The easiest pastrami recipe using corned beef
Pastrami is the king of huge bistro deli sandwiches. I’d eat it every week if I could, but I’m pretty sure those same fancy bistro’s would bankrupt me. Well the good news is that pastrami is actually pretty easy to make if you do it right, and that’s what I plan to show you.
I learned how to make pastrami way back when from Steve Raichlen’s “Project Smoke.” I made two big changes to make this recipe way easier.
- Use corned beef from the store. If you want to start from scratch, you’ll end up brining a brisket for 12 days. I’m positive that brining your own brisket will result in delicious pastrami, but I don’t want to keep a whole brisket marinating in my fridge for a week and a half. Pre-brined corned beef is almost exactly the same, and comes ready to go!
- Use a smaller cut of meat: If you start with a whole brined brisket, it’ll be huge and take forever to smoke. My recipe finishes 2-3 hours faster by using a smaller store bought corned beef.
- Use a nice mustard in the rub: A lot of recipes call for ground mustard seed, which you probably don’t have. I use a nice mustard from my fridge, which is great for holding the spices of the rub to the meat.
What’s the difference between pastrami and corned beef?
Corned beef and pastrami are very similar, in fact the raw corned beef from the store is exactly the same as a brined raw pastrami. Both meats are brined, cured briskets, the difference is how you cook it. Corned beef is steamed or sometimes boiled, while pastrami is smoked or sometimes baked.
What cut of meat is used for pastrami?
Most pastrami you eat is beef pastrami made from beef brisket. There’s a long history to beef brisket in the US. The common story is that Jewish immigrants popularized brining and smoking cheap beef belly. Over time brisket became the most popular cut for pastrami.
Technically speaking, pastrami doesn’t have to use beef brisket. You can brine and cure other meats, and then smoke them to make different kinds of pastrami. Raichlen, linked above, writes about how the earliest pastrami was probably made from goose.
Use a meat slicer for perfect deli sliced pastrami
Ok, you probably don’t have a meat slicer. If you’re into smoking pastrami and other meat roasts, a meat slicer can be a great tool for making things like bacon or sliced deli meat. If you’re used to buying fancy deli meat from the meat counter, smoking and slicing your own lunch meat can also be quite effective.
What’s great about using a meat slicer is that you’ll get super thin, perfectly even slices, every time. If you have a super sharp knife and an iron will, you can make thin even slices, but you probably won’t be able to get through the entire pastrami before your arm gives out.
I like my pastrami best when cut super thin. This makes it super easy to bite through in a sandwich without pulling all the meat out. Plus, you can build super impressive stacks of meat on the sandwich.
How long does pastrami smoke?
My 4lb corned beef smoked in about 8 hours. But really you want to smoke your corned beef until it reaches 200F (93C). If you’re using a larger brisked (8lb) plus, it can take up to 10 or more hours to smoke.
Is your pastrami taking too long to smoke? If your the temperature of your pastrami is at least 165F and you’re tired of waiting, raise the temperature on your smoker another 30-40 degrees. Most roast type smokes undergo what’s known as a “stall”, where evaporating moisture cools the meat as it cook. It means your temperature might really slow down in the middle of cooking.
What is the ideal temperature to smoke pastrami to?
Smoke your corned beef pastrami to 200F (93). This high temperature fully breaks down the fats and cartilage in the meat. This makes the meat super tender, so you can bite through that sandwich with ease.
While beef is technically fully cooked by 165F, and nice roasts are ready at much lower temperatures, it’s important to cook pastrami all the way. Briskets are inherently tough cuts of meat, and only get super tender when cooked to a high temperature.
Can I freeze fresh smoked pastrami?
In short, yes you can freeze your pastrami, but I have a couple tips.
- Freshly sliced pastrami will hold in the fridge for a week. This is probably enough time for you to work through it.
- If you freeze sliced pastrami, try to get as much air out of the bag as possible before freezing. Deli meat has a high surface area to meat ratio, which makes it a higher risk for frostbite. I got a vacuum sealer for Christmas, and love to use it for perfectly preserved deli meat.
Tips for smoking pastrami using corned beef
- Use a smoke tube with pellet smokers – I find that pellet grills don’t create as much smoke as offsets or charcoal smokers. Smoke tubes are cheap steel tubes that you fill with smoker pellets. They slowly burn over the course of the smoke and really add a lot of flavor.
- Keep your water tray full – Smokers dry everything out, but a water tray can keep the humidity up. This is a long smoke, so you’ll probably have to refill the tray a few times.
- Let the meat rest – you might be tempted to tear into this pastrami right away, but most long roasts benefit from a rest time. The meat locks in all its moisture and really loosens up. You’ll notice the difference.
Suggestions for a Pastrami Sandwich
A classic pastrami sandwich would be served over rye with coleslaw. This is an incredible way to eat pastrami and highly recommend it.
Other great smoker meals:
Smoked Brisket – Now that you’ve smoked a cured brisket, you should smoke a raw brisket too!
Pit boss pork belly bacon – This is another great recipe for the meat slicer, its super easy to make your own awesome bacon
Smoked sirloin roast – This pellet grilled sirloin tip roast is sure to leave your family’s mouths watering
How to make Pastrami Recipe Using Corned Beef
Pastrami Recipe Using Corned Beef
- 1 Smoker
- 4 lb Corned Beef Brisket
- 3.5 tbsp cracked black pepper
- 3 tbsp ground coriander
- 1/2 tbsp light brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- 2 tbsp mustard I used stone ground mustard
- Combine the dry spice rub ingredients
- Pat the corned beef brisket dry with a paper towel. Once dry, rub it with 2 tbsp of stone ground mustard.
- Evenly apply the dry spice rub to the brisket, using all of the spice rub.
- Preheat your smoker to 230F, and fill up your smoker’s water tray. If using a smoke tube, start it now.
- With the smoker ready, place the corned beef directly on the smoker rack. If your corned beef has a fat layer, orient the corned beef so the fat is on top.
- Start smoking your meat, you’ll probably experience a stall between 140F and 165F. Once you get past the stall, around 170F, you can wrap the corned beef in foil or butcher paper. Increase the smoker’s temperature to around 270F and continue smoking. This will help finish the cook in a reasonable time.
- When the pastrami reaches 200F, pull the pastrami from the smoker and stow in an empty cooler for 30-60 minutes to let it rest.
- Slice the pastrami to your desired thickness and serve!