How to Cook Pastrami: A Step-by-Step Guide

If you’re a fan of deli sandwiches, then you’re probably familiar with pastrami. This delicious meat is packed with flavor and can really take your sandwich to the next level. But have you ever wondered how to cook pastrami at home? With our step-by-step guide, you’ll learn how to prepare and cook your own pastrami, so you can enjoy that deli flavor right in your own kitchen. So grab your apron and let’s get cooking!

How to Cook Pastrami: A Step-by-Step Guide | Eat Urban Garden
How to Cook Pastrami: A Step-by-Step Guide

What is Pastrami?

Pastrami is a flavorful and tender deli meat that has gained popularity in the United States. It originates from Romania where it was traditionally made with beef brisket. The process of making pastrami involves curing the beef with a blend of spices and seasonings, then smoking it and steaming it until it’s tender and juicy. The final product is a mouthwatering and aromatic meat that can be enjoyed in sandwiches, salads or as a main dish.

What are the Different Cuts of Meat Used for Pastrami?

Pastrami is a well-known, seasoned and smoked meat that has become a staple in many households and delis. It originated from Romania and has been modified as an American Jewish dish. The key ingredient is the beef that is used to make the pastrami to give that unique, mouth-watering flavor. Although meat isn’t the only thing that defines the dish, it’s an important aspect of it.

Commonly Used Cuts of Meat for Pastrami

Several cuts of beef can be utilized to make pastrami. However, the following cuts are the most common:

  • Brisket – is cut from the breast of the cow, and is well-marbled with fat, making it perfect for slow cooking and smoking. Often seen as the holy grail cut for barbecue enthusiasts, brisket has a unique flavor and is the most commonly used meat in pastrami.
  • Navel – comes from the cow’s belly and is very fatty and flavorful due to its proximity to the bolder flavors of the ribs and belly. This cut of meat is not as accessible as brisket and is desired more by those who are looking for a different meat flavor with a similar texture.
  • Beef Round – comes from the rump section of the cow and is a leaner cut of meat than both brisket and navel. This meat cut is often used when individuals want less fat in their dish. Beef round has a milder flavor, and it is usually not as moist as brisket or navel when prepared as pastrami.

Each cut has its unique taste, texture, and cooking requirements. The choice of meat for pastrami depends on one’s preference of the level of fat and the overall flavor of the meat.

What are the Key Steps in Preparing Pastrami?

Pastrami is a beloved deli favorite that’s perfect for sandwiches and other dishes. While it may seem daunting to make your own pastrami at home, it’s actually a straightforward process that will yield delicious results. Here are the key steps in preparing pastrami:

Curing the Meat

Before you can cook your pastrami, you’ll need to cure the meat. This helps to tenderize it and infuse it with flavor. For best results, start with a high-quality cut of beef brisket. Mix together a dry rub of salt, sugar, and spices like coriander, black peppercorns, and garlic powder. Rub the mixture all over the brisket, making sure to get it into all the nooks and crannies. Then, place the brisket in a plastic bag and let it cure in the refrigerator for at least 5 days. You can also inject the brisket with a brine solution for even more flavor.

Adding Flavorful Spices

After your brisket has cured, it’s time to add more flavorful spices. Remove the brisket from the bag and rinse off any excess rub. Then, add a new layer of seasonings, such as paprika, chili powder, and mustard seeds. Make sure to rub the spices in well, so they adhere to the meat. This will give your pastrami a nice crusty exterior and a deep, complex flavor.

Smoking over Hardwood

The final step in preparing pastrami is to smoke it over hardwood. You can use either a smoker or a grill. First, soak some wood chips in water for at least 30 minutes. Then, heat your smoker or grill to about 225 degrees Fahrenheit. Add the wood chips to the smoker or wrap them in foil and place them on the grill. Once the smoke is rolling, add the brisket to the smoker or grill and cover it. Cook the brisket until it reaches an internal temperature of 195 degrees Fahrenheit. This can take anywhere from 6 to 12 hours, depending on the size of your brisket. Once the pastrami is done cooking, let it rest for at least 30 minutes before slicing it thinly and serving.

How Do You Cure Pastrami?

Pastrami is a delicious cured meat that is a favorite among many meat enthusiasts. The process of curing pastrami is straightforward, but it requires patience and attention to detail to ensure a result that is flavorful and tender. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to cure pastrami:

Creating the Brine Solution

The first step in curing pastrami is to create a brine solution that will act as a marinade for the meat. The brine consists of a mixture of salt, sugar, curing salt, and various flavorings such as black peppercorns, garlic, and coriander. The specific combination of flavorings can vary depending on individual preferences, but the general rule is to use about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of each flavoring ingredient.

The ideal ratio of salt to sugar is 1:1, and the amount of curing salt should not exceed 1.5% of the total weight of the brine. Mix the ingredients in a large pot of water and heat the mixture until the salt and sugar dissolve. Allow the brine to cool to room temperature before proceeding to the next step.

Preparing the Meat

The ideal cut of meat for pastrami is a beef brisket, but other cuts such as round or rump can also work. Trim the excess fat from the meat and place it in a large container or a resealable plastic bag. Pour the cooled brine solution over the meat, making sure that it is completely submerged in the liquid. Seal the container or bag and place it in the refrigerator for at least 3-5 days.

Smoking the Meat

After the meat has been cured for a sufficient amount of time, remove it from the brine and rinse it thoroughly to remove any excess salt. Pat the meat dry with paper towels and let it rest for an hour or two at room temperature. While the meat is resting, prepare the smoker by adding wood chips and setting it to a temperature of about 225°F.

Place the meat on the smoker and let it cook for about 3-4 hours until the internal temperature reaches about 150°F. You can also wrap the meat in foil or butcher paper at this stage to keep it moist and tender. Let the meat rest for at least 30 minutes before slicing it thinly against the grain.

Serving Suggestions

Pastrami is a versatile meat that can be served in many different ways. It is commonly used in sandwiches, either on its own or with other ingredients such as mustard, pickles, and cheese. It can also be served as a main dish, paired with sides such as coleslaw, roasted potatoes, or sauerkraut.

With its unique blend of flavors and textures, pastrami is sure to be a hit with anyone who loves meat. So why not try curing your own pastrami and see how it compares to the store-bought variety?

What Spices Are Typically Used for Pastrami?

Pastrami is a popular deli meat that is made by curing and smoking beef. It is usually seasoned with a blend of spices that give it a unique flavor profile. The following are some of the most commonly used spices for pastrami:

  • Black Pepper – This spice is used to add a slight heat to the pastrami, as well as a mild sweetness.
  • Garlic – Garlic is used to add a savory flavor to the pastrami. It also has some antimicrobial properties that help to preserve the meat.
  • Coriander – Coriander is used to add a citrusy flavor to the pastrami. It also has some antibacterial properties that help to prevent spoilage.
  • Mustard Seeds – Mustard seeds are used to add a tangy flavor to the pastrami. They also help to tenderize the meat.
  • Paprika – Paprika is used to add a smoky flavor to the pastrami. It also has some antimicrobial properties that help to preserve the meat.

How to Make Your Own Pastrami Spice Rub

If you want to make your own pastrami spice rub, you can combine the above spices in the following proportions:

  • 1 tbsp black pepper
  • 1 tbsp coriander
  • 1 tbsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

Mix all of the spices together in a small bowl, and then rub the mixture onto the meat before curing and smoking it. You can adjust the proportions of the spices to suit your own taste.

What is the Best Way to Slice and Serve Pastrami?

Pastrami is a popular deli and comfort food that originated in Eastern Europe. It is made by curing and smoking a beef brisket, resulting in a salty, savory, and delicious meat that can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. One of the most common ways to enjoy pastrami is by slicing it thin and serving it on rye bread with mustard and pickles. However, slicing pastrami can be tricky, and it’s important to slice it properly to get the best results.

How to Slice Pastrami Against the Grain

The key to slicing pastrami is to cut against the grain, which means cutting perpendicular to the natural lines or fibers that run through the meat. When you cut against the grain, the slices will be shorter and more tender, which makes a huge difference in the texture and flavor of the meat.

To slice pastrami against the grain, start by trimming off any excess fat and crust from the brisket. Then, look for the grain lines and determine which direction they run. Using a sharp knife with a long, narrow blade, start at one end of the brisket and make thin, even slices against the grain. As you slice, be sure to use a gentle sawing motion and let the knife do the work. If the meat feels tough or firm, you’re probably cutting with the grain, so adjust your angle and try again.

Tips for Serving Pastrami

Once you’ve sliced your pastrami, there are a few tips to keep in mind when serving it:

  • Let the pastrami sit for a few minutes after slicing to allow it to cool slightly and reduce any residual heat.
  • Serve the pastrami on rye bread, which is the traditional way to enjoy it. You can also use other types of bread, such as sourdough or pumpernickel, for a different flavor profile.
  • Add a smear of mustard, either yellow or deli-style, to the bread. This helps cut through the richness of the meat and adds a tangy flavor.
  • Top the mustard with a few slices of pastrami, arranged neatly on the bread.
  • Add a few slices of dill pickle on top of the pastrami for some crunch and tang.
  • Close the sandwich with the other slice of bread and enjoy!

Pastrami is a delicious and versatile meat, and once you learn how to slice it properly and serve it with the right accompaniments, you can enjoy it in a variety of ways. Whether you’re making a classic deli sandwich or using pastrami in a creative recipe, the key is to slice it against the grain to get the most tender and flavorful results.

Thanks for Cooking Pastrami with Us!

We hope this step-by-step guide has helped you cook delicious pastrami at home. Remember that practice makes perfect, so keep on cooking and experimenting with different seasonings to find your perfect pastrami recipe.

Don’t forget to come back for more cooking tips and recipes, and share this guide with your friends and family if you found it helpful.

How to Cook Pastrami: A Step-by-Step Guide | Eat Urban Garden

How to Cook Pastrami: A Step-by-Step Guide

Learn how to cook pastrami with this step-by-step guide. From preparing the meat to smoking and slicing, we've got you covered!
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 6 hours
Total Time 6 hours 30 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Jewish
Servings 12 servings
Calories 338 kcal


  • 7-10 lb beef brisket
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup coarsely ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup coriander seeds crushed
  • 2 tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 tbsp onion powder
  • 2 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp mustard seeds


  • Trim any excess fat from the brisket and season it with the salt, brown sugar, black pepper, coriander seeds, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, and mustard seeds. Allow the meat to cure overnight in the refrigerator.
  • Smoke the brisket at 225°F for 6-8 hours, or until the internal temperature reaches 165°F.
  • Wrap the brisket tightly in foil or butcher paper and cook it for an additional 1-2 hours, or until the internal temperature reaches 203°F.
  • Allow the brisket to rest for at least 30 minutes before slicing it against the grain and serving.
Keyword pastrami, step-by-step guide, cooking, recipe, deli meat

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