and oil, sprinkles of salt and pepper to taste, whisk, and cook on low heat until it becomes thick. Many cooks recommend using some of the juices from the corned beef as well.

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…or just use a prepared sauce from your local grocery store to make your job easy. The meat will be so tasty, nobody will ask about the sauce’s origin.

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Whether it’s St. Patty’s Day, or just a normal Tuesday, corned beef brisket is a great choice, and pretty easy to prepare.

Want to know how to use those kitchen appliances you got for Christmas? See how to use a rice cooker to make sticky rice, and how to use a rice cooker for oatmeal! I also have reviews of the waffle irons that will turn your bland breakfasts into a real treat! What’s the best electric carving knife for brisket? If found them here. 


Making caramel later? Read my post on the best saucepan for the job.

For more recipes, see my post on delicious appetizers for parties and side dishes for your next BBQ.

Image Credit via Flickr Creative Commons: Jeffrey W. and Julia F.