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Pastrami Redux

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
While at my local butcher looking for something to smoke, I spied a beautiful little corned beef that the butcher had cured in house. Not seeing anything else that caught my eye, the decision was made - time for a pastrami redux!

Following up on my first Pastrami, I decided to try branch out to another technique I had seen - namely, steaming the finished pastrami after smoking.

The corned beef, weighing in at nearly 4 lbs!

Unlike the last pastrami I made, this one was not a flat cut, and had much less marbling and a nearly non-existint fat cap... differences that would come back to haunt me latter... icon_question.gif

The corned beef was a bit too salty for my taste, so I soaked it in ice water for an hour to pull some salt out.

After the soak, the corned beef was rinsed, dried with a paper towel, and a small sample cut for a fry test. The results, just the right level of salt!

Also departing from my previous attempt, I rubbed the entire corned beef with corse fresh ground pepper, rather than a more complex spice blend.

Fired up the smoker with a mixture of oak and apple wood pellets, and let the temperature stabilize between 225° and 250° (temps fluctuated a bit due to the wind).

The sweet smell of TBS icon_cool.gif

(2:15 pm) Placed corned beef, a tin of kosher salt (experimenting with smoked salt), and a couple of brats for snacking, into the smoker - aiming for 225° chamber temp.

(3:15 pm) After an hour in the smoker, the brats hit an internal temp of 160°, so out they came.

Despite their slightly shriveled appearance, the brats came out juicy and melt-in-your-mouth delicious!

While snacking on the brats, I noticed that the smoking chamber was fluctuating between 200° and 230° due to the wind, so changed the smoker to the 250° setting. Temps stabilized at ~230°.

(4:15 pm) Inserted probe thermometer and turned the pastrami - internal temp of 110°

(7:15 pm) Internal temp of 149° - pulled the pastrami from the smoker, and let it rest for 30 minutes.

(7:45 pm) Steamed the pastrami, aiming for an internal temp of 165°.

(8:20 pm) Pulled the pastrami from the steamer - reached an internal temp of 165°.

Allowed the pastrami to rest in a covered cambro for 45 minutes, then put in the fridge overnight.

In the morning, took a slice to see how we did. The verdict was mixed...

The first thing I noticed was the somewhat dry interior. Also related to the lack of moisture, I noticed that some of the slices were shredding like pulled pork. icon_neutral.gif

At this point, I decided to pull out the meat slicer, and see what we had to work with. Set the slicer to the second smallest thickness, and sliced away.

All in all, the pastrami had a great flavor - even if it was very lean, but I learned a few items with this smoke:
  • I need to stick to the flat cut when making pastrami - this allows for more even cooking, and the flat cut tends to have more marbling.
  • A lean cut of meat doesn't really make for good pastrami - a nice fat cap and interior marbling makes a HUGE difference in the end product.
  • In my opinion, 165° was too done for pastrami - I've seen others discuss taking theirs well above this point, but I think it dries out too much.
  • Next time, I'll pull at 140° and steam to 160°.
post #2 of 9
Robert, it sure looks good, what did you think of the steaming after smoking?
post #3 of 9
Thread Starter 
I'm undecided. I think it could be a wonderful way to finish up the pastrami, but due to the lean cut I used, actually hastened the moisture loss.

I'm going to try a couple of variations on the steaming method the next time I make a batch. Eventually, I think I'll find the magic formula ;)
post #4 of 9
I agree with the temp thing. I did my first one about a month ago and I took it off at 145 and some people thought that was too soon but it was delishious and moist to me it was prefect so I'm with you on the lower temps on pulling it. Nice job on the pastrami anyway it looks great and for samdwiches just use alittle more spicey mustard or go with the rueben you'll love it. I always say things taste better from starch. Thats why I statred a corned beef yesterday.
post #5 of 9
Hey Robert, when I steam mine I pull and allow them to cool then toss into the fridge overnight then the next day pull it out and put into the steam for a few hours, I don't temp it while steaming because it can sit in the steam for hours and will still be perfectly moist, just try not to put a cut into piece of meat in the steam, it will work but a LOT of the moisture that will swell the beef up will continue to leak out and take some of the flavors with it.
But also, a fat cap on that thing would have been a big help too, I guess your butcher was going more for a corned beef intention and not figuring it would end up as pastrami.
post #6 of 9
Thread Starter 
Hmm, I can see where that might work out really well. I'll have to try that method next time! Thanks for the tip!!
post #7 of 9
Nice looking pastrami

Brisket has enough fat that it can stay very moist taken to 200+
I can only say that my briskets have been very moist and I take them to at least 200. Cooking to lower temps like 160 will give you a firmer texture in the meat since all the connective tissue has not broken down. Connective tissue begins to break down between around 150+ and continues to about 180.
post #8 of 9
Your pastrami looks great, but the thing about corned beef is the texture of the meat between different cuts is all over the place. I've had them done in as soon as 3 hours, and some take 12 hours. Personally I look for a thick corned beef with as little fat in the middle as possible. I don't like the ones that bend too much when you pick them up. Try to find one that has the grain running end to end, as opposed to diagonally. If it has too much fat on top I cut some off. If I get the right piece of meat, I put it in the smoker for 6 hours at 225* without a probe, then I pull it out put in a probe, foil it with beer ( a few ounces ) & take it to 205*. If you can put a fork in it & it comes out without any resistance it's done. If there is still some resistance then leave it in foil & wrap in towels & put in cooler until done. Let it cool, put in fridge & slice in morning ( except for a few slices, love hot pastrami ). I also like you, like to rub with only cbp, but I also use the little pack of spices that come with the CB. First coat with EVOO, then cbp both sides, then finally put the spice pack on the fat cap. Hope this helps, Al
post #9 of 9
Good looking pastrami you have there... making me hungry.
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