It’s the unofficial start of summer and I’m celebrating by making some pastrami at home. We don’t have a large fancy smoker or anything, but as it turns out, you don’t need one to make juicy, smoky, totally addictive pastrami.
Making pastrami at home is really easy and really rewarding. It just takes a little time and patience, which is easy when you don’t have to do much: just plan ahead 1 week and some pink salt, which you can easily get on Amazon.
Making your own pickling spice
Pickling spices are easy to get in the spice aisle or, in pre-covid times, at the bulk store and they’re usually just as good as if you made your own. But if you were inclined to make your own, you can tweak it to your liking. This is my recipe:
1 tbsp mustard seed
1 tbsp coriander
1 tsp white pepper
1 bay leaf, torn up
1 cinnamon stick, broken up
1 tsp cloves
4 cardamom pods
1/2 tsp sichuan peppercorn (very optional)
The best cut of beef for pastrami
Brisket is always the go-to cut for pastrami, but you can use any large, well marbled cut of beef, such as flank steak, skirt steak, tri tip, or anything else you can easily find. The leaner the meat, the less fall-apart-y it will be, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Because I don’t have a giant smoker, I like to buy the really cheap end cuts and off-cuts that are about 1-2 lbs each. Besides the fact that they fit in the smoker more nicely, I feel that they fit the original purpose of pastrami better, which is to make cheap, long cooking cuts of meat delicious.
Do you need pink salt to make pastrami
Pink salt is the key to curing your pastrami so it gets that amazing flaky pickled texture and reddish hue. A little goes a long way – we bought a small jar on Amazon years ago and it’s still going strong today, even with regular use.
How do you smoke pastrami without a smoker
You don’t need a giant smoker to make pastrami, in fact, you don’t need a smoker at all, although a purpose built one is nice. You just need a heatproof, mostly airproof container that you can put on the bbq. Then you put chips in, the pastrami on top on a tray, and off you go. Personally, we use a small stovetop smoker on top of our grill outside, I think it cost $25 years ago. You’ll also need chips, which are easy to find at any hardware store. Hickory is a favorite.
How do you make pastrami
Making pastrami is simple:
- Make a brine. Boiling 5-6 cups of water with pickling spice, salt, and pink salt.
- Cure the meat. Soak the beef in the brine for 5-7 days. Weigh it down, and be sure to flip sometime midway.
- Smoke your pastrami. 1-2 hours per pound.
That’s it! It’s delicious on sourdough, in fried rice, or on its own. I really enjoyed making it, and in terms of active time, it was something like 5 minutes, so I hope you try it.
Easy Pastrami Recipe
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 2 hrs
Total Time 2 hrs 5 mins
- 1/2 cup kosher salt
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 tsp pink salt see note
- 2 tbsp pickling spice see note
- 1 beef brisket ~2lb pieces
In a large saucepan, make a brine by bringing 4 cups of water to a boil. Add salt, sugar, pink salt, and pickling spice. Stir to dissolve and then remove from heat. Allow to cool.
Transfer to a container large enough to hold your brisket(s). Add the cooled brine, and then top up with cool water as needed. Weigh down with a small plate, then store in the fridge for 5-7 days, flipping halfway.
Transfer the pieces of beef you want to smoke to a plate or metal tray. Place on top of wood chips in an airtight, heatproof container and heat on an outdoor grill for about 2-4 hours.
Enjoy as is, with lots of mustard, pickles, and bread.
If you don’t want to buy pickling spice, you can make your own mix:
- 1 tbsp mustard seed
- 1 tbsp coriander
- 1 tsp white pepper
- 1 bay leaf, torn up
- 1 cinnamon stick, broken up
- 1 tsp cloves
- 4 cardamom pods
- 1/2 tsp sichuan peppercorn (very optional)