When it comes to sandwich meats, there is one that stands apart from the others, and that is pastrami. The beautiful color, the spicy crust, it’s like perfection on a plate — and the best part is it’s easy to learn how to smoke pastrami.
When I hear the word pastrami, it evokes memories of growing up in New York and getting a pastrami on rye with spicy mustard from my local deli. Piled high and almost too big to take a bite, that heavenly first bite is sure to put a smile on anyone’s face.
The good news is you don’t have to go to New York to enjoy it for yourself. With a little work and some simple steps, you can make your own pastrami on your grill or smoker. When it’s all done and you bite into your homemade pastrami, you’ll relate to that famous scene from “When Harry Met Sally”…”I’ll have what she’s having.”
You can start with a brisket and brine your own, but I like to start with a store-bought corned beef. I haven’t noticed a big difference in the final product so hey, try it and save yourself some time and effort.
Any part of the brisket will work, the leaner “flat,” the fattier “point” (my personal choice, sorry waistline) or in this case, the whole packer corned beef brisket. Any of these will make for a flavorful and enjoyable Pastrami.
There are many ways to make Pastrami. If you read 10 different recipes, you’ll have 10 different methods. This is the closest I’ve come to reproducing those tasty treats from my childhood and it’s a pretty simple process. I got the inspiration from a recipe on AmazingRibs.com.
If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to make pastrami on your smoker to simulate the New York deli experience, this recipe will set you up for success!
4 lbs store-bought corned beef
Makes approx. 1/2 cup — enough for a small packer corned beef.
- 3 tbsp whole black peppercorns*
- 3 tbsp coarse ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 tbsp whole coriander seeds*
- 1 1/2 tbsp coriander powder
- 1 1/2 tbsp brown sugar
- 1 1/2 tbsp paprika
- 3 tsp garlic powder
- 3 tsp onion powder
- 3/4 tsp whole mustard seeds*
- 3/4 tsp mustard powder
* Place the seeds in a plastic bag and smash them with a kitchen mallet or the bottom of a pan. You want them well cracked, but not crushed into a powder.
- If you’re using a brisket, trim off the fat cap but leave 1/8- to 1/4-inch of fat on it.
- Desalinate: this step is extremely important! Packaged corned beef comes in a brine solution that is loaded with salt. Place the corned beef in a pot and cover it with water. Place this in the fridge for at least 8 hours or up to 2 days. It’s important to change the water every 8 hours. This step will remove all excess salt from your meat.
- Remove the meat and rinse it off. Pat it dry with paper towels (it’s OK if it’s still a little damp; it’ll allow the rub to adhere). Apply the rub in an even coat to the entire thing. At the flat end, you may want to use a little less rub. You can even press the rub into the meat if you’d like. Place it in the fridge for 2 days. This allows the flavors to really penetrate the meat.
- Preheat your grill to 250 degrees. I like to cook mine on my Big Green Egg on indirect over lump charcoal and cherry wood chunks. If using a gas grill or other type of two charcoal grill, set it up for two-zone cooking.
- Place your seasoned pastrami on the indirect side of your grill or on your grate over the deflector. From here, I cook mine in a similar manner to a brisket. Let it go until the meat hits the stall, around 165 degrees internal. I place it in a pan on a rack with beef broth or water in the pan and cover it. Instead of the pan, you can also wrap it in foil or pink butcher’s paper. Let it cook until it hits 200 degrees internal temp. Remove it, wrap it in towels and place it in a cooler for at least one hour to rest.
- When done cooking, slice your meat across the grain. Use a sharp knife and slice it approximately 1/8-inch thick. If you cut it with the grain, you will have a much chewier and tougher piece of meat. Nobody wants pastrami gum!
- Serve with sides or in a sandwich. Enjoy!
My favorite way to enjoy this sliced up chunk of heaven is on a rye bread sandwich with melted Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, spicy mustard and Thousand Island dressing prepared like a grilled cheese: a pastrami reuben!
Keywords: pastrami, big green egg pastrami, pastrami reuben
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