Saturday, April 7, 2012



This was my first adventure into curing meat. I am dog-sitting for my parents have have free reign of their ample counter and refrigerator space. I planned and executed several projects this the week but I directed most of my efforts to the curing, smoking, and enjoying of this magnificent beef brisket.

2 tablespoons black peppercorns
2 tablespoons mustard seeds
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
2 tablespoons hot red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons allspice berries
1 tablespoon ground mace
2 small cinnamon sticks, crushed or broken into pieces
2 to 4 bay leaves, crumbled
2 tablespoons whole cloves
1 tablespoon ground ginger.

Toast your Peppercorns, Mustard and Coriander seeds on medium heat until they are fragrant. Be careful not to burn them. If they start to pop like popcorn, you've gone too far. Once they are ready, let them cool a bit, crack them and add them to the rest of the spice mixture.
Smashy Smashy.

The Brine

In a large stock pot combine:

1 gallon of water
1-1/2 cups kosher salt
½ cup sugar
2 teaspoons pink salt (sodium nitrate)
3 cloves garlic, minced

Bring the brine to a simmer, then remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

The Waiting Game

Once the brine has cooled, put the brine in a container large enough to hold your brisket fully submerged. Add the brisket and refrigerate. Put a plate on top of the brisket to weight it down and wait 5 days, turning the brisket daily. At the end of the 5th day, remove the brisket (save the brine) and rinse thoroughly. Place covered in the refrigerator over night: this allows the cure to equalize.

Smoking Day:

After a long week, joyous smoking day is at hand!

Step 1:

Place the brisket in water for 3 hours replacing the water every hour. The cure used here for the pastrami is a corned beef brine. Corned beef is of course boiled which pulls a the salt out of the meat. Because we are smoking, we need to soak some out here or we will end up with overly salty Pastrami.

Step 2:

After removing the brisket from it's bath, pat it dry and allow it time to warm up near room temperature. In the mean time, toast 2 tablespoons of coriander seeds and 2 tablespoons of peppercorns. Once toasted, grind them in a spice grinder. This will be your dry rub.

Get in the smoker.

Step 3:

Prep the smoker. I aimed for 210-220 with a steady diet of apple wood chips. I put my brine in the water pan for good measure. I'm not sure that this id anything to the flavor, but I figured it couldn't hurt.

I kept watch on the temperature with my handy remote digital thermometer and sat back and a had a refreshing beverage. After 5 hours on smoke I checked the internal temperature of the brisket. Finding that the brisket had reached 156 in its thickest parts I removed it from the smoker and brought it into the house to finish.

There is quite a wide range of opinions as to how a pastrami should be finished. I opted for a steam/roast conglomeration which is supposed to be more NYC Deli authentic.

Step 4:

I placed the brisket on cooling racks over a cooking sheet with 2 cups of water and placed in the oven at 225 with some foil tented over the brisket. I am not sold on this method yet, but necessity is the mother of invention.

Then I let it cook until the internal temperature reach 165. I read a few different opinions as to optimal internal temperature (165 for deli style- 190 for pulled pastrami), but I was getting hungry so I went with 165. Getting the temp above 180 will liquefy the connective tissues and make the meat very tender, but a thin cut pastrami cut against the grain will not be tough at all.

I let it rest wrapped in foil for 30 minutes.

                    Pastrami, it turns out is simply                 


Tochter aus Elysium,
 Freude, schoener Goetterfunken,

Himmlische, dein Heiligtum.
Wir betreten feuertrunken,


This started out as a 6 lb brisket. I did not measure the weight after cooking, but I do know from looking that I have a lot of meat and a lot of options for how to enjoy this pastrami. For the first meal, we kept it simple.

Thin-Sliced Hot Pastrami on Caraway Rye with White Wine Dijon Mustard (and Bleu Cheese Fries)

 The most sensual of all the salted, cured meats 

The process to reheat the pastrami is to thinly slice and steam in the oven. This morning I did a little breakfast sandwich and I pan seared it like a ham steak- this was also excellent (with horseradish and honey mustard, swiss cheese and an egg). The next lunch sandwich I make I will try the steaming, but honestly this meat is so good, as long as you slice against the grain it is going to be delicious.


  1. Very nice! I love this blog. Did you catch the pastrami pizza I posted on Michael A.'s pastrami post? So, I grew up with pastrami from the navel cut, rather than from brisket. Did you come across this in your research, and/or how to find the navel cuts? mmmmmmm.

  2. Thanks, I'm glad you enjoy the blog. I didn't catch the pastrami pizza, but I will go find it. I have a lot of pastrami to eat :)

    Based on what I was reading, the navel cut was the original American cut. as far as finding the cut, I've got a butcher shop in the Ann arbor area which I know has it and I know of a few others. It would probably be good to call around. The other option is to look for some of the grass fed boys on local farms- there seem to be a lot more options when dealing directly with the farmers.

    Interesting as well was that "pastrami" refers to the process or preparation, not the meat itself. I was reading about veal heart pastrami and turkey pastrami. Interesting stuff.

  3. Cool. I finally have a couple of butchers I can go to now for specialty items; they're a big help. I've been told the same thing about the farmers: wait until fair time, then hit the slaughter houses for. I've yet to follow through on that one. I found similar references to pastrami with other meats, and now my wife wants me to try the turkey. For the pizza: mustard for the sauce, pastrami, chopped pepperoncini peppers, provolone cheese, and cold pickles after baking the pie. Enjoy!

  4. I think my next one is going to be a beef heart pastrami. I think it will better fit my available fridge space. That said, I guess a couple turkey breasts would do the same.