About a year ago I set out to make my own pastrami, inspired by the book Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman as well as a tasty visit to Kenny & Zuke’s in Portland. K&Z’s pastrami is heavily spiced, heavily smoked, and much fattier than the average pastrami you can get in most deli cases. It became the baseline I was trying to replicate.
It took a couple batches, but I finally settled on a procedure that gave consistently delicious results:
- I use beef plate instead of the more typical brisket. Plate is a super marbled cut that even some of the best butchers in Seattle can’t get for me. I did end up finding a butcher in Federal Way that can get it for me …occasionally.
- Four days in an approximately 10% brine solution with various spices. Rotate meat every day.
- Crust heavily with coriander and black pepper mixture.
- Smoke at 200-225° over hickory and pecan until meat is 150+°.
- Braise for 2-3 hours at 275°.
Today’s batch of pastrami was slightly different in that I used a brisket flat from Costco because my usual butcher won’t be getting plate until later in the year.
The Bradley smoke generator, soon to be needing a refill of the proprietary and too-expensive “bisquettes”:
You see that the pastrami needs several more hours in order to reach the proper temperature. Typically it takes 10 hours of smoking.
After the smoke, the pastrami can be braised for immediate consumption or refrigerated. Slices at least 1/4″ thick provide the best balance of cured meat, tasty fat, and spicy crust.
My favorite use of pastrami is the Reuben, matching it with swiss, Russian dressing, sauerkraut, topped with chopped liver, all on homemade caraway rye: