Sunday, 14 October 2012

Homemade Pastrami

Location: Home

Pastrami is a prepared meat that I have always really enjoyed and fell in love with at Katz Deli in NY, succulent, served with pickles and mustard on rye bread. I had a few pieces of brisket point left over from a competition. This does take a few days to prepare, but is well worth the effort.

Dry Brine
- 1x Brisket point or flat +- 2kgs
- 4x Tablespoons Sea Salt
- 2x Tablespoons brown sugar
- 2x Tablespoons dried coriander seeds (in a pan then crushed)
- 3-4 Bay leaves shredded
- 1x Tablespoon of crushed garlic
- 1x Teaspoon of crushed chilli flakes
- 3x  (8 grams) Teaspoons Prague Powder #1 (93.75% Table salt and 6.25% Sodium Nitrite)

Rinse and dry the meat. Take the dry ingredients above and mix well. Take the garlic and rub into the meat, then rub the remaining mixed dry items for the dry brine into the meat. Place the meat into air tight sealed bags and squeeze as much air out of the bags before sealing.

Place the sealed bags in the fridge and turn daily for 3-4 days. On the day you are going to smoke the meat, rinse off all the spices. I was worried about the salt content, so I placed the meat in the a bowl of water for 45mins with a plate on top. Remove from the water, dry thoroughly and then add the dry rub.

- 2x Large handfuls of coriander (roasted in a pan and crushed)
- 2x Tablespoons of pepper
- 1x Tablespoon of garlic powder

Smoke for 3-5 hours at 225F until it hits an internal temp of 165F. Wrap in foil with 2x Tablespoons of butter and put back in the smoker for 1hour. Remove from the smoker, vent for 15 minutes then wrap in foil and let it rest for 1 hour. Slice thinly and serve on warm white bread with pickles, cheese and a splash of hot sauce.

Lessons Learnt - I used 1x Teaspoon of the Prague Powder, but it wasnt enough as a result my meat was not as tender and did not have quite the pink colour I was hoping for. There are many articles written about the dangers of Sodium Nitrite and Nitrates, but it is now commonly accepted that as long as the end product is not cooked in excess of 600 degrees Celsius, carcinogens will not form in the cooked meat.


  1. Hi Cuan

    Greetings from one pastrami lover to another! Well done for spreading the word about this miraculously tasty meat.

    However, allow me to offer a few words of wisdom after spending a long time grappling with the curing and cooking process.

    Regarding the Prague Powder - I think the reason that your meat was not red throughout is because the dry rub has not penetrated well, not because you haven't used enough. You've used plenty. This is important because whilst you are right about the carcinogens only forming at high temperatures, nitrates are actually toxic in too high a concentration. So it pays to keep this low.

    What you might try instead is a brine with the prague powder dissolved within. I like about a 7-10% brine, and to give it a good week, although you can get away with less. A teaspoon of prague powder will be fine for this amount of meat. You will get better results this way.

    Secondly regarding the tenderness, a lack of prague powder is definitely not the reason it wasn't tender enough (although wet curing will help). As with BBQ brisket, pastrami needs to come to a much higher temperature than 165 to be tender. I also smoke to around 165 degrees but the important next step is to either tightly foil the brisket and finish in an oven (or the smoker) until fork tender, or to slice the brisket and finish in a steamer (this is much quicker). That is the key to pastrami heaven!

    Here are a few links to my blog on the subject:

    This is a very good guide from Tim Hayward which is what I based my original experiments on:

    Ruhlman also has a good post:

    Hope that helps!

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