Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Perfect Homemade Pastrami

As much as I love corned beef, there is another meat that I love even more; pastrami. Pastrami is really nothing more than smoked brisket that has been corned or cured in a salt and spice solution. I had a brisket that’s been brining for three weeks and decided to bust it out and make some pastrami. Unfortunately, my wife doesn’t like pastrami so we compromised. I made both.

I use the Alton Brown corned beef recipe that can be found at to cure the brisket. I’ve made a bunch of briskets using that recipe and all have been fantastic. Everyone who has tried says it is some of the best they have tasted. But pastrami, now I’m in unchartered waters. I did a little research and found many methods of cooking it. Fast, slow, on the grill, in the oven, in the smoker etc. Also, the rub recipes varied as much as the cooking methods. I decided to go very basic. Cured brisket with a pepper and coriander rub. Period.
I took the brisket out of the fridge and carefully washed it in cold water to remove any residual salt. I then cut it two making sure to make more corned beef than pastrami as instructed by my wife. I dutifully followed her instructions knowing if I don’t, I’ll never hear the end of it. I also used the “point” part of the brisket.

There are two distinct parts of a brisket. The flat and the point. The point is the fattier part of the brisket. The “flat” is the leaner portion. I wanted the fattier portion because the fat would add more richness to the pastrami. I took three tablespoons of black peppercorns and coarsely ground them in my coffee grinder.

Just make sure that the grinder is absolutely clean and free of any coffee. The rich pungent smell of freshly ground pepper is nearly intoxicating. I took three tablespoons of coriander seeds and coarsely ground them too. Coriander has a very pleasant citrusy smell. I then put them in a small bowl and mixed them together. Really fantastic smell. Some other rub recipes called for garlic power, salt, paprika, pepper flakes etc. I wanted to stick to the basics. I patted the brisket dry and liberally applied the rub.

I decided to go with my trusty combination of apple and cherry wood for the smoke.

I love hickory for barbeque but thought that it would give me too bold a flavor. Oak was out simply because I didn’t have any on hand. Apple and cherry impart a subtle sweetness and I thought that it would be a nice contrast to the bite of the pepper and tartness of the coriander. As for the liquid in the smoker, I used straight apple juice. The liquid in the smoker helps keep the meat moist and control the temperature. I lit the smoker, put the meat in, stabilized the smoker temperature to 220 and waited until the internal temperature of the meat hit 185°.

I tested in a few areas to make sure that is was evenly done. This took about 4 1/2 hours. In that time I mowed the lawn, enjoyed some Harpoon UFO, and began reading the Hunger Games.

I took the pastrami out and covered it with some foil to keep it warm. Finally the moment of truth. I slice a few pieces off and bite into it. Ah, a slight smokey flavor with a big peppery bite. Tender, succulent, and rich. As with the corned beef, it wasn’t overly salty. I am very happy with results. The perfect pastrami.

No comments:

Post a Comment