13 July, 2015
Smoked Pastrami Shortcut
My wife loves corned beef. Me? Not so much. So it should not surprise you every St. Patricks Day we have corned beef. She also likes pastrami and I do enjoy this deli style meat.
This past week I spied in the freezer one of the several extra packages of corned beef purchased in March so we have, in her words: “extra for when I get a hankering for a boiled dinner!” To this next point she says I decided to make a smoked pastrami using her precious stock pile as a shortcut to avoid a meal of corned beef and cabbage. I explained since it’s summer wouldn’t a nice pastrami sandwich piled high with sauer kraut on dark rye be a refreshing warm weather meal rather than her delicious boiled dinner? (OK – I realize purists make the corned beef and I don’t. Get over it. Please read the first line. Thank you.)
Since I’d never made pastrami before I checked recipe collections of several trusted sources – friends and acquaintances who are well-known cooks. Finding three good sources for inspiration I embarked upon my mission: Smoked Pastrami Shortcut.
First I de-salted the corned beef by soaking it in fresh water overnight. Some recipes call for boiling it. I decided to go the refrigerator method. Next I dried the beef and seasoned it with ground coriander seeds and black pepper. I coarse ground these together in a spice grinder I use for this purpose.
After seasoning I placed it in a pre-heated smoker set to 235°F. The smoke chips used were 2 parts apple chips, 1 part cherry chips and 1 part hickory chips. I do not soak chips in water, rather I use manage air-flow to the chips to control the smoke. The seasoned meat smoked for about 1.5 hours and continued to cook another 30-40 minutes until the internal temperature registered about 175°F. (Well that was my target – I actually over shot it by 12 degrees.)
Several of the recipes recommended a technique they referred to as the “delicatessen” method – steaming the smoked pastrami for about 10 minutes to bring the internal temperature up to 200°F. I decided to pressure cook it. We’ve had good results pressure cooking grilled pork loin chops this way. I used about 1/2 cup of water and 1 Tbsp of Worcestershire as the liquid and after the cooker came up to pressure cooked it for about 10 minutes, before letting the cooker cool down without assistance. When I removed the meat it was 200°F – which leads me to believe it was most likely much hotter than that before cool down. Next time I may steam it to see if the final results are better.
I say “next time” because overall I was pleased with the first attempt. I think some adjustments to the prep (perhaps I will boil it to remove salt) and careful management of smoking to ensure target temperature is achieved, coupled with steaming to bring up to finish temp.
This piece of brisket was very lean so I suspect the steaming would have helped with the moisture content. The flavors were there and slicing the meat very thin before slathering the break with mustard and a generous helping of fermented cabbage (locally I use OlyKraut) will mitigate the dryness of the meat.
If you use this recipe as a guideline for your own preparation – I’d like to hear from you about your experience and any suggestions you have. ~ Barry
- 1 corned beef (I used a 3 pound store-bought corned beef)
- 1 Tbsp coriander seeds
- 1 Tbsp black peppercorns
- ½ cup water
- 1 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
- Dry wood chips or pellets for smoking
- Remove the salt from the corned beef - rinse under cold running water before placing in pot or zip-lock bag - cover with fresh water and let sit overnight in the fridge.
- Combine coriander seeds and peppercorns in grinder (or mortar and pestle if you are old school) and rough grind/crush - set aside
- Remove de-salted corned beef from water, rinse, pat dry and season with coriander/pepper seasonings. Press the seasonings into all sides.
- Place seasoned meat into pre-heated smoker (or oven) set to between 235°F and 250° and cook until internal temperature is about 175°F - 180°F.
- Remove and place in pressure cooker with ½ cup water and 1 Tbsp of Worcestershire sauce, bring to steam and let steam for about 5-8 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool. You're shooting for a target internal temperature of 200°F.
- Let meat rest and slice thinly for sandwiches.
Slice across the grain into thin slices and serve on dark rye with stone ground mustard and kraut.