View Full Version : Homemade Pastrami

03-19-2010, 10:17 PM
Making the Brine

1) 5-6 pound Brisket
2) 1 gallon cold water
3) 1 cup kosher salt
4) Prague powder #1 (by meat weight)
5) 3 oz white sugar
6) 6 bay leaves (crumbled)
7) 2 teaspoons garlic powder
8) 2 teaspoons juniper berries (crushed)*
9) 2 teaspoons black peppercorns

* Juniper berries are optional however I think it gives a nice flavor.

Mix the spices together in a pint of hot water to dissolve it well then add the rest of the water, mix well then add meat.

You can inject the meat with brine every few inches up to about 10% of its dry meats weight and refrigerate in the brine for up to seven days. Make sure that the meat is fully submerged in the brine. Refrigerate at a temperature of no lower than 40 degrees and no higher than 48 degrees. Lower than 40 will prevent the brine from penetrating the meat and higher than 48 degrees and there is a risk of the meat spoiling.

After seven days in the brine remove the meat and rinse in clear cold water to remove excess salt. Do this for about 20 minutes. Be sure not to skip this step. Now your brisket is corned beef.

If you want to skip the brining method you can buy a brisket that is already corned beef, this will save you time.

Making the Rub

1) 3 tablespoons of ground course black pepper*
2) 1/3 cup juniper berries (again this makes the pastrami)
3) 1/4 cup freshly ground coriander seeds

* I use peppercorns and grind them in a coffee mill. I find that the flavor is much better. Make sure that the pepper is not ground too fine as 1 tablespoon of fine ground pepper equals 2 tablespoons course pepper and will make the corned beef too hot

In a small mixing bowl, combine the freshly ground ingredients above. Now take the ingredients and heavily coat the entire surface. You want the spices to penetrate deep into the meat, so I let the seasoned corned beef rest for two days in the fridge in a Ziploc.

When the two days are up, I remove the chilled corned beef from the fridge. I set my SmokinTex smoker to 200 degrees and smoke until the internal temperature is 165 degrees. It is now officially pastrami. Pastrami has a slight smoked flavor, so I only apply smoke for the first couple of hours. I also use four ounces of either cherry or apple and pecan wood. You want to use a mild wood so that the flavor does not over-power the spices. After a quick smoke bath, I use only residual heat from the smoker to continue the cooking process. One of the best things about the SmokinTex smoker is that it doesn’t dry out the corned beef.
Due to the corning process, pastrami will never be as tender as BBQ brisket however, there is a trick to eliminate the chewy texture. This is the secret to great pastrami. After you remove the pastrami from the smoker place the meat in either a pressure cooker or steamer until it reaches an internal temperature of 205 degrees. It usually takes 20 minutes depending on the size of the meat. Make sure you do not overcook it.
Once it reaches the correct temperature you must let the pastrami rest over night in the fridge. If you try to eat it before the resting period it will not taste good.
With any brisket you slice against the grain. You want to slice the pastrami as thin as possible. I have an electric meat slicer that I use and it works great.