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Pastrami anyone?

post #1 of 4
Thread Starter 
Got any killer pastrami recipes? I'd sure like to hear them. Do you need a commercial smoker, or can you makeshift one from ordinary home kitchen equipment? Step-by-step, OK(?), I'm unfamiliar with the smoking process. I love this stuff, though, and I can't find a good deli anywhere, so I figure it's high time I broke down and got that beef brisket and made my own. Want it the way they make it in the Jewish delis, if you happen to know. Man, my mouth is watering just thinking about it! :lips:
post #2 of 4
for good cured and smoke meats recipes check out charcuterie by brian polcyn and michael ruhlman
post #3 of 4




1/2 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup black peppercorns
4 tbs coriander seeds
2 tbs juniper berries
2 tsp granulated garlic
1 tsp dry ginger

1 brisket flat, trimmed to about 1/8”, about 5 or 6 lbs. Note: The trim is important. If you scalp the brisket you’ll end up with a dry pastrami. If you leave too much fat, a) the marinade won’t penetrate, and b) the pastrami will be unpleasantly greasy.

1 qt beef broth
3 cups water, or 12 oz water + bottle of (preferably) beer, or (better) ale or (best) stout
4 tbs pickling spices
4 bay leaves
2 tbs additional juniper berries
2 tbs additional black peppercorns


Place peppercorns, coriander seeds and juniper berries in a spice grinder or strong blender. Give them a quick whirl so that all is crushed to approximate size of salt. Mix the salt, sugar, garlic, and ginger with the seasonings from the grinder.

Reserve 1/4 of the seasonings. Rub the flat thoroughly on all sides with seasonings. Wrap in saran wrap, then aluminum foil. Place in a glass pan in the refrigerator. Turn daily for at least one week, up to two weeks is better. Remove brisket from all wrappings. Place on rack in pan so it can drain, and put uncovered in refrigerator for at least four hours, or overnight, until very dry.

Prepare smoker to run at 200 deg, or lower (preferable). Remove from refrigerator and place cold in the smoker. Smoke brisket between 2-1/2 to 3-1/2 hours, depending on strength of wood used at lowest temperature you can still get smoke. You want a fair amount of smoke, but very little bark (surface crust). The "preferred" woods for smoking are cherry and oak. I've had good luck with pecan, too. Mesquite is very strong, oak and hickory slightly less. Must nut woods, maple, and most fruit woods are medium strength. Alder is mild. Avoid chestnut and walnut.

Remove pastrami from smoker and place in kettle just large enough to hold it. Cover the pastrami with a broth made from beef stock and water, or beef stock and beer (best!), or water and beer. Add the reserved rub, the pickling spice, the bay leaves, the additional juniper berries, and the additional black peppercorns.

Bring to a simmer, cover, and simmer until the meat is tender. 2-1/2 - 3 hours.

Remove from water and slice, as thin as you can, across the grain, on the bias.


Brisket, with its relatively shallow depth and and thick covering of fat is an unusual cut. The only common cut I can think of that is similar in size and shape is a butterflied leg of lamb. But lamb fat is highly indigestible, and you want all the fat off of the leg -- a much easier trim. Taking all but a very thin layer on the brisket is more of a challenge. It requires concentration and is best done with a long, sharp knife. A "slicing" shaped knife is ideal as is a "cimiter." Chef's knives have a little too much body, as do “butchers’” and “breakers,” so the angle of attack can be determined by the flat of the blade itself. Still, they are good second choices, as are fillet knives with a 7" or longer blade. I wouldn't want to go into this with a paring knife, "steak knife," or “santoku” unless one of these were the only choice. In any case, as with all kitchen knife tasks, you want something sharp.

If it's a whole brisket, separate the point from the flat so you're dealing with two pieces. Start with the flat by prodding it with your fingers to find the part with the thickest and stiffest fat. Place the palm of your off-hand gently over the fat, and use your knife to cut through the fat, between the heel of your palm and the red part of the meat -- without cutting into either! Hold the knife with a soft hand so you have a lot of "feel." You're trying to take a piece of fat no larger than about 2-1/2" x 3" or, roughly a quarter your hand (not counting fingers). If you feel like your cutting into the meat, take your hand away and cut up to take off the fat. Even if you're sure you're not cutting into the meat keep your trimmings reasonably sized. Trim the point in exactly the same way. Don't hurry. Don't worry if you cut all the way down here and there. A little unevenness will actually make for a better pastrami.

The point is usually a hard cut to find sold on its own. But it's more popular among commercial suppliers for pastrami. Just not for best quality pastrami. My recipe is written for the flat, but you can use substitute the point if you like. Just make sure you don't overcook it in the broth or it will fall apart instead of slicing. There's no exact timing. You'll have to use a fork or press the meat with your fingers to check for doneness. I use my fingers, but there aren't a lot of people stupid enough to stick their hands into simmering water. They know who they are.


Since this recipe requires only light smoking, you may use a stove-top smoker box; build a smoker ala Alton Brown, or use a smoker built and sold for home use. If you're considering buying a smoker, I recommend the Weber Smokey Mountain as the best unit for beginners; one of the best small smokers, period; and a dandy, portable grill.

Note 3: PLEASE

This recipe is original, and will be included in a book I'm currently writing. I'd prefer that you not share it, but if you must, please attribute it to me, Boar D. Laze. I'd hate to see it running around the net as someone else's.

Because it is for a work in progress, I appreciate your reaction. Let me know what you think,
post #4 of 4
Thread Starter 
Thanks very much, friends, I'll check into all of this. And BDL, I'm having hunger pangs just reading your reply! And, of course, I will not infringe on your rights, and, I sincerely appreciate your taking the time to share your recipe, cooking method and procedures. I, personally, FWIW, am a purist. I like it plain and hot on a good rye. A good mustard and/or sauerkraut, sometimes, when I feel like it, but that's it. A big Kosher dill on the side, of course. Don't get no better than that, IMHO! :lips:

PS BDL: Give me a little while. I'll let you know how I make out.
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