Corned Beef and Cabbage

Corned beef is brisket that’s been cured with seasonings and brine for several weeks. (The expression “corned” comes from the seasonings, which resemble wheat grains. (“Corn” means “wheat” in the British islands. What we call corn they call “maize.”) Trust me: it is more work than it’s worth to corn/cure beef yourself. Doing so involves the use of nitrites and nitrates, which are not easily available to the home cook. They create the unique brown-orange color we expect in corned beef, as opposed to the grey meat you get when you leave those curing agents out. Buy a nice corned brisket at the store and just boil it.

I do have a trick for you, however: add crab boil to the mixture. It will not taste like crabs or be noticeably spicy–just good. The cabbage component will be better if it’s boiled it all by itself. Also, you need some salt in the water for the cabbage, but the corned beef will get tough if you cook it with salt.


  • 1 corned beef brisket, about 4 lbs.
  • 1 Tbs. black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp. marjoram
  • 1/2 tsp. mustard seeds
  • 1 medium onion, quartered
  • 2 Tbs. liquid crab boil
  • 1 head green cabbage, quartered
  • 2 Tbs. salt

1. Wash the seasonings that were in the vacuum-pack bag off the corned beef, and put it in a large pot of cold water.

2. Put the seasonings, the crab boil, and the onion into the pot. Bring the pot to a boil, then lower to the barest possible simmer. Simmer with the cover on for three and a half hours.

3. Boil the cabbage separately in about two gallons of water with 2 Tbs. salt.

4. When the corned beef is cooked, drain it from the water and let it stand for about 20 minutes. Slice it against the grain, noting that the grain in brisket has a way of changing directions as you slice it. The thinner you slice it, the better.

Serve with Creole mustard on the side.

Serves four to six.

4 Readers Commented

Join discussion
  1. C.J. Voelkel on March 16, 2015

    Tom, “Tender Quick” from Morton’s Salt Company can be found in most Rouse’s Supermarkets in the spice isle. It is a mixture of salt (NaCl) with sodium nitrate and nitrite and can be used to cure your own corned beef (See; , , , etc.) FWIW, I doubt that the average person in Ireland has ever seen “corned beef” except for that stuff that is found in cans.

  2. SAM RYAN on January 30, 2016

    The addition of Crab Boil to the pot for improved taste is exciting me!

  3. Robert Grant on March 17, 2016

    Can “dry” Old Bay seasoning be substituted for liquid crab boil.

    • Tom Fitzmorris on March 20, 2016

      I don’t see why not, but the result will be different. Getting the right amount of seasoning will be an issue. Test the amount until you have it right.