I think I just gave myself the motivation to do a whole series of “make your own lunch meat” recipes. Other than the temperature control issues I just fought all day with my aging smoker, this smoked pastrami turned out amazing. Luckily, smoking a pre-brined corned beef to make pastrami is forgiving and I can attest to that since I just experienced smoker temps from 225 all the way to 325 degrees and yet, I didn’t screw it up. Man, lunch is going to be amazing this week! This recipe is really easy, so I am going to just break it down into a few easy steps.
Step 1 – Choose the Right Brisket
Obviously, everything rides on this step, picking the right protein! You are looking for a pre-brined (cured), vacuum packed corn beef brisket, flat cut. At my grocery store, they are right in with the other beef roasts. Ask the meat person, they will know what you are talking about.
Step 2 – Soak It
These pre-brined corned beef briskets are obviously cured in a very salty solution. Smoking that bad-boy will bring out even more of that salt flavor and you’ll have to drink a glass of water with every bite of your sandwich. The solution, soak it in a big glass container of water for at least 2 hours, 6 hours is preferable. Change the water a few times to make sure you are pulling out as much salt as possible.
Step 3 – Trim the Fat
Most of these beef briskets have a thick layer of fat. Most of the time, we welcome that fat when smoking but in this case, we don’t need it or want it in our sandwich. Trim the fat completely off of the brisket.
Step 4 – The Rub
No need to get crazy with the pastrami rub, there is so much flavor already from the corned beef and the smoke. You certainly don’t need any more salt! I like to keep it simple and make a great crust by combining 3 tablespoons of black peppercorns and 3 tablespoons of whole coriander seeds in a clean coffee grinder, then grind a little to a rough consistency. Rub all sides of the brisket with a generous amount of the rub.
Step 5 – Smoke the Corned Beef
Now it is time to apply some heat to this thing! I like to smoke my pastrami with Apple wood. Harsh woods like hickory will overpower the meat. Prepare your smoker for 225 – 250 degrees. Right before putting the meat on, add 2 chunks of the apple wood and it should be plenty for the cook time. I can’t emphasize enough how important a good remote meat thermometer is for these types of cooks. Once the smoker is going, there is no need to open the lid to check the temperature of the meat. We really love the ChefAlarm from Thermoworks. Set the high temp alarm to 170 degrees and go do some work around the house for the next 4 – 5 hours, it will tell you when it is done. I cook my pastrami to 170 degrees, which should take around an hour per pound of brisket. Again, time varies a lot, rely on the thermometer to tell you when it is done.
Step 6 – Slice Thin Against the Grain
Now we have a delicious, smokey pastrami roast. Time to slice it thin for sandwiches. If you have a meat slicer, please write in about how great it is so that I can use it to talk my wife in to buying one! If you are like the rest of us, slice the pastrami thin against the grain of the meat. It won’t take much, the roast should cut like butter. Serve on some great bread with a nice brown mustard and enjoy lunch for the rest of the week!
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