Pastrami – part Deuteronomy

Since I got a ton of requests to finish yesterday’s post (and by a ton, I mean 3 people…hey at least it’s more than my 11th grade teacher thought of me…he told me he’ll visit me in jail…yeah…couldn’t make that up if I tried), I’m actually attempting to finish it a mere 1 day week after it was started. I know, talk about a go getter!

Anyway – yesterday (side note – I really did start this the day after the last one, but obviously got side tracked, like the champion I am) we left off right after the meat had a nice little bath, for three days, in a brine, composed of pink salt, and a whole bunch of stuff. We’ll wait if you need time to catch up.

The next step toward awesomeness is allowing the meat to dry. The main reason for this is to form a “pellicle.” A pellicle is a layer of coagulated protein that will allow smoke to adhere better to the surface, and since the next step will be smoking this here bad boy, it’s really important to develop a pellicle, and it’s really not that hard. All you need to do is take the meat out of the brine, wipe it down to dry it, and just let it hang out on a rack for a day or two in the fridge. The longer the better. After a certain point it really won’t matter, but it’s better to “overdry” it, than to “overcure” it. You can even leave it drying in the fridge for up to two weeks after. Once that’s done, we’re ready to contemplate smoking.


You see, I live in an apartment, I don’t own a smoker, and there are three options that I figured I had. One was to smoke in my bbq. What I would do was, wrap a whole bunch of wood chips in aluminum foil, poke a bunch of holes, place it on one side of the grill over high flames, and then place the meat on the other side without any flame on. This is what they call a two zone grill, and you would be bbq-ing using indirect heat, while infusing the meat with smoky goodness. (One note on bbqing, if you place your food directly over the heat source [be it coals or gas] you’re technically “grilling,” where as if you place the food not directly over the heat source, and it will cook via indirect heat, you’re technically “bbqing.” So grilling is not synonymous with bbqing…just wanted to set that record straight.)

Another option I had was to rig some sort of smoker. I was considering making one out of a cardboard box like Alton Brown did, and my blog-eague (blog + colleague) did over at crazytastykosher. The problem was, 1) I didn’t have the necessary tools to make it and 1a) I’m lazy, and didn’t want to get it.

As luck would have it, discussed how to make pastrami by oven smoking it. The basic gist of it is to wrap the meat and all of the wood chips in one giant pouch, and let it smoke in the oven. The oven would provide the heat, and the pouch would keep in the smokiness. It seemed like a great idea, so I decided to give that one a try.

First I toasted some more spices, but this time only black pepper and coriander, which when you smell it, will be the classical combination that makes pastrami, pastrami.


After a quick toast, I ground them in a coffee grinder, and coated the meat with it. Then, I took my roasting pan, and put two ginormous pieces of heavy duty aluminum foil across the bottom, and placed the soaked wood chips over the bottom, and the hunk of brined muscle on a cooling rack, so it stayed suspended over the wood chips.


I stuck my thermometer in the meat, and wrapped the whole kit n’ caboodle up, like a huge thing of leftovers.


I cooked it until it was 150 degrees, and when cool, placed in the fridge until it was ready for steaming.


To steam, you place the meat in a pan, with about an inch of water, and cover tightly with heavy duty aluminum foil, and set the oven to 250ish (ie low), and let it steam until fork tender, for like 2-3 hours. However you could steam it for even longer. On Chef Ruhlman’s post on making pastrami, I actually asked him how one could do this for a Shabbos lunch, and he said you could smoke it Friday afternoon, and put the oven at 200, and let it steam until lunch the next day, even for 14 hours (it’s the first comment in the comments section on that post).

Ok, now’s the moment of truth y’all have been waiting for…how did it come out?

Well, I don’t have such great pictures, but I’m gonna level with you. The pastrami was mostly a success, it was really tasteful, not dried out, and is something I would definitely make again However, there was one major flaw to it. The smoking obviously didn’t do it justice. There really wasn’t an intensely deep smoky flavor, and while I might be able to achieve that next time by adding liquid smoke (which I’m not totally against…haters gonna hate), I don’t think that’s the right way of going about doing this. Next time, I would either smoke in the bbq, or in an actual smoker. Actually in the recipe in Charcuterie, it says a lot of pastrami recipes call to cold smoke (that means to smoke it without cooking it by doing it in a cold environment, and requires a really expensive smoker to do that), and then hot smoke it. Now while most people can’t cold smoke at home, he does say to make extra sure that the meat spends a lot of time smoking, and in order to do that, you need to keep the oven really low, so it doesn’t cook fully before it can get smoked up. Something I wasn’t all too careful about.

I served it to my family when I was up in New York for Shabbos (it was literally 3 months ago, back in March), and dear family, feel free to comment on whether I was suffering from “I-made-it-myself-so-therefore-it-had-to-be-good- itis,” which is very common for me (“woah these chocolate scrambled eggs are awesome” is something I wouldn’t be surprised comes out of my mouth…although it never did, and that kind of made me throw up in my mouth…but i digress).

I even had some leftovers for some supper on sunday, and re-steamed it, and made myself a pastrami sammich with spicy mustard and pickles, my favorite. And even that was pretty darn good also.


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sorry for the crappy pictures.

Anyway, to recap – pastrami is awesome, and not really that difficult to make. This go around was good, but definitely needs some improvements, but I wouldn’t deem it a failure, in fact I would go as far as saying it was a success! Suck that 11th grade teacher!


adapted from Michael Ruhlman’s Chacuterie


The Brine:

  • 1 gallon of water
  • 1.5 cups (350 grams) salt
  • 1 cup (225 grams) sugar
  • 8 teaspoons (42 grams) pink salt
  • 1 tablespoon (8 grams) “pickling spice” (recipe below)
  • 1/2 cup (90 grams) packed, dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced

For the Rest:

  • 1 – 5 lb beef brisket, or beef navel
  • 1 tablespoon (8 grams) coriander seeds (toasted)
  • 1 tablespoon (10 grams) black peppercorns (toasted)
  • Wood chips for smoking (I used hickory)


  1. Combine all of the brine ingredients in a pot large enough to hold the brisket, and bring to a simmer, stirring until everything dissolves. Allow to cool
  2. When cool, place brisket inside, and place a weight over top of it to ensure it stays submerged (I actually took a little of the brine, and placed it in a ziploc bag, and placed that over top of the brisket)
  3. Place the whole thing in the fridge for 3 days
  4. Remove the brisket from the brine, rinse it, pat it dry, and allow it to dry. I placed it on a cooling rack in the fridge for 4 days, but you can leave it there for up to 2 weeks, if needed.
  5. When ready to smoke, however you decide to smoke it, grind the toasted coriander and peppercorns, and coat the beef evenly with it.
  6. Hot smoke the beef until an internal temperature of 150 (longer it smokes for, the better)
  7. To steam the pastrami, pre-heat the oven to low (anywhere under 250 should be fine), place about an inch of water on the bottom of the pan, place the pastrami inside, and cover tightly. Steam until fork tender, about 2-3 hours, but you can definitely go longer (for sure up to 14 hours if needed, but I would make sure there’s enough water in the pan, and that the oven isn’t too hot), and that’s it.


Pickling Spice:


  • 2 tablespoons (20 grams) black peppercorns
  • 2 tablespoons (20 grams) mustard seeds
  • 2 tablespoons (20 grams) coriander seeds
  • 2 tablespoons (12 grams) red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons (14 grams) allspice berries
  • 1 tablespoon (8 grams) ground mace
  • 2 small cinnamon sticks, broken into little pieces
  • 24 bay leaves, crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons (6 grams) whole cloves
  • 1 tablespoon (8 grams) ground ginger


  1. Lightly toast the first three ingredients, and then smash them with the side of a knife, or in a mortar and pestle
  2. Add the remaining spices, mix well, and store in a tightly sealed plastic container.