First attempt, corned beef to pastrami

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Smoking Fanatic
Original poster
OTBS Member
Apr 23, 2007
Just south of Hotlanta
Well I did it, Friday evening I bought two vacpac corned beefs. I rinsed them off real good and put them to soak in a new plastic tub and put them in the fridge. Saturday I changed the water two times and in the evening I mixed up a rub patted the meat off and completly coated the meat with the rub and back in the fridge until Sunday mid morning at which time it was add a little more rub where my handeling knocked it off and onto the smoker. It hit 160 somewhere after six or seven hours and just stuck there. The crust wasn't as crispy or dry as I was hoping for so I let it go for a couple of more hours and it got a little darker but not as tough as I thought it should have been even though I let the waterpan run dry (started low on the water too) the temp only came up a degree or two and that could have been just the difference on how I stuck the thremometer. I could have, should have let it go longer if for no other reason than to try and toughen up the skin.

Simple rub
5 T Kosher Salt
8 T Paprika (next time I am gonna go half and half with some hot hungarian)
6 T coriander seeds ground
6 T Brown sugar
4 T Black peppercorns coarse ground
4 T Yellow mustard powder
2 T White peppercorns coarse ground (I actually only had about a teaspoon worth on hand, got to keep a better eye on my supplies)
2 T onion powder
2 T Garlic powder (It called for 16 cloves of minced garlic, but I didn't want a paste and my garlic was looking kind of humble)
1 T Fennel coarse ground (it was on hand so I added it)

I have to be honest, I wish that I would have went with minced garlic or 5 T of powder. The rub smelled so good that I took a pretty good taste of it. I also have to be honest, the rub didn't work into the meat as well as I had hoped leaving me with a very mild pastrami. It took a couple of bites to get the pastrami flavor, but when I built a sandwich it fit in perfect with the brown mustard and rye bread.The meat was firm but not tough, good for slicing and the meat packer did what I would say was an excellent job of trimming the cut, maybe a quarter inch consistant that cooked down to 3/16" or less, I didn't trim off a bit. Next time I will debrine it one more day and then boil up a batch of the rub and marinade it one day in that. I am torn between injecting and not and think I will give the marinade a chance first.

I sliced up one on my slicer and steamed some meat and piled it on pan grilled Rye. On the sandwich it tasted about like a store bought pastrami, mild enough for the wife and kids but about 15% weaker than I was really hoping for. Two schools of thought here, One is that I steam the other one whole and hope that does the trick of making the rub/crust work into the meat or number two. Which would be to sprinkle a little of the rub on the sliced meat as I steam it for sandwiches. I will try number two tomorrow, I am stuffed right now and got to get to cleaning up from my weekend of smoking.

I will give this a 7 out of 10, but in all fairnessI am a pastrami critic. (although I think that is a fair score) My wife said it was good, but what does she know? Look who she is stuck with.

There will be pics as soon as I resize them
The promised pics, Enjoy



looks good. i want to try this too. i have only bought one of those corned beff briskets, a point cut. i cooked it in my crockpot and pulled it. made corned beef sammies with it. i have some store bought (carl budding brand; that thin sliced stuff in the bag that hangs on hooks in the sammich meat section) pastrami and corned beef for this week.
I got to tell ya that I am not a real big fan of corned beef, I mean that I will eat it, but it is not something that I crave, and even then the best that I have had is when it is reheated in a skillet so that there is a hint of brown crust on it or if it gets browned in the oven. I seem to recall a bad expeirence as a child, I was either sick or had a real bad sore throat one time when my mom cooked some and I have just always kind of shyed away from it. I have never cooked a corned beef at home, but my wife loves the stuff and will order it whenever St Paddys day comes around At like a Cracker Barrel restraunt (Actually in the spirit of things I ate a plate there myself last time around and it was pretty good, but it was slightly browned on the edges) I can take or leave a Rueben sandwich, but it is kind of funny, again I was over exposed to homemade kraut when young so much that I do not crave it and I have been exposed to feilds rotting after the cabbage harvest so much that I don't generally crave cabbage. But I do make stuffed cabbage three or four times a year and I eat slaw and Chinesse food with cabbage all of the time. Go figure. Maybe I need a shrink.

At any rate, I was slightly worried that my pastrami would end up tasting like corned beef, but after tasting the rub I was pretty happy. At first I was a little dissapointed that it wasn't full blown, knock your socks off strong, but after going back for another nibble I kind of think that it taste pretty good, it may be getting better with age.
i have smoked a couple of the pre-pkg corned beefs, i use a simple rub but it has to have lots of fresh cracked black pepper, and i try not to cut into it until it has sat in the fridge until the day after smoking it... it gets better when you leave it mature a little bit

my next pastrami, i am going to make the corned beef first myself, so that i can control the fat content and get more meat than fat like you get in those store bought ones
When I was growing up, we always simmered them in water for hours. It drives out all that extra salt and makes it very tender.
So ... I'm wondering if one was to do that first then put it in the smoker very low-n-slow for 2 to 3 hours ... would that work better?
Anyone try something like that?
when you soak it in water and change the water quite a few times, it takes the excess salt off but i have never done the way you said Squeezy
To expand on what I said earlier, I found this info that supports the use of water during cooking ... to do otherwise ... well!

The USDA does not recommend one particular cooking method as best. Following are methods from various sources. The cooking times are based on corned beef that is not frozen at the time of cooking. "Fork-tender" is a good indication of doneness, but use a food thermometer to be sure. For tenderness and texture, cook until the corned beef reaches a safe minimum internal temperature of 160 °F or above.
  • OVEN: Set the oven for 350 °F or no lower than 325 °F. Place brisket fat-side up. Barely cover the meat with water—about 1 inch—and keep the container covered throughout the cooking time. Allow about 1 hour per pound.
  • STOVE: Place brisket fat-side up in a large pot and cover it with water. Bring the water to a boil; then reduce the heat and simmer, allowing about 1 hour per pound. Vegetables may be added during the last 20 to 30 minutes of cooking. Cook vegetables to desired tenderness.
  • SLOW COOKER: If using root vegetables, put them in the bottom of slow cooker. Cut brisket into pieces of like size to ensure thorough cooking. Place brisket on top of vegetables (if using) or in bottom of cooker. Add about 1-1/2 cups of water or enough to cover meat. Cover and cook on high setting for the first hour of cooking. Then cook for 10 to 12 hours on the low setting or 5 to 6 hours on high. Cabbage wedges may be added on top of the brisket during the last 3 hours of cooking.
  • MICROWAVE: Calculate cooking time at 20 to 30 minutes per pound. Place brisket in a large casserole dish and add 1-1/2 cups of water. Cover with lid or vented plastic wrap and microwave on medium-low (30 percent power) for half the estimated time. Turn meat over and rotate dish. Microwave on high for remainder of time or until fork tender. Vegetables may be added during the final 30 minutes of cooking.
Just an update, I sliced the second pastrami real thin (almost shaved) with my slicer (after realigning the blade and infeed) I think it is even better with some age and being thinner.

I think I will be doing one from scratch in the future!
you know debi, one of these day's I'm gonna try your recipe also to see how different it is from what I's just that I don't have any juniper berries around........
I pick up a point or tidbit from every site or link that I visit. While I like the Idea of doing a whole brisket, I have to be honest and say that I think the flat is where it is at. Soooooo, maybe buy a couple of briskets and smoke the points for pullin' and soak the flats for pastrami. Most recipies call for a three week soak. Maybe keep the salt the same and go a little heavy on the other brine seasonings for a stronger taste. Maybe I will try a different cut and maybe even some bambi this season. It will probablly be a little while before I can get away with it again, because I still have some in the fridge from this time. Let's see, made two a week ago, if I smoke a couple of points for Q and put the flats in the brine for three weeks, starting next weekend I would be almost five weeks apart. That should be sellable to the wife. Or I guess that I could get my own fridge and keep it a secret in the basement or garage.

It turns out that my biggest gripe about this time was the Rye bread, I mean come on, couldn't it be sliced just a bit thicker? And I hate to be greedy but I don't think that I will share as much at work next time, that first one went fast! Although a couple of guys said that they are going to try it themselves and a couple said that they would buy some meat for next time.

My next biggest gripe is that the slicer knocks off the big spices when I slice it thin. I swear that I have pepper corn all over the house!
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