April 04, 2007
Making Pastrami

One day while out shopping, Michele bought a corned brisket. She's aways on the lookout for new things and knew that I'd be interested in a whole corned beef that wasn't sliced.

The difference between corned beef and pastrami is subtle. In both cases, a beef brisket is 'corned' by curing it in a salt brine for a couple weeks. This comes from the days before refrigeration, where the use of salt and sugar to preserve meat for a long time was common.

To turn the corned brisket into a corned beef, you boil the meat.
To turn the corned brisket into pastrami, you smoke the meat.

Loyal Cruft Readers will know that I love to smoke meats, so I decided to make pastrami.

Here is the brisket.

To smoke the meat, I needed a pastrami rub recipe to properly season it. I found this pastrami rub recipe and decided it looked good.

* 5 tablespoons kosher salt
* 4 tablespoons paprika
* 3 tablespoons coriander seeds
* 3 tablespoons brown sugar
* 2 tablespoons black peppercorns
* 2 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds
* 1 tablespoon white peppercorns
* 8 cloves garlic, minced

I enjoy making my own spice rubs. It's fun to grind things up and mix things together. The smell is amazing.

The rub is applied liberally to the corned brisket.

And into the smoker it goes.

I hit it with smoke for about two hours and then gave it about 3 more hours of straight heat.

The pastrami looked pretty good coming out and definitely had a bit of the 'pastrami smell'. I was quite encouraged.

Slicing the pastrami revealed a nice look of pink meat, typical of corned meat. Normally cooking meat this long would have turned it gray. Thanks to the nitrates in the corning brine, the color is maintained.

Of course, the real test is the taste. I'll have to admit, I was a little disappointed. While is had a hint of the pastrami flavor, it tasted much stronger of a traditional corned beef. Maybe I should have soaked it in water a bit to release more salt or maybe they had pre-boiled the meat.

We enjoyed the pastrami, but I know I can do better. I will buy a raw brisket and corn it myself this time. Alton Brown, my culinary hero, did an episode on corning beef, and I will follow his recipe.

Let me know if you have any suggestions, I haven't found a lot of home pastrami makers out there.

Posted by michael at April 04, 2007 11:32 PM


Michael --

Try the following site.. They talk about soaking the corned raw meat in water for 24-48 hours to remove the extra salts.. Anyway, I tried this and it came out OK -- just make sure you don't smoke it too long.. Mine came out a bit too well done after my temp probe fell off and was reading the wrong temps causing the fire to get too hot.


Posted by: rick f. [] on April 5, 2007 9:08 PM

Michael -- I forgot to ask.. What smoker are you using? Is it ceramic (ala BGE or Kamado) or steel (e.g. water smoker, offset,etc)? Just curious..

Posted by: Rick F. [] on April 5, 2007 9:19 PM

I've heard instead of soaking the meat in brine, dry-cure it in a salt paste...I want to say I had a recipe where you packed the meat in salt, but can't remember.

By the way, is there really a Kroger in your neck of the woods?

Posted by: Laura [http://journeyoflife.goof.com] on April 6, 2007 3:12 PM

when you perfect the pastrami please save some for me! muwahahaha

Posted by: nanny-Rachael [http://www.cyberlola.com] on April 6, 2007 9:38 PM

wow, i really like this recipe it sounds amazing.

and i love that episode of good eats.

the pastrami sounds amazing though.

Posted by: jackson [] on April 16, 2007 8:30 AM

dude....just use fresh brisket....thats corned beef before its corned. trim off most of the external fat. use your rub recipe but add 1/2 c mortons Tender Quick.put in ziploc bag an refridgerate for 3-5 days....wash off an make another rub of cracked blAck pepper,cracked coriander an gran garlic.smoke for 3 hours then.....steam for 2 hours....best freakin pastRAMI ON THE PLANET

Posted by: Matthew W Baird [] on April 18, 2007 3:01 PM
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