Baked Corned Beef and Cabbage is a super tender and delicious one pot meal that deserves a spot at your table more than once a year!
When made with the right cut of brisket, cooked low and long enough and cut correctly, it’s a show stopping dinner perfect for everyday!
What is corned beef?
Corned beef is a beef brisket that has been brined in a flavorful solution similar to pickle brine. The large salt kernels in the brine are called ‘corns’. Which is where the name ‘corned beef’ comes from.
History says corned beef is not what the people of Ireland would have eaten during their feast to honor St. Patrick. They most likely would have feasted on Irish Stew and Soda Bread or Braised Pork and Potatoes. When Irish immigrants came to America beef and cabbage were substituted for the pork and potatoes because they were more readily available and more affordable.
Now there are so many different ways to cook corned beef and cabbage. Rather than boil on the stovetop this recipe takes a more traditional approach to brisket and braises the corned beef in the oven low and slow.
Braising renders fat and also retains moisture for the most succulent tender brisket.
So why make corned beef on St Patrick’s Day only? With meat this tender and flavorful you should enjoy corned beef more often! And it actually is very versatile. Aside from making corned beef and cabbage you can also make corned beef hash, reuben sandwiches, corned beef and cabbage rolls and lots of other recipes with corned beef.
Why is corned beef red? The meat’s red color comes from the sodium nitrate used in the brine that prevents the growth of bacteria and spoilage. Yes, nitrates have received a bad wrap, but nitrogen is the single biggest component of our atmosphere! If you’re concerned with nitrates you can brine your own corned beef or purchase a ‘nitrate-free’ version. But, beware nitrate free versions are preserved with celery juice – simply because of the high amounts of nitrates in celery from the dirt they’re grown in.
- Corned beef – you can corn your own beef brisket by covering it in a brine of coarse salt, peppercorns and spices (thyme, allspice, paprika and bay leaves) and refrigerating for up to a week. Or, purchase corned beef at the supermarket where it comes pre-seasoned with a similar spice blend.
- Petite potatoes – simply different varieties of baby potatoes all sold together. Feel free to substitute any other potatoes and adjust cooking time accordingly.
- Cabbage – keep a portion of the stem in each cabbage wedge to make the leaves stay together while you’re cooking and eating. You can also skip the cabbage and serve finished brisket with sauerkraut or coleslaw instead.
- Water – or substitute beer, stout, cider or chicken, vegetable or beef stock to add even more flavor.
Which corned beef to buy?
While both point and flat portion corned beef are cuts from a beef brisket, there are substantial differences. A beef brisket is between 8-12 pounds and is too large for most retail sales so they cut it into two portions. Both have a fat layer, but the second cut or ‘point portion’ has more internal fat marbling than the first cut or ‘flat portion’. The point portion is usually much more affordable and also more unevenly shaped. The flat portion yields nice flat slices and produces a better end result. Regardless of which cut you choose, make sure you are choosing a brisket cut and steer clear of corned eye of round being sold as ‘corned beef’.
Step by step instructions
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit and prepare ingredients. Cut cabbage into wedges leaving the core intact. Start by peeling off any wilted outer leaves the cutting the head in half with a large sharp knife. Then cut each half in half and in half again resulting in 8 wedges. Rough chop garlic and onions and scrub potatoes. Remove corned beef from package, set aside spice packet, rinse beef and pat dry.
- Heat a large dutch oven or cast iron skillet with a couple tablespoons of oil and brown corned beef on both sides. Then transfer to baking dish or plate.
- Working in batches add cabbage wedges to hot rendered fat. Quickly cook cabbage wedges on each side until browned and blistered. Transfer to plate.
- If all the rendered fat was absorbed by the cabbage add a bit more oil. Then add onions and cook until lightly browned and softened. Add garlic then add 1 cup water to deglaze the pan, scraping up any browned bits. Add remaining water and bring to a boil before pouring over beef in the baking dish covering by at least ½ inch of water.
- Tightly cover and braise 2 ½ hours.
- Remove lid and braise 30 minutes longer.
- Once brisket is tender, add potatoes and bake for an additional hour, or until potatoes are tender.
- Remove brisket to cutting board. And add blistered cabbage wedges to liquid with the potatoes. Continue baking until cabbage is tender but still has bite, about 15 minutes longer.
- Slice corned beef across the grain into ¼ slices. The ‘grain’ in meat are those long strings of muscle fibers that run lengthwise down the brisket. You should be able to visually see which way the grain is running. Slicing across the grain ensures the meat easily falls into lots of little pieces when you take a bite. Slicing with the grain will result in very long stringy pieces instead.
- Then remove potatoes and cabbage from broth and arrange around baked corned beef slices. Strain broth.
- Serve and enjoy!
How to serve
Now that you have a delicious tender beef brisket, what to serve with it? The recipe calls for braised cabbage and petite potatoes and there are many other things you can add to the spread!
- Grainy mustard, horseradish sauce and/or thousand island dressing are flavorful sauces for slathering and dipping.
- Rye bread or soda bread make great vessels to slather on some spicy mustard and pile high with brisket slices. Soda bread always reminds me of an oversize biscuit, so I usually opt for making a few batches of Big Flaky Baking Powder Biscuits instead.
- Colcannon, a mixture of mashed potatoes and greens like cabbage or kale, is another popular addition to many St. Patrick’s Day meals.
- Of course no St Paddy’s Day celebration would be complete without a pint (or three!) of Guinness or an ice cold Irish Mule. But which wine to pair with Corned Beef and Cabbage? Zinfandel, Pinot Noir or Malbec all cut the salty richness very well.
How to cook corned beef on the stove
This recipe details how to oven braise but if you don’t have an oven safe vessel you can braise, covered, over low heat on the stovetop. Check periodically to ensure meat stays covered with liquid, adding additional liquid as needed.
Why is corned beef tough?
If you cook low and slow and slice across the grain the corned beef will be super tender. If corned beef is tough the problem is likely the brisket simply was not cooked long enough. Either that or it was cooked too hot.
Make ahead meal
To make corned beef and cabbage ahead of time simply cook brisket completely, through step five. Then, cool in its juices and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Refrigerate up to 3 days. When ready to serve add potatoes and cabbage and reheat at 325 degrees until potatoes are tender and brisket is warmed through. About one hour. Reheat leftovers in the same way.
A 3-4 pound brisket feeds up to 6 people giving about 4 large slices per serving. For leftovers, shoot for 1 pound per person and double the recipe.
- 3-4 pounds corned beef brisket flat portion
- ¼ cup canola oil divided
- 2 large yellow onions peeled and quartered
- 3 cloves garlic peeled and minced
- 1 pound petite potatoes rinsed and scrubbed
- 1 medium cabbage cut into 8 wedges, core intact
- 6-8 cups water
- salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Rinse and pat brisket dry with paper towels. In a large dutch oven or cast iron skillet heat 2 tablespoons canola oil over medium high heat until shimmering. Brown the beef on both sides, about 10 minutes then transfer to baking dish or plate.
- Add cabbage wedges to hot rendered fat in pan and cook on each side until browned and blistered, about 30 seconds per side. Transfer to plate and continue with remaining cabbage wedges.
- All the rendered fat should have been absorbed by the cabbage wedges, so add the last 2 tablespoons of canola oil to the pan. If there is still rendered fat, drain all but 2 tablespoons and skip adding any additional oil. Reduce heat to medium and add quartered onions and ¼ teaspoon sea salt. Cook until lightly browned and softened, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Deglaze pan with 1 cup water, scraping up any browned bits. Then add remaining 5 cups water and bring to a boil. Pour over browned corned beef brisket in a baking dish or leave liquid in dutch oven and place the browned brisket back into the dutch oven, covering with at least ½ inch of liquid. Tightly cover baking dish with aluminum foil or place lid on dutch oven and bake.
- After 2.5 hours remove lid or foil and ensure that the brisket is still covered by liquid, adding more if necessary. Cook an additional 30 minutes.
- Add petite potatoes and bake, uncovered, 1 hour longer. Then remove brisket to cutting board to rest and add blistered cabbage wedges to the braising liquid and potatoes and continue baking until potatoes are cooked through and cabbage is tender but still has bite, about 15 minutes.
- Slice brisket across the grain in ¼ inch slices and place on a platter. Remove veggies from broth and arrange around baked corned beef slices. Strain broth and pass separately with horseradish, coarse deli mustard and a big loaf of crusty bread.