Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > BBQ, Smoking, & Grilling >
Feb 27, 2014 11:04 AM

Is smokng a brisket pastrami?

I have a brisket I have been brining for the past 72 hours; kosher salt, brown sugar, quick cure, bay leaves, coriander, cloves, allspice, ginger, cinnamon. I plan on continuing for another 48. I'm new to brining brisket so here is my question; if I put this on the smoker am I making pastrami? I had initially wanted this to be corned beef but after reading, I would smoke it for pastrami or roast it for corned beef. I wouldn't mind either but can you help clear it up for me?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. This neat article will answer your questions! Enjoy!

    We have a brisket brining now also!

    1 Reply
    1. Both corned beef and pastrami are corned (cured) brisket.

      Corned beef is roasted, braised, boiled, or (sometimes) steamed after it is cured.

      Pastrami is cured and then typically re-seasoned (I rub mine with Montreal steak seasoning) before being smoked.

      I have a brisket in the fridge waiting for me right now that is destined to be pastrami. I like plain corned beef too, but I think that the smoke adds a ton of flavor to it.

      6 Replies
      1. re: FoodFire

        What wood do you like for this? Hickory?

        1. re: WNYamateur

          Yes hickory, but I've been lucky enough to procure some whiskey soaked oak chips that I use for most all of my smoking. I usually "double up" on the smoke flavor, using primarily the oak and something else. With this project hickory. But I've used them all before.

          1. re: WNYamateur

            I've used hickory, but really like grape vine if you can find it - rich and fruity and not too heavy.

          2. re: FoodFire

            Your last point is my thought exactly. I want to add more flavor to the meat by smoking. But is it just because I am smoking it that it turns into pastrami? Is it the rub you put on before the smoke that makes it pastrami? I just want to understand this...first time trying to accomplish this. I appreciate your advice.

            1. re: dynamicdazzo

              Sorry to jump in here (I realize you're asking FF), but smoke alone doesn't make it pastrami, its the specific rub as well.

              If pastrami is your goal, you can follow the methodology in the thread I I mention below, BUT the final rub would have to be different from the peppercorn/coriander.
              However, a specific "pastrami" rub, I do not know.

              1. re: dynamicdazzo

                Smoke alone would make it smoked corned beef - I think. It's the additional rub plus the smoke that makes pastrami. Then there's the whole Montreal smoked meat thing, and I don't even want to try to sort that one out ;).

            2. FoodFire summed up nicely in 3 short paragraphs.

              Theres a 13 pounder curing in my fridge for corned beef and another 14 pounder waiting for Montreal Smoked Meat (MSM) treatment.

              I wet-cure corned beef, but dry-cure for MSM.

              I rub with a peppercorn/coriander mix before smoking (2 to 1 whizzed a bit in the blender).

              5 days in wet brine might not cure a whole brisket (thick part) through and through. But no worries if theres a center of gray.

              If'n you ever wanna give Montreal Smoked Meat a try (a variant of pastrami), maybe have a gander here

              1. Just make sure to soak it in some fresh water if you plan to roast it or smoke it and not cook it in liquid. Depending on the amount of salt in your brine it may take a very short soak or a day or more

                Do a fry test to test the saltiness before proceeding. Cut off a little bit of meat and fry it up and taste it. This will give you an idea what you need to do

                16 Replies
                1. re: scubadoo97

                  Thanks everyone! Any other tip/ideas are greatly appreciated!

                  1. re: dynamicdazzo

                    Brining a big chunk of meat can be a PITA. I started using ginormous (pillow-size) Ziploc bags: less brine required and easy peasy.

                    1. re: dynamicdazzo

                      I use a rub with the seasoning/curing spices and wrap the meat tight in a plastic bag. Turning every day.

                      I like to cook it sous vide x 2 d to get it tender with no chance of overcooking and drying it out.

                      I do top round or chuck as frequently as brisket. Comes out great and is cheaper. You don't get the fat, but the SV keeps it juicy.

                      1. re: sal_acid

                        Oh, and I really do like bags for brining. Minimizes the amount of liquid and you don't have to worry about submerging the meat. I use the huge storage Ziplocs for bigger batches. Of course, with a tub or fridge drawer as secondary containment. They do tend to leak sometimes.

                    2. re: scubadoo97

                      Good tip. I like to change the soaking water every 3 hours or so.

                      1. re: scubadoo97

                        I've had good luck brining for only 3 days. The last one I did, I was concerned about it fully curing in that amount of time due to thickness. So, I injected it more or less all over to be certain.

                        I don't worry about soaking it then. For the same reason, I brine-cure pork belly for bacon. Don't have to worry about the salt level as long as I take it out at 72 hours plus/minus a couple.

                        The other thing I think is that people expect a really steamed-tender texture from pastrami. I cook it maybe slightly more than I would a brisket (it also seems to cook quicker in the smoker for me). It still takes a little tug to pull apart a slice, so it isn't completely melt-y.

                        1. re: scubadoo97

                          We just taste tested a brisket we have going in an old salt peter recipe, great flavor, definitely needs to be desalted or simmered for hours, and far less pink than we hoped for.
                          I cut off an end slice, briefly rinsed, and pan fried dry to well done....tasty..but salty and not pink...

                            1. re: scubadoo97

                              10 days as of now, as recommended by the OLD recipe.

                              1. re: Raffles

                                Interesting. The Amazing Ribs recipe uses the same amount of pink salt as Rulman's recipe. I would think that at that level it would retain its pink color.

                                Maybe the high heat fry test yields a less red color than slow cooking the whole hunk of meat. Mine is 7 days in the brine at the moment. I was going to pull it at 10 days and let it dry prior to coating with the pastrami rub.

                                Please post on your end result

                                1. re: Raffles

                                  we used salt peter, not pink slats...

                                  1. re: Raffles

                                    You use potassium nitrate (saltpeter) instead of sodium nitrite? Why? It doesn't directly cure meats, isn't used any longer, and when it was, it was used how sodium nitrate is, for long term preservation, not short term. Or are you accidentally calling sodium nitrite saltpeter?

                                    1. re: JMF

                                      I used salt peter,potassium nitrate, because that was what I was able to get locally last week, and is what the recipe called for. It was from an old cook book. And my local source for the salt peter is a Amish market.

                                      5#s of pink salt came in the mail yesterday.

                                      1. re: Raffles

                                        Interesting, when I was researching recipes and methods Alton Browns recipe called for salt peter which I found very odd. Come on Alton! But to Alton's defense The Food Network list both potassium nitrate and sodium nitrate as salt peter


                              2. re: Raffles

                                Salt Petre (aka salt peter) is potassium nitrate. Potassium nitrate does not cure meat, but overtime, will break down to potassium nitrite which will cure the meat.
                                Using a nitrate is a kind of time-release cure and is likely why the meat was not cured to your expectation.

                                Salt petre is an old fashion way of curing, replaced in north america by *sodium* nitrite and nitrate.

                                Pink salt is a combination of sodium chloride (table salt) and sodium nitrite OR nitrate (they add a colorant to distinguish it from regular salt, plus anti-caking agents).

                                Salt with sodium nitrite (maybe call this your regular cure) is called Pink Salt #1 (AKA Instacure#1 AKA prague powder#1).

                                Salt with sodium nitrate (maybe think of this as a time-release cure) is called Pink Salt #2 (AKA Instacure#2 AKA prague powder#2)

                                The two are different and should be *used* differently. They are also potentially toxic, so use carefully as well.

                                For corned beef you only need Instacure#1.

                                Instacure #2 is used in applications (usually in conjunction with Instacure#1) where curing happens over time, like with cappicolo.

                                1. re: porker

                                  Worth pointing out that there are many pink salts sold that are just salt that is pink, no nitrate whatsoever.

                                  One must carefully read to see if a product is truly a curing salt.

                            2. All good advice.
                              One thing that should be mentioned: to make a really top notch pastrami, use the fattier 2nd cut of the brisket.
                              If the meat is too lean, the pastrami winds up too dry (even after the traditional, post-smoke long steaming). Too lean pastrami is generally pretty much a fail both flavor wise & texture wise..

                              The outside coating of spice mix on a pastrami is usually predominately crushed coriander seed.