Pastrami is a classic deli staple that you can make right at home. This cured and smoked meat is delectable when done right. Cooking pastrami may look intimidating at first, but don’t worry; the process is easier than you think. Learning how to cook pastrami can give you something special to share with your family and friends. This guide will show you how to make homemade pastrami that is tender, flavorful, and perfect for any occasion.
The History of Pastrami
Pastrami is a staple in many delicatessens across North America, but its origins began centuries ago in Romania. During the 19th century, Jewish Romanian immigrants brought pastrami to North America and it quickly became a popular dish in Jewish communities. The dish’s popularity eventually spread to other communities as well, and it can now be found in delis and restaurants throughout North America.
The Origins of Pastrami
Pastrami originally began as a way to preserve meat using a process called “corning”. This process involved rubbing the raw meat with a dry mix of salt, sugar and spices, and then allowing the meat to sit for several days. The salt in the mixture would draw out the moisture from the meat, creating a brine that would help preserve it. After several days, the meat would be rinsed, dried and smoked, which would give it a distinctive flavor.
Traditionally, pastrami was made using beef brisket, although other cuts of meat can be used as well. The beef brisket would be rubbed with the corning mixture and then allowed to sit for a week or more, depending on the size of the brisket. After being rinsed and dried, the meat would be smoked over low heat for several hours to give it a rich and smoky flavor.
The Rise of Pastrami in North America
When Jewish immigrants brought pastrami to North America in the late 19th century, they quickly introduced it to the locals. It gained popularity in the Jewish community, and it wasn’t long before it was being served in delicatessens and restaurants across the country. In fact, pastrami became such a popular dish that it was even served in army mess halls during World War II.
Today, pastrami is enjoyed by people of all cultures and backgrounds. Whether it’s on a sandwich, in a salad, or just on its own, pastrami is a delicious and flavorful meat that has a rich history and a bright future.
The Different Cuts of Meat Used for Pastrami
Pastrami is a popular deli meat that is made by smoking, seasoning, and cooking beef. To make the perfect pastrami, it’s essential to choose the right cut of meat. The following are the different beef cuts used to make pastrami and their unique characteristics.
Brisket is the most commonly used cut of beef for pastrami. This cut comes from the lower chest of the cow and is known for its tenderness and rich flavor. The fat content in brisket keeps the meat moist and juicy even after long cooking times. The most popular types of brisket for pastrami are the point cut and flat cut.
- The point cut is taken from the front of the brisket and has more marbling, which makes it juicier and more flavorful but can be tougher to slice.
- The flat cut is taken from the leaner bottom part of the brisket and is easier to slice but can be drier and less flavorful.
The round is a lean cut of beef that comes from the hind leg of the cow. This cut is less tender than brisket but has a beefier flavor and is healthier due to its lower fat content. Round cuts are usually used to make pastrami in kosher-style delis as it’s a kosher cut of meat.
The short plate comes from the lower belly of the cow, just below the ribcage. This cut is known for its marbling and flavor but can be tougher than brisket. It’s less commonly used to make pastrami but is a popular option in Texas-style barbecue where the meat is smoked for long periods.
The Best Ingredients for Making Pastrami
Pastrami is a mouth-watering delicacy that’s perfect for sandwiches, soups, or as a main dish. If you’re planning to make this delicious treat, here are the ingredients you’ll need:
The first and most important ingredient is the meat. Typically, pastrami is made using beef, but you can also use other meats like pork, turkey or even fish. Brisket, which is cut from the breast of the cow, is the most commonly used cut of meat for making pastrami.
- Beef Brisket
A good brine is essential to the flavor and texture of your pastrami. Brine is a mixture of salt, sugar, water, and spices that is used to moisten, tenderize and flavor the meat. Brining your meat prior to cooking will ensure that it absorbs all the flavors of the seasoning.
- Kosher Salt
- Garlic Cloves
- Black Peppercorns
- Bay Leaves
- Coriander Seeds
The rub is an essential part of the pastrami-making process, as it gives the meat its distinctive flavor and texture. The rub typically contains a mix of different spices, herbs, and seasoning that give the meat its unique taste, texture, and aroma.
- Crushed Black Peppercorns
- Garlic Powder
- Onion Powder
- Mustard Powder
- Brown Sugar
- Cayenne Pepper
The secret ingredient in most pastrami recipes is love and patience. So, just take your time and enjoy the process of creating a masterpiece!
The Brining Process for Pastrami
If you’ve ever made homemade pastrami, you know that the brine is one of the most important ingredients. A great brine will infuse your meat with flavor and moisture, giving it that signature cured taste and texture. Here is a step-by-step guide to making the perfect brine for your pastrami.
The Basic Brine Recipe
The basic ingredients for a pastrami brine are water, salt, brown sugar, and curing salt, also known as Prague powder. Prague powder is a mixture of salt and sodium nitrite, which prevents the growth of harmful bacteria and gives the pastrami its distinctive pink color.
Customizing Your Brine
While the basic recipe will give you great results, you can customize your brine with additional flavors and spices. Some popular additions include:
- Coriander seeds
- Black peppercorns
- Mustard seeds
Feel free to experiment with different combinations of spices to find the flavor that works best for you.
Brining Your Meat
Once you have your brine prepared, it’s time to brine the meat. Here’s how to do it:
- Place your meat in a large container or plastic bag.
- Pour the brine over the meat, making sure it is completely covered.
- Seal the container or plastic bag and refrigerate for 5-7 days. The size of your meat will determine how long it needs to brine. A general rule is to brine for 1 day per pound of meat.
- After the brining process is complete, remove the meat from the brine and rinse it thoroughly with cold water. Pat the meat dry with paper towels.
Now that you have perfectly brined pastrami, you’re ready to cook it up in your favorite recipe. Enjoy!
The Smoking Process for Pastrami
If you want to make the perfect pastrami, then you need to master the smoking process. Smoking is the key to getting that delicious, smoky flavor that makes pastrami so irresistible. There are several different smoking methods that you can use for pastrami, and each one has its own unique advantages and disadvantages. In this section, we’ll go over the different smoking methods and show you how to achieve the perfect smoky flavor in your meat.
The Different Smoking Methods for Pastrami
There are three main smoking methods that you can use when making pastrami: hot smoking, cold smoking, and liquid smoking. Each of these methods has its own unique benefits, depending on the level of smoky flavor you want to achieve and the time you have available.
- Hot smoking: This is the most popular method of smoking pastrami and involves smoking the meat at a high temperature (usually between 225-250 degrees Fahrenheit) until it reaches the desired level of doneness. The smoke is generated by burning wood chips or charcoal, and the meat is placed directly on the grill or in a smoker box. Hot smoking is the fastest and easiest method, but it can also produce a harsher, more intense smoky flavor.
- Cold smoking: This method involves smoking the meat at a low temperature (usually between 80-100 degrees Fahrenheit) for a longer period of time (up to 24 hours). The smoke is generated by burning wood chips or sawdust in a separate smokehouse or chamber, and the meat is placed on a rack or hung to allow the smoke to penetrate the surface. Cold smoking produces a milder, more subtle smoky flavor that is perfect for delicate meats like pastrami.
- Liquid smoking: This method involves adding liquid smoke to the raw meat before cooking. Liquid smoke is made by burning wood chips and capturing the smoke in water, and it is used as a flavoring agent in many processed foods. While not as authentic as traditional smoking methods, liquid smoke can still add a smoky flavor to pastrami, especially if you don’t have access to a smoker or grill.
Tips for Achieving the Perfect Smoky Flavor
Regardless of the smoking method you choose, there are some tips and tricks you can use to achieve the perfect smoky flavor in your pastrami. Here are a few to keep in mind:
- Choose the right wood: Different woods will produce different flavors, so choose one that complements the flavor of your pastrami. For example, hickory is a strong, bold wood that pairs well with beef, while applewood is milder and sweeter, making it perfect for pork.
- Don’t over-smoke: Too much smoke can make your pastrami bitter and unpleasant. Follow the recommended smoking times for your chosen method, and don’t be afraid to experiment to find the perfect balance.
- Brine the meat: Brining your pastrami before smoking can help it retain moisture and develop a deeper flavor. Use a simple mixture of salt, sugar, and spices, and let the meat soak for at least 24 hours before smoking.
- Let it rest: Once your pastrami is finished smoking, let it rest for at least 10-15 minutes before slicing. This will allow the juices to redistribute and ensure that your pastrami is tender and juicy.
With these tips and techniques in mind, you can master the art of smoking pastrami and create a delicious, smoky masterpiece that will impress your friends and family.
Serving and Enjoying Pastrami
Now that you’ve learned how to cook pastrami, it’s time to think about how to serve and enjoy it. Here are some tips for making the most of your delicious homemade pastrami:
Pastrami Sandwich Ideas
There’s nothing quite like a classic pastrami sandwich, but there are plenty of ways to make it your own. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- The Classic: Layer pastrami on rye bread with Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and Russian dressing.
- Reuben Dip: Mix chopped pastrami with cream cheese and Thousand Island dressing for a delicious dip.
- Pastrami Panini: Press sliced pastrami, provolone cheese, and roasted red peppers between two slices of ciabatta bread.
Pastrami Salad Ideas
If you’re looking for a lighter option, try adding pastrami to your salad. Here are some ideas to try:
- Cobb Salad: Layer chopped pastrami, avocado, bacon, hard boiled eggs, and blue cheese on a bed of greens.
- Greek Salad: Toss chopped pastrami, feta cheese, tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, and Greek dressing together.
- Caesar Salad: Replace the chicken in a Caesar salad with sliced pastrami and enjoy the spicy kick it adds.
Other Pastrami Dishes
If you’re feeling adventurous, there are plenty of other dishes you can add pastrami to. Here are some ideas to try:
- Pastrami Pizza: Top a pizza crust with tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, sliced pastrami, and your favorite veggies.
- Pastrami Omelette: Whisk together eggs, chopped pastrami, Swiss cheese, and green onions for a delicious breakfast option.
- Pastrami Tacos: Fill corn tortillas with pastrami, guacamole, shredded lettuce, and salsa for a unique twist on tacos.
Enjoy Your Delicious Pastrami!
Thank you for taking the time to read this guide on how to cook pastrami. We hope that you found our tips helpful and that you can now confidently make your own delicious pastrami at home. Whether you’re enjoying it on its own or in a classic sandwich, pastrami is sure to be a hit among family and friends. Don’t forget to visit us again for more cooking guides and inspiration!
The Best Guide on How to Cook Pastrami
- 5 lbs beef brisket
- ½ cup coarsely ground black pepper
- ½ cup paprika
- ¼ cup kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons garlic powder
- 2 tablespoons onion powder
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
- Trim the excess fat from the brisket and pat dry with paper towels. Score the fat cap in a diamond pattern, making sure not to cut too deep into the meat.
- In a medium bowl, mix together the black pepper, paprika, kosher salt, garlic powder, onion powder, brown sugar, and coriander seeds. Rub the spice mixture all over the brisket, making sure to cover it well.
- Wrap the brisket in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours, or overnight. This will allow the flavors to meld and the meat to absorb some of the seasonings.
- Remove the brisket from the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature. This will take about an hour. Preheat your smoker to 225°F and add the brisket. Smoke for 6-8 hours, until the internal temperature reaches 203°F.
- Remove the brisket from the smoker and let it rest for 30 minutes. Slice against the grain and serve hot. Enjoy!