Home made pastrami


Just look at it

Pastrami is just brined and smoked corned beef. It’s easy to make and it just takes a few days from start to finish.

The version is from Ruhlman and Polcyn’s Charcuterie book.

Here’s what you need.

  • A good quality piece of brisket (or beef plate if you can get that) – about 2kg
  • Coriander seeds
  • Black pepper

For the brine:

  • 4L water
  • 350g sea salt – or other salt without caking agents.
  • 225g sugar
  • 90g Muscovado sugar – or other soft brown sugar
  • 42g curing salt #1 (pink salt)
  • 8 grams pickling spice – you made a load up last time I hope? Just grab the jar off the shelf. If you didn’t – mix black peppercorns, mustard seeds, coriander seeds, allspice berries, cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, cloves, ground ginger, blade mace and chilli flakes in a pestle and mortar. Or just buy some ready made pickling spice.
  • 60ml honey
  • 5 cloves of garlic, crushed.

Prepare the meat for brining:

  • Trim off all the surface fat from the meat. It’s worth taking your time over this. The final product can be a bit chewy in places if you leave it on. I didn’t take enough off the one in the main picture, so I’ve learned a lesson.

Then make the brine.

  • Put all the brine ingredients into a large saucepan.
  • Bring the brine to a boil, and then simmer until everything’s dissolved.
  • Let it cool, then put it in the fridge to chill.
  • Once it’s chilled, put your brisket into the brine. You can use another container if you can’t get the pot in the fridge. Weigh it down with something (a plate?) so that the meat is totally submerged. This is important.
  • Refrigerate it for 3 days
  • Take the beef out of the brine and throw the brine away. It’s done its job.
Brisket after brining

Brisket after brining

  • Dry the beef with kitchen paper. Make sure it doesn’t stick to the meat.
  • Blitz equal amounts of coriander seeds and black pepper in a coffee or herb grinder, or use a pestle and mortar if you want to make a mess and waste an hour. You need enough to cover the meat evenly.
  • Coat the meat with the coriander and pepper mixture
Brisket before smoking

Brisket before smoking

Now you’ve got options:

If you have a hot smoker, smoke that badboy until it’s 150F in the middle, as slowly as you can so it gets loads of smoke on it.

or if you don’t (I don’t, yet) you can cold smoke it, and then finish it off in the oven until it hits 150F in the middle. I tend to put it on a rack above an inch of water when it’s in the oven.

Once it’s cooked, wait until it cools, then slice it thinly. Serve it on good bread, with mustard, sauerkraut and gherkins. Or just stand there and keep shoving slices into your face.┬áIt’s bloody amazing.