How Long to Cook Corned Beef in a Slow Cooker

Close up view of slow cooker corned beef on serving plate.

How long to cook corned beef in a slow cooker? Here’s your easy answer: Corned beef of any size needs to cook on low for 9 to 11 hours. You could also cook on high for 5 to 6 hours — but this is the riskier path. At low heat, you’re far less likely to overcook your meat. 

Keep reading for more tips in this guide to slow cooking a delicious and tender corned beef. Below we cover corned beef FAQs and provide a simple recipe to follow.  

Close up view of slow cooker corned beef on serving dish.

Why make corned beef in a slow cooker?

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Cooking corned beef in a slow cooker is a great way to ensure that your meal comes out perfectly every time. Slow cookers are ideal for cooking corned beef as they allow the beef to be cooked slowly over low heat, which keeps the meat moist and tender throughout the cooking process. Plus, slow cookers require minimal attention vs. traditional methods of cooking corned beef — so you don’t have to babysit your dinner all day long. 

Another perk is that slow cookers are economical and energy efficient, which adds more affordability to this classic dish.

Can I cook corned beef in the oven instead?

Slow cooking is the more popular method of preparing corned beef. But if you want to try something different, you can also slow-roast it in the oven. See our oven-roasted corned beef recipe here

Can I cook corned beef in my Instant Pot?

Absolutely, you can prep your corned beef in an Instant Pot instead of a slow cooker. See our Instant Pot corned beef recipe here.

Which cut of corned beef should I use?

Corned beef brisket comes in two types of cut — flat and point. Flat cut corned beef is leaner and less fatty than the point cut and the point cut has more marbling of fat throughout the meat. As sarahscucinabella mentions, the flat cut has a layer of fat on one side. Leave that fat intact and it’ll keep the meat from drying out. Also, the thickness of the flat cut is more even than the point cut, which can give you a more consistent result.  

You can use either cut, but the flat cut with the fat layer intact may be the easiest to work with. 

Can you overcook corned beef in a crock pot?

You can overcook your corned beef in the slow cooker. This happens when the heat is too high or there isn’t enough liquid in the pot. Your safest best is to plan on the longer cooking cycle at low heat. And, check the liquid level in the slow cooker often. 

How do I know when my slow-cooked corned beef is done? 

As the USDA reports, the minimum safe temperature for slow cooked corned beef is 145F or 63C. But to achieve that tender texture you crave, the temperature will be much higher than that — somewhere around 190F or 88C. 

Once the temperature is above 145F or 63C, you can also slice off a small piece and taste it. A tough, chewy result means it’s either undercooked or overcooked. You’d confirm which by checking the temperature. If the thermometer reads under 180F or 82C, keep cooking. If the temperature is over 210F or 99C, you’ve probably overcooked it. 

How do I know when corned beef is done without a thermometer?

Cook the beef for 9 to 11 hours on low heat. To check if the beef is done, insert a fork into the center of the roast and twist. If the meat pulls apart easily, it’s ready to go. 

And before you do anything else, please say this out loud, “Hey Siri, remind me to buy a meat thermometer.”

Should the water cover the corned beef in a slow cooker?

Yes, cover your corned beef with water or broth in the slow cooker. This helps the meat cook more evenly without burning or drying out.

You may need to hold the meat down as you add the liquid. 

Can you prep corned beef in an hour? 

Yes, if you have a small corned beef brisket — say 2 lb or so — you can shorten your cook time to an hour. But you’ll have to use the microwave instead of the slow cooker. 

Put your beef in a microwave-safe dish, fat side up. Add enough water to cover it. Put on the lid and microwave it on medium-low for 30 minutes. Flip the meat over, rotate the dish, and cook it for another 30 minutes on medium-low. Check the temperature and do a fork test to see if it’s done. 

As a guideline, plan on microwaving your corned beef for 30 minutes per pound. 

Do I add the cabbage to the slow cooker?

Yes, you will add the cabbage to the slow cooker about two hours before the corned beef is finished cooking. Cabbage can overcook easily, so it’s best to add when you have only 2 hours left on your cook time. You can add root vegetables like carrots and potatoes earlier.

What’s in that spice packet?

Pickling spices like those used in corned beef spice packets.
Pickling spices similar to those included in a corned beef spice packet.

Corned beef often comes with a spice packet. You might wonder what’s in it. Or, if you misplace it, you might need to know how to replicate it yourself.

Those spice packets hold a mix of bay leaves, coriander, crushed red pepper, peppercorns, anise, and mustard seeds. This combo, along with the curing of the meat, gives corned beef that familiar “pickled” flavor. 

Does slow-cooker corned beef need to rest?

Yes, it does. Let your slow-cooked corned beef rest for at least 15 minutes, preferably 30. Then slice it against the grain.

What to serve with slow-cooker corned beef

This recipe includes carrots, potatoes, and cabbage. These are cooked in the slow cooker with the meat so they absorb some of the brisket’s delicious flavor. Serve them alongside your meat.

Slow cooker corned beef also goes well with green beans, potatoes or squash.

Slow-cooker corned beef recipe

Yield: 6 servings

Slow Cooker Corned Beef Brisket

Close up of slow cooker corned beef with carrots, potatoes, and cabbage.
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 10 hours
Total Time 10 hours 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 10 carrots
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 pack of pickling spice (or the spice packet included with your meat)
  • 1 corned beef brisket up to 4 lbs
  • 1 head of green cabbage, sliced
  • 1 yellow onion, peeled and quartered
  • 2 large garlic cloves
  • 2-3 cups of water

Instructions

  1. Place your onion wedges in the bottom of your slow cooker.
  2. Add corned beef brisket, fat side up, and sprinkle with pickling spice.
  3. Add the garlic, bay leaves, and 2-3 cups of water, or enough to cover the brisket by at least 1 inch.
  4. Cook for 3 hours on low heat. Then add carrots and potatoes.
  5. Continue cooking for 3 hours or more. Add cabbage. Note that the cabbage can get overcooked after 2 hours or so.
  6. Remove the corned beef from the slow cooker and let it rest for 10 minutes.
  7. Slice the corned beef against the grain. Serve immediately with vegetables from the slow cooker.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

6

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 986Total Fat: 56gSaturated Fat: 22gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 26gCholesterol: 321mgSodium: 313mgCarbohydrates: 26gFiber: 9gSugar: 12gProtein: 91g
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