Juicy Homemade Pastrami

I’ve always wanted to make pastrami. There is something mysterious and intriguing about that juicy smoked meat. For months I have thought about it, researched it and planned my attempt. Finally one day I decided to just go for it. That was a good call. This meat was AMAZING! Guess what – less than a week later I was back in the kitchen putting on another brisket to brine!

A couple of notes –

  1. I chose not to use pink curing salts (nitrates). Nitrates are important when curing meats that will be stored for a long time. We will not be storing the pastrami for long. It gets gobbled up as quickly as I can make it. Not using pink salts means my Pastrami does not have that typical rosy hue. This is purely an aesthetics issue and not a food safety issue.
  2. I chose a longer aging period. 10 days in the brine, and 10 days dry rubbed. You could shorten that by only brining 7 days, and the dry rub for 3 days.
  3. I chose not to trim the fat cap. I saw differing opinions, and decided since I was steaming it- I wanted to leave the extra fat on the brisket
  4. There are 2 kinds of pastrami. The lean thinly sliced “cold cut” pastrami found in most cold cut sections, and the hot, juicy jewish deli style pastrami. This recipe is the latter.

Making Pastrami is pretty straight forward. There are a couple of steps involved.

First you actually make corned beef. To do this you create a brine and soak your brisket for about 10 days. You will need to hold it under the brine. I used a large ziplock filled with water to force the brisket to stay under the water.

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Brisket in brine

Next you will rub it with a spice blend, and let it dry for a few more days. This creates a nice solid crust that stays on when smoking.

Third step is to smoke the brisket (now corned beef). I smoked mine on the Big Green Egg using the indirect heat method.  Once the brisket reaches 190 degrees F. remove from heat and wrap tightly in foil. Refrigerate until a few hours before you plan on serving. You can skip this step if serving soon.

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On the green egg and ready to smoke!

 

The final step is to steam the brisket. This creates an extremely tender grain because the collagen has been melted by the smoking, and the fat melts via the steaming. I found this to be the most difficult step because I didn’t have a good set up for steaming and had to continually add water since the level had to be low to avoid boiling the meat. When I come up with an ideal way to steam – I’ll add some pictures. In the meantime – a counter top steamer, or a large double broiler would be ideal (I own neither of those). Another approach might be to use the oven. To do this put a shallow tray with slits (or a smaller  deep pan that fits into it the bottom tray but doesn’t allow the water to come over the sides. Add water to bottom tray. Put the pastrami in the top tray/pan and cover both pans well with foil. Place in a 325 degree F. oven to steam. Whatever method you use, you will want to steam the brisket for about 2 hours on low.

 

Beef Pastrami

  • Time: aprox. 2-3 weeks - mostly hands off
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Ingredients

Brine:

  • 4-5 lb brisket
  • 2 quarts filtered water
  • 10 oz salt (weighed!)
  • 1/2 cup sugar (brown or white)
  • 12 juniper berries
  • 5 TBS pickling spices
  • 5 smashed garlic cloves

Dry Rub:

  • 4 tablespoons fresh coarsely ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons coriander powder
  • 1 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder

Directions

  1. Combine water, sugar and salt in a pot and bring to a boil. Stir to dissolve then remove from the heat. Add remaining seasonings and chill brine.
  2. Once cold add the brisket and weigh it down to make sure it stays under the water level. Allow to brine in the fridge for 10 days. Check daily- if it pops above the water level- flip over and push back under. I like to use a water filled baggies, or small plate to weigh down the brisket.
  3. After 10 days rinse the brisket and pat dry. Discard the brine – this cannot be reused. Cover with dry rub and age in the fridge for at least 3-10 days.
  4. Remove from the fridge and smoke at 225 degrees F. until internal temperatures reach 190 degrees F.
  5. Steam the brisket on low for about 2 hours

Finally- slice and DEVOUR! We enjoyed this particular pastrami with homemade deli mustard, jewish rye bread and a side of sauerkraut.

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