Corned Beef and Pastrami, the right way!
Like most great foods, out of necessity, Great things are sometimes obtained.
If you have ever been to restaurants in New York Like the Carnegie Deli or Katz's Delacatessen, you know the feeling when you get a craving for great Corned Beef or Pastrami. The reason it is so great?
They make their own from scratch. And from Beef Brisket.
The reson you can almost never get that same taste and texture at other Deli's or Restaurants or even your Supermarket Deli?
Most of them do not make their own.
They buy premade, slice, heat up.
AND THE BIGGEST DIFFERANCE?
THEY USE CHEAPER CUTS OF MEAT.
Next time you look at your local Grocery Deli, look at the Pastrami.
It's a ROAST! They cut it like Roast Beef, Usually made from the same cut of Beef, and NOT BRISKET!
Brisket has a sweeter flavor and more flavor than other cuts.
Hense, thats why it tastes different when you get it at Carnegie or Katz's.
They make it the RIGHT WAY!
When I was a young girl, my favorite thing was to go with my dad to a Bar in the Bronx. I was under 12, but we didn’t go there to drink. I wasn’t old enough. It was for their Pastrami Sandwiches. Their pastrami was moist and flavorful, and even though I wasn’t young enough, the German in my Father always let me have a sip of his ice cold beer. Nothing is better than a hot Pastrami Sandwich with an ice cold beer. For me anyways, it is a great and loving memory of the good times I had with my Father. He was always working so the time we did spend alone together with no other siblings or Mom, or anyone else, was cherished deeply, and always delicious. My Dad loved food. My Mother too. My Fathers Uncle that lived next door to him as a child was a German butcher. My Dad used to tell me how His cousins took for granted they had steak a lot, my Father would be playing at their house and when dinner was ready they either sent him home or would give him a hot dog while the rest of the family ate a big steak. I could NEVER understand how they could do that, especially that they were pretty well off owning a butcher shop in New Jersey. Another reason I didn’t understand why they did that was my Mothers family, being Italian and always sharing whatever was in the house, it was a stark contrast. So when my Father and Mother we’re dating, he told her when they got married he wanted to have a nice juicy steak every week. And he pretty much did. And he always shared it with anyone in the house. He loved steak. He loved food. So going to this bar for their Pastrami that was so flavorful I believe for him, was a triumph that he was now an adult and could buy what he wanted to eat. And I believe he never liked his Uncle the Butchers Pastrami. He loved eating out and frequented diners often. When he walked into any diner or restaurant he frequented they all called out his name and treated us. We always got special treatment. Yes, even in a diner…in New Jersey! My point is Food , good or bad, makes memories that last a life time and those memories determine decisions we make sometimes.
Because of this great Pastrami, it has been a quest of some sort, over the years to find a great Pastrami sandwich. I’d buy it at the grocery store deli, but it never tasted even close to what that Pastrami in the Bronx tasted like. An unsatisfying endeavor to say the least.
Over the years I researched how it was made. But I never attempted it…until the last year.
While everyone was learning about making sourdough bread, I already knew how to do that, I decided to conquer my quest of learning how to make fresh Pastrami.
And wow, I am sure glad I did.
For me, there is no greater satisfaction than:
Remembering foods or dishes from long ago
Tasting something so good and replicating the recipe and succeeding on the first attempt.
Sharing my recipes and knowledge I have found with the world.
So I set out to make Pastrami. From scratch start to finish. But in Learning how to make it, I also learned what the difference is between Corned Beef and Pastrami. And I couldn’t believe what I found out.
Most people know corned beef around St Patrick’s day and being Irish. Years ago, it was the only time of year you would see corned beef in the grocery stores in the plastic bags filled with that pink liquid. That eerie looking stuff that you don’t know if you should put it in the pot with the beef or through it away. (I cannot tell you how many times I have been asked that.)
Throw it away! It is the brine and beef juices that have seeped out from the curing/brining process. It’s pink from the pink curing salt, nitrates. Your meat has plenty of flavoring and you actually should soak it in water for at least 30 minutes to remove the excess salt before cooking.
As you will find out from this recipe, to make Corned Beef or Pastrami, you need to brine the meat for around 2 weeks. Some brine for 1 week! Some for 1 month. I have found that 10 to 14 days does a pretty great brine.
After the brining is done, what you do next determines if you will make corned beef or pastrami. This is the Point of No Return!
The difference between Corned Beef and Pastrami?
Corned beef goes from brine to rinsing and cooking your meal.
Pastrami gets a lot of course ground pepper all over and is SMOKED! Then is rests overnight or longer, than is steamed when ready to serve and sliced.
So Corned Beef is Brined and cooked, Pastrami is brined, smoked, steamed. More work, but such a great outcome.
The best cut of beef for either, hands down, is Brisket! And it is not cheap anymore. I used to get a great 18 pounder for under $1 a pound. Now, especially after the pandemic, all beef prices have gone up dramatically. Almost $7 a pound in some stores. Crazy. But brisket is the best to make corned beef or Pastrami. Brisket can have a lot of flavor just on its own because of the fat content that surrounds and encases the cut. It usually goes on sale around St Patrick’s Day, Labor Day, Fathers, Day, Passover. Before I made my own Corned Beef or Pastrami, I would buy a large brisket when it was on sale because I could get a few meals from it. I would make Mexican Beef Machaca, pot roast, stir fry’s, tacos, burritos. So even though I was spending more on one cut of beef, I would get around 6 or more meals from it for a family of 4.
Now, because the process is the same until you cook it, I will make a corned beef and a pastrami out of the one cut. And many more meals than just 1 or 2. So if you see brisket on sale for under $4 a pound, get it. It’s not only 1 meal if you are 5 or less people. It’s also breakfast, lunch, and dinner that week, maybe 2 or 3 other times too. If you can afford a big Brisket, 15 pounds of more, do it!
Look at the fat content too. There will always be fat on top, I feel too much, so you will need to trim the excess away. You can leave it on, but it is usually too much and makes your meal too fatty. You can freeze the excess fat for other uses, feed it to your dogs, or throw it away. So inspect those huge cryovac packages of brisket. Find a good piece with enough fat, but not too much.
Before we start the recipe, one more thing to keep in mind. Timing and planning. Plan your timeframe. If you need corned beef for an occasion, plan it a few weeks out. Also, decide when to make your brine. If you only have a day because of work, make your brine in the early morning, let cool, and brine your meat in late afternoon. You can cheat and use ice to cool down, but I personally would rather get the most concentrated flavor and not delete the brine more.
Timing in cooking is everything and can be the difference between a successful outcome or a failed.
So give yourself time. And enjoy your life, food, family, friends.
I like making my own pickling spices. So that’s what I do. You can use premade pickling spices, but I like my blend best.
If you can’t buy all the ingredients to make your own, it can be pricey to buy them all separately you can use the premade pickling spices , it will be fine and you will learn the process. Use around 3 Tablespoons to the water, salt, sugar, pink salt, cinnamon sticks. It will be good. It won’t be as great as making your own. You can also triple the recipe and save the unused portion of pickling spices in a jar or plastic bag for your next curing process.
Brisket for Corned Beef or Pastrami
1 6 or more pound Fresh Beef Brisket
1 ½ Gallons water
2 cups kosher salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
(Not to be confused with pink Himalayan Salt)
2 cinnamon sticks,
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon mustard seed powder
1 TBS whole black peppercorns
8 whole cloves or 1 tsp powdered cloves
8 whole allspice berries or 1 tsp ground allspice
12 whole juniper berries
2 bay leaves, crumbled
1 teaspoon ground ginger
(For Corned Beef, Remove and reserve 2 Tablespoons for later when cooking corned beef)
6 to 8 cloves of fresh garlic sliced
The day before or morning of starting to brine your brisket, Place the water into a large 8 quart stockpot along with salt, sugar, pink salt, cinnamon stick, mustard seeds, peppercorns, cloves, allspice, juniper berries, bay leaves and ginger. Everything but fresh Garlic.
Cook over high heat until the salt and sugar have dissolved. Remove from the heat and Let cool completely. (You can add ice to quicken the cooling, however I don’t like doing this as is waters down or delutes the brine.) Cool Brine and either store in refrigerator till ready to brine your meat, or use if cooled completely
Once it has cooled, trim the fat off your brisket. I leave around a quarter inch to 1 inch of fat on top. Use a sharp knife. It’s fat so it can get slippery.
NOTE:(If you purchased a whole brisket, the flat part with hardly any fat is called the flat, the bigger part with more of a separation of meat and fat then meat and a hump of fat, is the point. You want to get as much fat off as possible, but leave enough to add flavor and tenderness. I cut it in half at this point and decide which I will use for corned beef and which for pastrami. I like using the flat for Pastrami, less fat for sandwiches. But every Brisket is different with fat content so that’s something of a personal choice. If just making corned beef or just pastrami, no deciding.
Set up your brining/curing container with plastic 13 gallons bag and place a little brine on the bottom.
Place one piece of brisket in container, add some more liquid, half of the garlic slices, then the other piece on top, rest of liquid and garlic. Your meat should be entirely immersed in brine.
Cover and close bag and remove as much air as possible. Once sealed and laying flat inside a container, put a weighted dish, pot, can to hold down meat inside bag or container and place in the refrigerator for 10 days to 4 weeks. Check every other day to make sure the beef is completely submerged. Turning and moving to make sure the brisket is covered and weighting down again.
KATZ DELI BRINES THEIR CORNED BEEF FOR A FULL 4 WEEKS AND THEIR PASTRAMI FOR 14 DAYS. HOWEVER, SEE WHAT WORKS BEST FOR YOU.
Rinse all brine off. Let soak in a large container large enough to be covered in cold water for 30 minutes. This removes a lot of the curing salt and makes your meat less salty.
Remove and Pat Dry with Paper towels
This is the point where you either make Corned Beef or Pastrami.
I don’t like boiling my corned beef. But most people do, why? They try to get all the salt and sodium out. But with that goes all the flavor. So I roast mine or cook it in a Pressure cooker or Instant Pot, after a good 30 minute soak in cold water and much more flavorful either way than boiling all the flavor away.
3 to four carrots cut into 2 inch pieces
3 or 4 celery stalks cut into 2 inch pieces
1 head of cabbage cut up into quarters
Enough water to cover the bottom of pan
If you have a baking rack that fits in your pan or Instant pot use it. It lifts the meat off the bottom so it doesn’t burn and allows air and heat to move under and over to Brisket.
Place the brisket into a Roasting Pan, Dutch Oven, or Instant Pot large enough to hold the meat. Add the carrot, celery, and cabbage and cover bottom of pot or pan with water around 1-inch.
ROASTING BRISKET: Place in preheated 350 degrees oven and cook for 3 to 4 hours in the oven, adding more water if needed
INSTANT POT: Cook around 90 minutes in an instant pot until fork tender. (If using Instant Pot, you may need to add a little more time if you have a huge brisket in there.
Remove veggies and Brisket to platter.
Slice against the grain of the meat.
Serve with Good Rye Bread, Butter, and Good Deli Mustard!
You have corned your Brisket for 14 days
Remove the Brisket and rinse with cold water until all the brine is off.
Place back in container and soak Brisket for 30 minutes to remove more of the brine
Rinse well and pat dry
4 TBS Course black pepper
1 tsp Mustard powder
2 TBS Garlic Powder
1 TBS Coriander ground or seeds
1 TBS Paprika
1 TBS Brown Sugar
Add the spices in a small bowl and mix well.
Put half the rub on the bottom of the Brisket and spread evenly.
Turn Brisket over so fat side in up and spread the remaining rub on the brisket, covering all the surface.
Get your Fire and smoker up to 225 degrees. We use charcoal and wood, but mostly wood, apple, cherry, or pecan. I do not like Mesquite or Hickory for Pastrami as I feel they are too strong in flavor and take away from the pastrami. But that is your call. Use what you feel is right and adjust accordingly.
Place a pan of water on the bottom of the smoker to add steam as it cooks. I throw in a few ice cubes every hour to give more steam. I do not baste of spray with a solution as you want the bark to form and placing liquid directly on meat prevents this. You are making Pastrami, Not Texas Style Brisket.
Smoke your Brisket till the cooking stalls around 150 to 160 degrees, usually for 3 to 5 hours depending on the size of the Brisket, the bigger the longer.
After around 3 or 4 hours, check temperature by inserting an instant read meat thermometer in the thickest part of the Pastrami, then the thinnest. Pastrami Doesn’t need a lot of smoke like other meats. You do not need a smoke ring. So ONLY COOK TO 150 TO 160 AND WRAP.
Place Brisket back in smoker and cook until 203 degrees.
Let cool keeping it wrapped.
Place cooled Pastrami in a Ziplock bag and let it rest overnight in the fridge.
To eat, slice Pastrami against the grain.
Place a steamer on the stove, fill bottom with water and let it simmer. When you see steam, place brisket in steamer making sure no water touches it and steam for a few minutes until Pastrami is hot.
Place on Rye Bread and serve.
A lot of people will submerge pastrami in boiling water to heat it up. Please Don’t do this if you want the flavor to shine through. Cooking anything in water takes flavor away. Steaming is how True Jewish Deli’s heat the Pastrami up by steaming.