A March Tradition, and an Easy Year-Round Meal
Corned beef is such a thoroughly enjoyable dish that it's a shame to confine it to St. Patrick's Day. Admittedly, the traditional technique of boiling it for hours steams up the house pretty badly, but that's exactly why it's best prepared in the Crock-Pot. This slow cooker recipe takes just a few minutes of hands-on preparation, and then simmers peacefully all day. Your house will smell wonderful when it's done, and you couldn't ask for an easier one-pot meal.
Total Time: 8 hours 15 minutes | Prep Time: 15 minutes | Serves: 4 to 6, with leftovers
- 4 large carrots, in 2-inch segments
- 4 large or 6 medium Yukon Gold potatoes
- 2 medium onions, quartered
- 3 1/2 to 4 pounds corned beef brisket
- 12 whole black peppercorns
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon coriander seed (optional)
- 1 teaspoon dill seed (optional)
- 1 whole clove (optional)
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- Cut the thickest carrot pieces lengthwise into quarters and the medium pieces lengthwise into halves. The thin pieces can remain whole. Scrub or peel the potatoes, as you prefer, and cut them into large pieces approximately 1 1/2 to 2 inches square. Arrange the vegetables evenly in the bottom of a 6- or 7-quart Crock-Pot.
- Drain any excess juices from the corned beef package, and then place the beef on top of the vegetables. Arrange the seasonings around the beef, then pour in water until the beef is mostly submerged. Add the cider vinegar, cover, and cook on the low setting for 4 hours.
- Remove any damaged or discolored outer leaves from the cabbage. Then cut it in half and remove the core with a paring knife, leaving just a small remnant to hold the leaves together. Cut the cabbage into wedges about 1 to 1 1/4 inches thick at the outer edge.
- Lift the lid, and arrange the cabbage wedges around the beef, then cover and cook for another 4 hours on low. At that time, test the beef. You should be able to easily twist away a tender piece from the edge with a fork. Alternatively, cut a thin slice and taste it. If it's not absolutely fork-tender, replace the lid and let it cook for another hour.
- Remove the beef to a serving tray or cutting board, and let it rest for at least 5 to 10 minutes before slicing. Leave the vegetables in their cooking water to stay hot until it's time to serve the meal, then use a slotted spoon to remove them to a serving bowl. Discard the bay leaves as you find them.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
- If your beef came with a spice packet, and you like that traditional blend of seasonings, you can omit the spices listed here and simply use the seasoning packet. The optional spices given here are often part of that mixture.
- The beef will make slightly ragged, flaky slices when it's served hot. Once cooled overnight in your fridge, it will slice thinly and neatly for sandwiches.
- To cook the beef specifically for sandwiches or other uses aside from the traditional St. Patrick's Day meal, omit the vegetables. Refrigerate the beef overnight, so it will slice neatly.
- Although it's ordinarily thought of as a cold-weather dish, sliced corned beef makes a great addition to summer picnics. Serve it with soft rolls and a selection of tart pickles.
Fred Decker is a trained chef and certified food-safety trainer. Decker wrote for the Saint John, New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal, and has been published in Canada's Hospitality and Foodservice magazine. He's held positions selling computers, insurance and mutual funds, and was educated at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.