Corned Beef and Cabbage

Once a year, come mid-March, we Americans enjoy the best excuse ever to make corned beef and cabbage, St. Patrick’s Day! Never mind that the dish isn’t really eaten in Ireland, or at least not with the enthusiasm for it that you’ll find here. We’ll celebrate the day the way we like, and raise a toast with a pint of Guinness as well.

The traditional way to prepare corned beef and cabbage is to boil it, both the beef and the cabbage. Several years ago my friend Suzanne introduced me to her favorite way of making the corned beef—speckled with cloves, slathered in honey mustard and baked, served alongside sautéed cabbage.

One day we cooked the dish both ways, boiled and baked. The winner?

The whole family agreed, the baked version, hands down.

But traditions die hard. So, here we present to you both versions, a baked corned beef with honey and mustard (blanched first to extract some of the excess salt), and a boiled version. Also we show two ways to cook the cabbage, boiled or sautéed.

Enjoy and Happy St Patrick’s Day!

Updated from the archives. First posted 2009. 

Corned Beef and Cabbage Recipe

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 2 hours, 30 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 5

Corned beef is cured in a salt mixture, so it can be very salty, depending on the source. We recommend bringing the corned beef to a boil in plain water first, discarding the water, and bringing it to a boil in plain water again, and again discarding the water, before proceeding with either of the cooking approaches outlined here, especially the baked version.




Corned Beef (baked)

  • 3 lbs corned beef (in package)
  • 10 whole cloves
  • 1/4 cup hot sweet honey mustard
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar

Corned Beef (boiled)

  • 3 lbs corned beef (in package, including spice packet)

Cabbage (sautéed)

  • Olive oil and butter
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large head of cabbage, sliced into 3/8-inch to 1/2-inch wide slices
  • Salt

Cabbage (boiled)

  • 1 large head of cabbage, sliced into 3/8-inch to 1/2-inch wide slices
  • Additional vegetables such as a couple carrots (cut to 1 inch pieces) or several new potatoes (quartered)


Corned Beef (Baked)

1 Take the corned beef from the package and discard the spice packet. Note that one side of the roast should have a layer of fat, the other side should have distinct lines indicating the grain of the beef.

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Corned beef can be very salty, especially when baked. To remove some of the salt before cooking, place it in a pot fat side up. Cover with water, bring to a boil, discard the water, add fresh water and bring to a boil again. Again discard the water.

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2 Preheat oven to 350°F. Lay the corned beef, fat side up, on a large piece of heavy duty, wide, aluminum foil (you may have to get creative with the way you wrap the beef if your foil isn't wide enough). Insert the cloves into the top of the slab of corned beef, evenly spaced. Spread the top with the hot sweet honey mustard. Sprinkle brown sugar over the top.

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3 Wrap the corned beef with foil in a way that allows for a little space on top between the corned beef and the foil, and creates a container to catch the juices. Place foil-wrapped corned beef in a shallow roasting pan and bake for 2 hours.

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4 Open the foil wrapping, spread a little more honey mustard over the top of the corned beef, and broil it for 2-3 minutes, until the top is bubbly and lightly browned. Let rest for 5 to 10 minutes, then place on cutting board. Pull out and discard the cloves.

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Lift the corned beef up to see which direction the grain of the meat is.  Then cut the meat at a diagonal, across the grain of the meat, into 1/2-inch thick slices.

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Serve immediately.

Corned Beef (Boiled)

1 Place corned beef in a large (6 to 8 quart) pot. Cover the beef with an inch water. Add the contents of the spice packet to the water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer for 2-3 hours, until the corned beef is fork tender. Remove from pot to a cutting board. (Reserve cooking liquid for boiling cabbage, if you plan to boil and not sauté the cabbage.) Cut slices against the grain, into 1/2-inch thick slices. Serve.

Cabbage (Sautéed)

1 Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil (enough to well coat the pan) on medium high to high heat in a large, wide pot (8-quart if available) or large, high-sided sauté pan. Add chopped onions, cook for a couple of minutes, then add garlic.


2 Add a third of the sliced cabbage to the pan. Sprinkle with a little salt and stir to coat with oil and mix with onions. Spread out the cabbage evenly over the bottom of the pan and do not stir until it starts to brown. If the heat is high enough, this should happen quickly. The trick is to have the burner hot enough to easily brown the cabbage, but not so hot that it easily burns. When the bottom of the cabbage is nicely browned, use a metal spatula to lift it up and flip it, scraping the browned bits as you go.

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3 Once the cabbage in the pan has browned on a couple of flips, add another third of the cabbage to the pan. Mix well, then spread out the cabbage and repeat. Add a bit of butter to the pan for flavor, and to keep the cabbage from sticking too much to the pan. Once this batch has cooked down a bit and browned, add the remaining third of the cabbage and repeat.

Serve with the corned beef. Serve with boiled new potatoes. Can be made ahead and reheated.

Cabbage (Boiled)

1 Once you have removed the corned beef from the pot, add the cabbage and any other vegetables (carrots, new potatoes) to the pot. Taste the liquid. If it is too salty, add more water to the pot. Raise the heat until the liquid is simmering well. Simmer until the cabbage and any other vegetables are cooked through, 15-30 minutes.

Place vegetables in a serving bowl, add a little of the cooking liquid to the bowl.

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Showing 4 of 213 Comments

  • KissTheChef

    MMMMM. I make a pasta with caramelized cabbage and onions. I saute the cabbage and onions with pepper and salt until tender. Then I add some chopped crisp bacon and a little sour cream (or creme fresh or greek yogurt). I toss it with a rotini pasta and squeeze a little lemon juice in for a hit of acid. I bet adding some of the shredded corned beef would just top it off great..

  • Pietr

    The corned beef that is sold today in a supermarket is a far cry from real corned beef. The small, insipid packet that comes with the corned beef is a few mustard seeds. A good pickling spice should include numerous other ingredients. Go to Penzeys spices and buy a pound ($8.90). Your supermarket no longer stocks it and if it does it wants your first-born for 2 oz.

    If one does not have a good Jewish deli in your town one can reproduce the same.product. Buy your brisket with fat (schmalz). A lean brisket is a travesty. Dump a very generous handful of salt in the water, a handful of pickling spice and submerge your brisket in same. Consider adding more spice and salt. Bring to a simmer and maintain for at least an hour. Maybe you need another hour.

    Now you have corned beef. If you are foolish and bake it like a ham it will have flavor. If you are wise, keep it simple. Cut it on the bias, serve with well potatoes and boiled cabbage. Perhaps carrots, onions and turnips would do well. Cook them all in the big stockpot with the beef. Don’t add them at the start, you know when to add them in. Serve the cabbage with vinegar and the beef with mustard. If you are not kosher, butter on the side for the potatoes.

    My grandmother who lived on the lower east side of Manhattan in the 1920s would approve except for the butter. That is tref.

  • Gareth

    I absolutely love corned beef. My mother in-law from San Diego makes the most amazing corned beef by using the boiled version but then finishing it in the oven covered in mustard and brown sugar. Being from the UK, I had never heard of this style of corned beef before (I believe we would call this Irish Corned Beef). For us, “corned beef” is chopped, cured/preserved beef which is formed into a block and then canned. Sounds weird but tastes great. I think it was originally used as army rations originating back from the mid 1800’s.

    Hi Gareth – so funny, right after reading your comment I was in a grocery store here in San Salvador in the Bahamas. Tiny tiny grocery store, but they had 4 different brands of canned corned beef! Right next to the Spam. Posted the photo here on Flickr. ~Elise

  • jonathan

    I found it amusing that the steps for the baked (and preferred) version were a bit more involved than the traditional boiling methods. Ahhhhhh…the sacrifices we make for flavor. I’d be willing to bet this might also taste good as a sandwich on Hank’s Guinness bread.

    I have the perfect ending to this meal.

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