Corned Beef Pastrami

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Corned Beef Pastrami

Post by fagesbp » Wed Feb 20, 2013 23:24

First time making pastrami. The brisket was on sale so I thought I'd give it a try. I have cured a bunch of pork but this is my first time with beef. I cut the point off of a packer brisket and used it to make some delicious jalapeno cheddar dogs. I cut the flat in half and put it curing Friday before last. I let it soak in the brine until last friday, a week, and then took it out, washed it off and put it to soak in fresh water.

After I cut the point off

After trimming and cutting it in half. I did leave some fat for flavor

Brine ingredients coming together

Into the brine

Out of the brine after a week after rinsing

Into some fresh water

And after adding some ice, back in the fridge

Here's the smoke. I did a turkey for my dad at the same time. We just cut a small piece of the pastrami to sample for today then chilled to get ready for steaming the next day.




Here are the recipes I used:
Pickling spices
2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
3 inches cinnamon sticks, total length
2 tablespoon dill seeds
1 tablespoon hot red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon mustard seeds, any color
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 tablespoon celery seeds
4 bay leaves
1 tablespoon dried thyme leaves
1 tablespoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons whole allspice berries
1 teaspoon whole cloves

1 tablespoon mace
1/2 teaspoon cardamom seeds (or 1 tablespoon pods)
1 tablespoon juniper berries
2 star anise pods

Put the cinnamon sticks and peppercorns in a plastic bag and smash them with a meat tenderizer or a hammer. Crumble the bay leaves into flakes about 1/8" size. Mix all the ingredients together and store in a tight jar.

Corned Beef
About 8 pounds of beef brisket or navel
1 gallon water
1 cup brown sugar, preferably dark
8 ounces salt, by weight
4 teaspoons pink curing salt #1
5 tablespoons pickling spices
4 cloves garlic, smashed or pressed

1) Find a container large enough to handle 1 gallon of brine and the meat (you can cut it into pieces as small as 2 pounds). It must be non-reactive (stainless steel, glass, porcelain, Corningware, or food safe plastic). It cannot be made of aluminum, copper, or cast iron, all of which can react with the salt. Do not use garbage bags or a garbage can or a bucket from Home Depot. They are not food grade. Do not use a styrofoam cooler. It might give the meat an off flavor and you'll never get the cooler clean when you're done. Zipper bags work fine. You can use Reynolds Brining Bags, Ziploc XL, and XXL bags.

2) Mix the brine in 1 quart very hot water. Add 3 quarts very cold water.

3) Take the meat and remove as much fat as possible from the exterior unless you plan to use some of it for pastrami. Then leave a 1/8" layer on one side. Because corned beef is cooked in simmering water, the fat just gets gummy and unappetizing. But if you plan to then make pastrami from it, you will be smoking the meat and in that case the fat gets succulent and lubricates the sandwich. I like to buy a full packer brisket and separate the point from the flat, and cut the flat in half when making corned beef or pastrami. That gives me 3 manageable hunks of 2 to 4 pounds each. If you leave the point attached to the flat beneath, it will be very thick and take longer to cure.

4) Add the meat to the brine. It will float, so put a plate or bowl or another non-metallic weight on top of the meat until it submerges. The meat will drink up brine so make sure there is enough to cover it by at least 1" or else you'll find the meat high and dry after a few days. Refrigerate. Let it swim for at least 5 days, longer if you wish, especially if the meat is more than 2" thick. You will not likely need more than 7 days, but once it is well cured, it can stay in the brine for several weeks. I don't know the limit, but I've left it in there for a month. Move the meat around so touching parts get exposed to brine for the first week, and then you can ignore it. When you are done, the exterior of the meat will be pale tan and if you cut into it, it should not look too different than normal raw meat, just a little pinker.

4 pounds of good corned beef, preferably homemade
4 tablespoons fresh coarsely ground black pepper
2 tablespoons coriander powder
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon paprika
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder

1) Make your own corned beef.
2) Desalinate. Put the corned beef in a pot slightly larger than the meat and cover it with cold water in the fridge for at least 8 hours. This removes excess salt. Trust me, you need to do this or you will be gulping water all night after your meal.
3) Rub. Make the rub by blending together all the spices. Rinse the meat, pat it dry with paper towels, coat it with a thin layer of cooking oil, apply the rub liberally, about 4 tablespoons per squre foot of surface, and press it into the surface to help it adhere. If there is a thin part of meat, use less rub. Put in the fridge for a minimum of 2 days.
4) Smoke. Set up your smoker or your grill for smoking. Preheat to 225°F. Pick your wood. I don't think it makes a huge difference with all the other flavors banging around in there. Smoke it fat-side up over indirect heat at 225°F until it reaches 190°F to 200°F. If you wish you can smoke it for 3 to 4 hours and finish it indoors, but this stuff can take all the smoke you throw at it, so outdoors is better. It could take 12 hours or more depending on the thickness.
5) Chill. When it is done cooking, go ahead and cut a taste. I know you want to. All the flavor is there, but it may still be a bit chewy. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 12 hours. You can keep it for a week if you wish.
6) Steam. When it is time to serve it is time to heat and tenderize. If you have a bamboo or metal steamer in which the meat will fit, you can use that. If not, take large hunks, not slices, and put it on a wire rack in a baking pan. Pour water in the pan right up to the rack, but don't get the meat wet or the rub will wash off. Cover with foil but don't let the foil touch the meat. The salt might interact and create electrical charges that can melt the foil. Put the pan on a burner, turn on the heat, and steam it an hour until heated through to 200°F, about an hour, maybe more, depending on the thickness, adding hot water as needed, making sure the pan never dries out. Don't rush this. Take it to 200°F.
7) Slicing. Slicing is crucial to maximize tenderness. Look at the meat and notice which way the grain is running. Cut it by hand in thin slices, about 1/8" thick, perpendicular to the grain. If you cut parallel to the grain it will be much chewier. Don't try to slice it with a machine. It will just fall apart.
8) Serve. A good brown mustard on both slices and a few shreds of sauerkraut is nice but not necessary. Now this is going to sound weird: It may need a light sprinkling of salt. The soaking process occasionally removes too much. So taste it and if you wish, sprinkle it on lightly. 1/2 to 3/4 pound per sandwich is more than enough for home use. If you want, you can make a Rockin' Pastrami Reuben with sauerkraut, melted swiss, and thousand island dressing. Reubens were originally made with corned beef, but there's no rule that you can't make one from pastrami. In fact, I highly recommend it.
9) Leftovers freeze well and they can be reheated in the microwave or steamed. They can also be made into a killer hash.

Here's the finished product. I am very happy with how it came out. With this being the first time I cooked a brisket from beginning to finish with no foil I was definitely nervous. The slices are pretty thick so I guess my knife skills could use some work. It was coming apart as I sliced.

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Post by CrankyBuzzard » Thu Feb 21, 2013 02:17

Looks like you nailed it brother!

It's hard to take a large chunk of beef like that and submerge it into a solution the first time, but once you taste the final result it becomes a madness! I love pastrami and corned beef!

Keep on making it, but experiment a bit with the ingredients to match your personal flavor. Once you nail it down, your soaking pot will never be empty!

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Post by crustyo44 » Thu Feb 21, 2013 04:15

What a great post with a great end result. I never made pastrami before but after looking at your photo's I just have to bite the bullet.
Keep on posting my friend!!!!!!

There is one thing though, looking at your plastic brining container, are you sure that it is actually approved for use in food production. We have the same looking containers here and ours are NOT approved at all.
I make sure now that all my plastic containers have the approved and correct markings.
As a hobby distiller I see many people storing alcohol in non approved plastic bottles, I always shudder when I see this.
I am getting to bloody old to slowly poison myself and others.
Just my two bobs worth.
Posts: 97
Joined: Tue Sep 25, 2012 18:37
Location: Arkansas

Post by huckelberry » Thu Feb 21, 2013 10:06

I must say. I love both corned beef and pastrami, and that looks devine. Nice going... now I'm drooling all over my keyboard.
Don't take life to seriously.
You're not getting out of it alive!
Posts: 25
Joined: Wed Jan 23, 2013 23:17
Location: Louisiana

Post by fagesbp » Thu Feb 21, 2013 22:46

Thanks yall.

Crusty, yes it's food safe. I did the research before buying it to make sure. It's a PP5 type plastic.
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