March 29, 2009
Homemade Pastrami, Part Deux

I have tried making pastrami from scratch before, but was not completely happy with the result. I was determined to succeed and tried the pastrami recipe from the wonderful Charcuterie book by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn. They have never steered me wrong before with their recipes and cooking methods.

I chose to use a 2.5 pound beef brisket as the meat. At the farmer's market, I had picked up a local raised, grass fed cut and wanted to use it. The recipe calls for 5 pounds, so I cut everything in half.

The basic corning of the beef takes 3 days in brine. I followed the recipe from the book, except instead of pink salt, I use saltpeter, 'cause I'm old school and I had it in the cupboard, but no pink salt. My previous attempt had been a 2 week cure, this was much quicker.

I rinsed and dried the brisket. I toasted coriander seeds and black peppercorns and then ground them coarsely. This was the dry rub I applies.

Then off to the smoker for a couple hours. I tried to keep the smoke up, but the temperature low, until the brisket hit 150 F internal. You can see what it looked like when I pulled it out. The process really changed the smoked meat. Water was pulled into the meat and the remaining fat/connecting tissue was broken down even more. I was plumped up and juicy as I moved it a cutting board.

I brought it inside to rest a bit. The pastrami smelled pretty good.

Next, I put the pastrami into a steamer. This was a new part of the technique to me. The bottom of the pot had a couple of inches of water below the steamer. I covered it and placed it in the oven for 2 hours at 275 F.

Slicing revealed a perfect color. They taste, texture, and rich mouth feel were all perfect. Michele tasted a piece and declared, "That's pastrami." High praise indeed.

Soon enough the pastrami was on some rye bread ready to consume. I only wish I had a meat slicer to get some really thin slices.

Overall, a welcome success on my path toward cooking nirvana. Looking forward I'll be making pastrami more often when I pick up some nice cuts of brisket.

Posted by michael at March 29, 2009 08:20 AM


Woohoo! Success!


Posted by: Little Kenny [] on March 29, 2009 4:19 PM

Looks really nice. Would you say that the saltpetre could be easily skipped. I know that we differ on this step, but that bright red color scares me.

What kind of wood did you use for the smoke?

Posted by: Ken [] on March 30, 2009 12:00 PM

Any particular wood? I used to save my prunings from the walnut, pecan, almond and apple trees for my b-n-l in Reno. He switched to an electric smoker and says it uses so little wood he does not need any more from me. I have sent him your link hoping he will try it and bring me some on his next trip through town.

Posted by: Chuck of Bakersfield [] on March 31, 2009 9:02 AM

My mouth is watering from the photos! I can almost smell it. Mmm! Congrats on your success.

Posted by: lomara [] on April 1, 2009 1:40 AM

Wow that looks amazing.
can you tell difference b/t salt peter and pink salt?
I've used both and tend to prefer pink salt...but that has more to do with a mental block on salter peter :D

Looks like the results were great


Posted by: Nick Dawson [] on April 14, 2009 7:54 AM

Excellent work. I read your previous articles on these efforts and I'm excited to start making my own next week. SInce this was a shorter brine, did you still soak it in water to leech out some salt? I didn't notice this in the text, but wanted to make sure.


Posted by: Francisco [] on April 15, 2009 8:19 AM
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