26 hours for smoked pastrami?

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Original poster
Jul 19, 2021
Hello everyone! I'm fairly new to smoking meats. I found a recipe for smoked pastrami that looked interesting. It can be found here:

Smoked Pastrami

I ended up with a 3 pound brisket flat, followed the recipe (quite a long process), and smoked it in my Masterbuilt MB20071117 Digital Electric Smoker at 225 degrees. It took 26 hours to reach an internal temperature of 203 degrees. I had a digital meat thermometer inserted throughout the process. I used the masterbuilt built-in thermostat to monitor temperature and confirmed this with an independent thermometer. The temperature throughout the cook was consistent, averaging 225 degrees.

So, why did it take so long to cook such a small cut of brisket? The recipe indicated a much shorter predicted finish time. I understand the theory behind the "stall". I chose not to do the "texas crutch", but to power through (patiently). I'm just surprised that it took so long to reach the target temperature. Did the brining and liquid soaking processes contribute to the length of time? Any other ideas? I'm eager to learn more.
My bet is your smoker is running much lower than 225 regardless of what the door gauge says. Get you a independent probe that you can place inside smoker to verify your temps.......and we love pastrami pics so post em up!

Edit. I see you used a second probe for chamber temp. Verify that's working correctly by testing in boiling water
No surprise to me, I've done briskets at 225 and they took 24 hours.
That's just too low to cook brisket IMHO.
These days I run them hot and fast (6-8 hours) and have no regrets, just super dark bark.
Man I saw a similar post to this recently. I just can’t get my head around it taking that long even at 225F.
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Man I saw a similar post to this recently. I just can’t get my head around it taking that long even at 225F.
same...something is not right, like the cook temp??? Ive made a few pastrami from corned beef and they dont usually take as long as a raw brisket (pretty sure). I might also suggest kickin up the cook temp unless you have endless time to kill. 225 is painfully slow for any cook. try 250-275. save hours of time and you cant tell any difference in the product.
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Welcome aboard.

Cured meats behave differently than fresh meats, think about baking a pork roast or baking a ham. But 26 hours on a 3# piece of brisket is way out of line. When you make pastrami, the beef is cured for flavor, color and texture purposes. The 'cure' also provides a level of safety if you use low smoker temps. Anyways, after several hours in the smoker you can move to any number of finishing steps for tenderizing. Many deli's use a commercial steamer, you can use a pasta pot or tamale pot at home. Wrapping will also tenderize it just like wrapping will tenderize a brisket or some ribs. I'm at higher altitude so I use a pressure finish. They are all good and accomplish the same result.... moist and tender meat.
Thanks so much for the replies and information!

I'm using a Govee bluetooth digital thermometer with six probes. One probe was in the meat. I used another probe to confirm the smoker chamber temperature. I had both thermometers in place for the entire cook. I had previously smoked some beef cheeks and it took a little longer than I had anticipated. At that point I questioned the Masterbuilt thermostat accuracy. So, this time I used the additional thermometer to verify the smoker internal temperature. It matched the Masterbuilt thermostat. I just verified the Govee thermometer accuracy with a boiling water test, using the two Govee probes I used for the cook. At a rolling boil the temperature is 203 degrees F, which precisely matches the boiling point temperature for my altitude. I also tested a separate meat thermometer that indicated the same temperature. So, it looks like my smoker is maintaining the correct temperature, my internal meat temperature measurements are accurate, but the smoking process is taking an unusually long time... I'm going to try a pork butt next. I'll be interested to see how long it takes.
I've been thinking about the cooking time. I'm at an altitude of 4,600 feet. I saw an article that addressed high altitude smoking. Here it is:

High Altitude Smoking

Some of the points are:

Lower boiling point means lower finished temperature for meat. For example, a brisket done at 205 at sea level should be 194 at my altitude.

Smoke at 225 degrees.

Smoking at altitude takes longer.

Use a water pan.

Once the stall sets in, wrap the meat. This is "almost necessary" to retain appropriate moisture.

What are your thoughts? Do you agree with the points in the article? Any other insights?
hey so, im at about 5000 ft. Not sure I would give all this that much credence or thought (I'm not in agreement with much of the website you linked). Here is my take on you questions:
  • High Altitude - it has an affect yes, its science and its proven. Do I notice? Not exactly.
    • as for done temps. I have not seen the done temp reduced by altitude. most meats are done at about the same temp you will read in recipes and write ups regardless.
      • Brisket in particular - its done when the probe test shows its done. goes through like budda. usually 195-205 IT. 194 would be low IMO. the meat needs to get hot enough to break down enough to probe easy...what ever temp that is for the piece on your grill at that time. they all have a mind of their own and each will be different.
  • Wrapping meat.
    • entirety optional. I haven't wrapped anything in over two years unless i am in a time crunch, which is almost never...I hate that sitch and avoid it at all costs. Some prefer with some without. try both and choose.
  • Water pan.
    • used one in my WSM for about a year, then never. I'm on a pellet grill now and have never used one. I think most never use them.
  • Cooking/smoking at 225...ugh...
    • so this is where I started and I think most do as its in recipes everywhere.
    • 225 is a painfully slow temp to cook at for everything. Its just slow. its not bad or wrong just slow
    • if you have the time and patience - go for it.
    • I do Baby backs at 250, brisket and butts at 275.
    • haven't used 225 for much in a long time. maybe shrimp because they cook fast and I want them to get some smoke...maybe...
    • 215 as in the article is a bad joke...a brisket would in there for days...and days...and days
  • Taking 1/4 more time at altitude - not true, never experienced this...sounds like BS to me.
that's my $0.02 on all that.
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