Cattleack BBQ pitmaster/owner Todd David works the cutting board. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)

After eating at Cattleack Barbecue last Saturday, the Posse declared the Dallas joint the equal of any in town. We especially loved the pastrami. Salty with a hint of sweet, the taste pleasantly lingered long after swallowing.

During an email exchange this week, I asked pit master Todd David for more details about how he prepared his pastrami. Here, in edited form, are his comments:

"I have made pastrami a few times in the past in all my experimenting but never for the public. While my experience with eating great pastrami comes from my growing up in St. Louis as well as many trips to New York, I have always made mine to have a Texas familiarity.

"The meats used were whole briskets and whole beef bellies.

"They went through an extensive brining process along with salt, sugar, and spices.

"After the brine, we rinsed the meat, dried it and then applied a dry rub.

"The meats were then smoked just like our regular briskets, wrapped in butcher paper and rested. They were never steamed because I have never done that except on crab legs. I know they do that in New York but I like how we smoke meat in Texas and have always done it that way.

"The only thing we did for the first time this go around was the beef belly. I have always used only brisket in the past."

We asked David for a more details about his recipe, particulary whether he used allspice, which a friend said she detected. David replied:

"While I do keep our recipes private, I can give you a pretty good feel what we do.

Smoked brisket pastrami at Cattleack BBQ. (Photo©Jim Rossman/Texas BBQ Posse)

"It's very typical pickling/brining spices and yes allspice is one of them but I don’t think that is where she is tasting it.

"In addition to standard brining spices (red pepper, allspice, bay leaves, mustard seed, and so on) we add standard aromatics (garlic, onion, celery, carrots, and so on).

"Nothing is unusual. I do not try to be different or unique since most folks know what they like and too much variance brings too much social media criticism.

"My focus is about doing our best or as we say 'Branded the Best.' When we put our brand on it, we want folks to know it is our best at that time.

"O.K., back to the brine. It is brought up to a boil so salt, sugar, etc., can dissolve. Shocked with ice if I am in a hurry or just cooled.

"Once cooled we add our meat. It must be completely submerged and weight added to keep it that way. We keep it in the walk-in for at least a couple of weeks. We visit with it everyday, making sure everyone is happy, and move the pieces around so they do not get bored in the same position.

"After that hiatus, they are bathed to allow surface removal of all that we can. They are now corned beef.

"They are then dried well and ready for their rub down. While I won’t go through the entire mix, its primarily black pepper, coriander, and juniper berries. Again the standard pastrami rub. Nothing is out of the normal.

"After they rest with their rub they are smoked just like our briskets but not quite as long.

"I have not done pastrami enough to vary items to tell you where the different tastes come from. I feel the initial taste is the rub and the long-term taste is the meat and brining combined."

Cattleack BBQ, 13628 Gamma Road, Dallas, 972-499-0999. Open: Thurs & Fri 10:30am-2pm. Website:

Pastrami, brisket & pulled pork at Cattleack BBQ. (Photo ©Bryan Gooding/Texas BBQ Posse)


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