Homemade Pastrami

It’s no question I like to cook. I’m passionate about it.  I particularly love cooking for people who love eating.. and get a thrill out of ‘wow’ing’ my guests.  But John and I do a lot of experimenting  just between the two of us.  Following our trip to LA (see trip reports here:  kritterspaw.com and kritterspix.com), we had some excellent pastrami at the Farmers Market in LA.  We were inspired to attempt to make our own at home.

With an idea, some cookbooks, a brisket, and a plan… we set out to make great pastrami from scratch.  Most people would say we were nuts… even extreme for attempting our own pastrami… but we thought it would be a fun experiment, admittedly something we would probably only do once.  Nonetheless, let the fun begin.

We decided to cut the whole brisket into two large pieces and do two different methods: (1) from my head, and (2) from the Mile End Deli cookbook.

The first one we brined in a sugar – salt brine (1/4 c. ea with 1 qt water) for 5 days in a gallon size baggie.  Then we removed from the brine, rinsed, dried and covered with a seasoning rub + 1 t. red curing salt (to keep the meat color red).  I make my own seasoning rub, I call it Ritter Rib Rub (RRR):

  • 2 T. Ancho chile powder
  • 1 T. toasted ground cumin
  • 1 T. thyme
  • 2 T hot chocolate mix
  • 2T course kosher salt
  • 1 T. brown sugar
  • 1 T smoked paprika
  • 1 T garlic salt
  • 1 T ground instant coffee

I applied the rub with the red curing salt all over the brined brisket, put it in a clean gallon size baggie and let it cure in the refrigerator for another 3 days.  Then I pulled it out and smoked it until the center was around 155F, about 4 hours.

smokg pastrami_Ssi.JPG

The result was AMAZING.  Admittedly a tad salty… next time maybe I’ll cut back on the salt and brine for 4 days instead of 5.  But for a first try, it was absolutely delicious.


For the second experiment we followed the Mile End Cookbook exactly.  We applied the dry rub per their pastrami recipe (no brine) and allowed to cure for 12 days until we smoked it (after a 4 hour soaking in cold water).  It was equally good, but a little more dry (perhaps because it wasn’t brined, perhaps because we hadn’t yet steamed it prior to tasting).

Had I to choose one over the other, I’d do my method with the brining as it was juicier and easier.  For an experiment I thought we’d only do once, we’re already plotting our next trials… it was that good.  Yum!


sliced plate_Ssi.JPG


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