This Homemade Pastrami is an awesome way to make pastrami from scratch at home to use and enjoy any way you see fit. This post includes the entire process for making pastrami – from curing the meat all the way to smoking. So grab a brisket flat and let’s get to it!
What is Pastrami?
Pastrami is a cured beef, often made from the flat section of the brisket. Pastrami begins as corned beef, but the similarities end there.
Both corned beef and pastrami come from the same cut of brisket and the same cure recipe, the only difference is in the final preparation method. Corned beef is traditionally boiled. Pastrami is traditionally coated with toasted spices and slow smoke roasted.
Making Homemade Pastrami
Pastrami is made by curing the beef through a brining process to infuse the meat with salt and spices. Curing the meat takes 5-7 days to allow the meat to be thoroughly penetrated.
After brining, coat the beef in a seasoning of black peppercorns, coriander seeds, mustard seeds, and more to add additional flavor. Finally, slow smoked that bad boy to achieve delicious, smoky perfection.
Making your own homemade pastrami is not too difficult, rather it tends to be a bit time consuming. If you have the time and patience to make your own pastrami from scratch, you will be amazed at how amazing this meat turns out. Just think of all those amazing pastrami sandwiches that await when you’re finished!
Quick note before you begin, for this recipe, you will need Prague powder #1 (also called InstaCure or pink curing salt #1) in a ratio of 3.2 teaspoons cure per gallon of liquid for a 1.5 inch thick, 4-5 pound roast to get that deep pink color throughout your entire cut of meat.
The correct amount of cure is crucial to making sure your meat is fully penetrated before cooking. If you have a different size of meat than I’ve used in this recipe, please refer to this awesome chart that gives you exact calculations of meat to liquid to brine. You simply input your weight, liquid amount, and size, and that chart will tell you exactly how much cure to use.
How to Make Pastrami
Now that you’ve got the 411 on the cure, let’s get to the process:
- Cure the meat. Scroll below for full printable instructions on making the brine. Once the brine has cooled, submerge the meat in the brine, place it in the refrigerator, and cure for 5-7 days. Stir the brine mixture at least once each day.
- Season. Toast the coriander seed, mustard seed, and peppercorns in a saute pan over medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Use a mortal and pestle (or spice grinder) to grind the seeds. Add the remaining ingredients and combine well. Liberally coat the pastrami with the seasoning, and wrap it tightly. Place the pastrami back in the fridge and allow it to sit for 1-2 days.
- Smoke. Remove the meat from the plastic wrap and place it directly on the grill grates of a smoker preheated to 250 degrees F. Smoke for 6-8 hours or until the internal temperature of the meat reaches 195 degrees F.
- Enjoy. Rest for 1 hour before slicing and serving warm, or wrap the meat in plastic wrap and chill completely in the fridge before slicing thin against the grain for a killer pastrami sandwich.
Tips for Making Homemade Pastrami
Hold up! Take note of these tips before you dive into making this pastrami!
- Enjoy as you please! This pastrami is awesome sliced and served warm after resting. For a traditional deli experience, enjoy this in a sandwich! Allow the pastrami to cool completely, and then steam to heat through before serving. I like it both ways!
- Switch up your meat. The traditional approach is to use brisket, but round or rump roasts also work great for pastrami. I’ve even seen adventurous BBQers make pastrami whole beef ribs. If you’re planning on using a different meat, make sure to adjust your cure ratios and times to accommodate for larger or thicker pieces of meat.
- Toast those spices. In the recipe card, I walk you through toasting your spices for the Pastrami rub. Don’t skip this step as it makes such a huge difference in the final product and the flavor of that pastrami seasoning. And after the long process of curing the meat, what’s a few extra minutes to get the seasoning just right?
Alright my BBQ friends. You’re ready to take the leap into making your own pastrami. If this recipe is sounding a bit too involved, try out my process of How to Make Corned Beef first. Once you have that mastered, pastrami won’t seem so intimidating.
What to Eat with Pastrami
Preparing a scrumptious pastrami sandwich for lunch and need a few sides to round out your meal? While you can’t go wrong with classic potato chips, I have a few other these tasty suggestions below. Oh, and don’t forget a tasty pickle spear!
Homemade Pastrami Recipe
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- 1 5 pound brisket flat, 1.5 inches thick
Corned Beef Brine
- 2 quarts water
- 1 quart apple juice
- 1 ½ cups coarse kosher or sea salt
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 3.2 teaspoons pink curing salt #1 (Also known as Prague Powder #1. Ask your butcher or order online.)
- 3 Tablespoons pickling spice
- 1 quart ice
- 2 Tablespoons black peppercorns
- 2 Tablespoons coriander seeds
- 1 Tablespoon whole mustard seeds
- 2 Tablespoons coarse kosher or sea salt
- 2 Tablespoons smoked paprika
- 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 Tablespoon garlic powder
- Make the corned beef brine. In a large stock pot, combine all of the ingredients for the brine except the ice. Bring to a boil and stir until all of the salt and sugar has dissolved in the brine. Remove from the heat and stir in the ice until the brine has cooled to room temperature.Cure the corned beef. Place the brisket in a large food-safe plastic container and pour over the cooled brine. Keep the brisket in the cure in the refrigerator for 5-7 days, turning and stirring the brine mixture at least once per day.
- Make the pastrami seasoning. In a small saute pan over medium heat, combine the coriander seed, mustard seed, and peppercorns. Toast the spices for 2-3 minutes or until just fragrant. Transfer to a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder and pulse until well combined. Stir in the remaining rub ingredients.
- Season the pastrami. Coat the cured brisket in the pastrami rub and wrap tightly. For best results, let the roast sit in the pastrami rub in your refrigerator for 1-2 days (on a rimmed baking sheet to catch any moisture).
- Smoke the pastrami. Preheat your smoker to 250 degrees F. Unwrap the pastrami and place it directly on the grill grates. Close the lid and smoke until the internal temperature of the brisket reads 195 degrees F. This typically takes anywhere from 6-8 hours.
- Slice and serve. If you want to enjoy your pastrami immediately, let the brisket rest for 1 hour before slicing against the grain and enjoying warm. Otherwise, wrap the smoked pastrami in plastic wrap and chill completely before slicing thin, against the grain. Your pastrami slices can then be steamed lightly to warm through before piling high on your favorite rye bread with sauerkraut and thousand island dressing.