Easy to make NY deli style pastrami made from a Prime Wagyu beef brisket. Easy & delicious!
Truth be told, I am a pastrami nut. I grew up in Los Angeles where there were many terrific NY style delis to get a great pastrami sandwich. Fast forward 40 years. I have since lived in Seattle, Washington where there is NO good pastrami to be found and in Austin, Texas where there is, surprisingly, some decent pastrami. Good rye bread, however, is still hard to find. So, I decided to bite the bullet and make both homemade pastrami AND homemade rye bread. While it was a tasty project, the pastrami was FAR EASIER to make than the rye bread. Let’s just say I have tremendous respect for a good Jewish bakery.
Pick the Right the Brisket
A brisket is an odd piece of meat. A packer brisket is the pectoral muscle and it gets quite a workout. As a result, it can very tough but also very flavorful and is perfect for smoking low and slow. A packer brisket has two very distinct sections, the flat and the point. The flat is the larger of the two and tends to be lean. The point is a much smaller area that runs perpendicular to the flat and is much fattier. The point is where burnt ends come from. Pastrami is made from the flat so there is no reason to buy a packer brisket. Your local market or butcher chop will gladly sell you just the flat that has been separated from the point.
One side will have a layer of fat that should be trimmed down to about 1/4″ thick. Remove any hard pieces of fat that will not render or any grayish areas of fat that almost appear to have skin. At the bottom of this article is a link to my YouTube video on how to trim a brisket. That video involves trimming a full packer brisket but it will be helpful to watch for the parts about trimming the flat.
Brine it for a Week
Brining is perhaps the most important step in making a brisket. The brining process will create pastrami that is both tender and juicy. Simply place the brisket in a non-reactive tub with a tight fitting lid. A dough tub works well.
Mix the brine ingredients and stir until the sugar and salt is dissolved. Pour the mixture over brisket, cover and refrigerate for 6 – 7 days.
Then remove the brisket, rinse and pat it dry. Discard the brine. Coarsely grind peppercorns and coriander in a coffee grinder. Coat the brisket all over with the peppercorn and coriander mixture.
Smoke the Brisket Low and Slow
Making pastrami requires a two-step cooking process. First, smoke the brisket at 225˚F until the internal temperature reaches 165˚F. Then wrap the brisket tightly in two or three layers of heavy aluminum foil and return it to the smoker. Continue to cook until the internal temperature reaches 185˚F. The first step provides the smoky flavor while the second step basically braises the brisket and keeps it from drying out. This ensures juicy and tender pastrami.
Let it Rest then Rest Some More
Remove the brisket from the smoker and wrap it in a bath towel (foil and all). Place it in an ice chest to rest for two hours. This step is extremely important to help the pastrami reabsorb all that juice. If you carve too soon, the juice will all run out and you will be left with dry pastrami. After two hours, cut the pastrami into thin strips and pile it high on some fresh rye bread. Don’t forget the mustard.
If You Like Pastrami, Check These Out
- 4-5 lb brisket preferably prime Wagyu
- 3 qts water
- 3/4 cup brown sugar packed
- 2/3 cup kosher salt
- 1 tbs curing salt Prague Powder
- 3 tbs pickling spice
- 3 bay leaves
- 2 tbs peppercorns whole
- 1 tbs coriander seed whole
- Place brisket in a tub with a tight fitting lid. Mix all brine ingredients and stir until sugar and salt is dissolved. Pour over brisket, cover and refrigerate for 6 – 7 days.
- Remove brisket, rinse and pat dry. Coarsely grind peppercorns and coriander in a coffee grinder. Coat the brisket all over with the peppercorn and coriander mixture.
- Smoke at 225 degrees until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. Then wrap the brisket tightly in two or three layers of heavy aluminum foil and return to the smoker. Continue to cook until the internal temperature reaches 185 degrees.
- Remove the brisket from the smoker and wrap it in a bath towel (foil and all). Place it in an ice chest to rest for two hours. Carve and serve.