When it comes to sandwich meats, there is one that stands apart from the others, and that is smoked 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.”

smoked pastrami

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. 

If you do want to make your own corned beef brisket, check out our complete guide to making the best corned beef recipe at home!

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.

 

This is the Best Recipe for Reproducing NY Deli Style Smoked 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.

This recipe for smoked pastrami is hands down the best rendition of NY deli-style pastrami you can find out there. Trust me, I’ve tasted my fair share of pastrami sandwiches, and this recipe has never let me down. Here’s why.

Firstly, the recipe starts with a high-quality beef brisket that’s been well-marbled. This cut of meat is perfect for pastrami, as it has just the right balance of fat to keep the meat juicy and flavorful during the smoking process. Secondly, the rub used in this recipe is simply out of this world. It’s a blend of coriander, black pepper, paprika, garlic powder, and mustard seeds that perfectly complements the meat’s flavor, giving it that unmistakable NY deli-style taste.

But what really sets this recipe apart is the smoking process. The brisket is smoked low and slow over hickory wood for hours until it’s perfectly tender and infused with that smoky flavor we all crave. This slow cooking method ensures that the meat is tender and juicy, making it perfect for slicing thin and stacking high on your sandwich.

In summary, this recipe for smoked pastrami is the real deal. It starts with a great cut of meat, uses an amazing rub, and is smoked to perfection. The end result is a mouthwatering, tender, and flavorful pastrami that’s perfect for making delicious sandwiches. 

smoked Pastrami

Ingredients for Smoked Pastrami

Pastrami rub

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.

 

smoked pastrami

 

How to Make Smoked Pastrami

For this recipe, we are using corned beef which is very salty. It is very important to desalinate the packaged corn beef to remove all the extra salt which can be done by soaking it in water for up to two days.

Prep:

  1. If you’re using a brisket, trim off the fat cap but leave 1/8- to 1/4-inch of fat on it.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Cook:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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!
  4. Serve with sides or in a sandwich. Enjoy! 
  5.  

Substitutions and Variations

If you’re looking for meat substitutions for smoked beef pastrami, there are a few options available. One popular choice is turkey pastrami, which is made with leaner meat but still has a similar flavor profile. Check out my turkey pastrami recipe I make from wild turkey my husband brings home during turkey season, it’s delish and makes for the BEST SANDWICHES!

 

Tools Needed

If you are a serious griller, I recommend checking out my “Grilling Tools” page which lists out all my favorite tools for smoking meat.

Meat Thermometer- here are my two favorite:

  • Thermapen: Temperature is everything, in all cooking, not just grilling. If you aren’t using an instant read thermometer in cooking, you are leaving everything up to chance. This can be dangerous but it’s also a great way to ruin a perfectly good piece of meat. The Thermapen is the gold standard in temperature, used by chefs around the world. The Thermapen is known for it’s lightning fast temperature reads of 3 seconds or less, with new and improved Thermapens giving 1 second temperature readings. If you can’t afford a Thermapen, you can still get super quick temperature reads at onle $29 with the Thermopop.

OR

  • Meater Wifi Enabled Meat Thermometer: While I am a grilling purist and don’t like too much technology involved in my cooks, I cannot deny that the Meater Bluetooth Enabled Meat Thermometer will make you a better cook and simplify the overall cooking process! The Meater thermometer has an app full of cooking videos, recipes and tutorials that essentially idiot proofs any cook for you because you can tell the thermometer exactly what you are cooking, what your desired temp is (medium rare, etc) and it will pretty much guide you through your entire cook, giving you updates the entire time. It will give you general guides on temp so you can select the ideal setting, gives you real time updates of the the internal temp of the meat and the ambient temperature of the grill during the entire cook, notifying you as it gets close to the proper internal temp AND giving you an alarm as the food gets ready. Essentially, you cannot overcook a piece of meat using the thermometer! For those cooks who want to track temperature ebb and flow on your smoker, you can download charts from the app on your phone for the anal ocd smoker type that wants to analyze every cook. The Meater makes a great gift the BBQ person in your life because, well, it’s an awesome gift!

meater best grilling tools

 

Tips for Making

First, be sure to choose a high-quality beef brisket that’s well-marbled. This will ensure that the meat stays moist and tender during the smoking process.

Second, don’t skimp on the rub – make sure to use a generous amount of spices and seasonings to give the meat that classic pastrami flavor. Additionally, make sure to smoke the brisket low and slow over a flavorful wood like hickory or oak. Finally, be patient and allow the brisket to rest for at least 30 minutes before slicing to ensure that the juices redistribute evenly throughout the meat. With these tips in mind, you’ll be on your way to making delicious smoked pastrami that’s sure to impress!

smoked pastrami

Smoked Pastrami FAQ

Q: What is pastrami?

A: Pastrami is a type of cured and smoked meat, typically made from beef brisket.

Q: What is the best cut of meat for pastrami?

A: Beef brisket is the traditional cut of meat used for pastrami.

Q: How is pastrami made?

A: Pastrami is made by curing the meat with a mixture of salt, sugar, and spices, and then smoking it over low heat for several hours.

Q: How long does it take to smoke pastrami?

A: Smoking time can vary depending on the size of the brisket and the smoker used, but it typically takes between 8-12 hours.

Q: Can pastrami be made ahead of time?

A: Yes, pastrami can be made ahead of time and stored in the fridge for up to a week. It can also be frozen for longer storage.

Q: What are some ways to serve pastrami?

A: Pastrami is often served sliced thin on rye bread with mustard, or as a topping for pizza or salad. It can also be used in a variety of recipes, such as Reuben sandwiches or pastrami hash.

Let’s make some smoked pastrami! If you like this recipe, be sure to check out our other grilled beef recipes that will make you a backyard hero! 

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smoked pastrami

Smoked Pastrami Recipe


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  • Author: Ron Dimpflmaier

Description

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!


Ingredients

Scale

4 lbs store-bought corned beef

Pastrami rub

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.


Instructions

Prep:

  1. If you're using a brisket, trim off the fat cap but leave 1/8- to 1/4-inch of fat on it.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Cook:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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!
  4. Serve with sides or in a sandwich. Enjoy! 

Notes

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!

If you enjoyed this Smoked Pastrami recipe, check out these!

How to Make the Best Corned Beef Brisket for St. Patrick’s Day

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