By Bryan Gooding

It was more than two years ago when the Posse heard a rumor that Cattleack Barbecue in Far North Dallas was going to be serving smoked pastrami for its Saturday special.

I remember thinking “Wow! This is different!” Pitmaster Todd David would be cooking “outside the box.” Afterward I told Posse co-founder Gary Jacobson that Cattleack had thrown down the gauntlet with its smoked pastrami and that there would be a lot of pitmasters experimenting with recipes over the next year.  The times were ripe for some new barbecue.

In the fall of 2015 Gary and I cooked at the Blues, Bandits and BBQ event in Oak Cliff, Texas. We always liked to present something different for the crowd and decided to try the pastrami recipe I had been working on. I was happy with what we served and it definitely impressed the tasters, especially once they learned about how long the process takes to produce a smoked pastrami. It is loooooow and sloooooow.

The smoked pastrami recipe 

Brine Ingredients:
1 gallon cold water
½ cup salt
1 cup brown sugar
4 tsps Prague salt or pink curing salt
2 tsps cayenne pepper
2 Tbsp coriander seed
2 Tbsp mustard seed
2 Tbsp black peppercorns (whole)
6 cloves garlic (smashed)

Rub Ingredients:
2 tsp chipotle powder
1 cup brown sugar
½ cup kosher salt
½ cup black pepper (cracked or coarse ground)
2 Tbsp mustard seed
¼ cup stone ground mustard

Brining Process

I’m used to brining chicken and ribs but doing it to beef was new for me.  In the deli culture, brining beef has been done for decades. I usually look for a six to seven pound brisket flat. You can use a whole brisket but remember you are then making eleven pounds of pastrami. So I keep things reasonable and just do the flat. If you are making sandwiches the flat will serve about 15 people.

Thoroughly clean the beef, trimming off any silverskin and leaving  ¼-inch thickness of fat and set aside.

Mix the brine ingredients in a large plastic type tub with a lid that seals. Prague salt is available at some grocery stores and I found mine on Amazon.

Combine brine ingredients and add extra water if necessary so that meat is totally submerged. The brine is flexible to your taste, some reduce salt and boost sugar since the Prague salt also adds saltiness. Some boost the heat factor or reduce it.

Once you’ve added the meat to the brine, seal and refrigerate. We have a fridge in the garage. I leave it in there to brine for two weeks (good) or three weeks (mo’ better).

Once the meat is brined thoroughly rinse in cold water and pat dry. At this point, you can freeze the flat until you have an event you want to smoke it for.

Cooking Process

When you are ready to cook, and with a thawed flat, rub the meat with stone ground mustard. This acts as an adhesive for the spice rub and the mustard is an excellent base for the flavor.

Next mix the components of your rub, again personalizing to your own taste. Go light on the salt since there was plenty in the brine. In my case I like a sweeter, peppery rub and I enhance the traditional deli taste of the pastrami by using mustard seed and some ground coriander in the rub. Rub both sides of your brisket.

When starting your smoker use a chimney with a little charcoal and a page of newspaper to light. Lighter fluid will flavor your meat so avoid.

Now comes another opportunity to personalize your pastrami in the choice of the wood you use to smoke. Because I live in the Pacific NW, I have to rely on apple or alder whereas in Dallas I loved pecan.  Each wood has its own unique character and flavor profile so choose accordingly.

I lay the wood on the charcoal and get the wood burning to the point the charcoal is gone, then I add the flat to the cooking grate.

Add wood or adjust air flow as needed. Try to keep the temperature of the smoker at 200 degrees F. I use a probe thermometer centered in the thickest part of the flat and aim for a target of 185 degrees internal temp. The beef is brined so it is hard to cook it dry.

A general rule of thumb is a hour per pound but there are so many variables this is only a starting point. Some cooks wrap their meat at a certain point in butcher paper. Check out Marshall Cooper’s excellent article here on the Posse site for more info on that.

The key is low and slow.

When your flat reaches the magic number pull and wrap in foil. It is important for the meat to rest as it allows the moisture to move back into the flat and stay juicy. Many pitmasters simply wrap in foil and drop into an empty ice chest until needed, which could be 2 – 3 hours.

Serving

When serving, it is important to slice against the grain. In the case of sandwiches, slice thin. Tell your guests that you’ve been working on this pastrami for three weeks. They’ll think you worked even harder than you did on this great smoked pastrami recipe.

finished smoked pastrami

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Leave a comment



bob gorrell

8 months ago

Hello , my question is I have a brisket in the brine , 5 days now, do I set it and forget it till the three week window, or do I rotate it/ swrill the brine? ( thoughts that me keep up at night)

Bryan Gooding

8 months ago

I like to visit the brisket every couple of days to check in and be a nurturing kind of cook. I few words and a flip makes it feel loved and appreciated plus keeps the juices mixed in the brine.

BG

8 months ago

got it, thanks this is the longest 3 weeks EVER!!!!!

bob gorrell

8 months ago

so i am at the 3 week ppint. just want to. check in and male sure i just dry it rub it and smoke it. no steaming involved for this process? Wish me luck!

James Rojas

6 months ago

How did this turn out? I have been wanting to master the art of Texas smoked pastrami since eating the amazing pastrami at Pieous in Austin. I would love to hear how the pastrami turned out with this recipe. It seems like a great starting point.

Bryan Gooding

6 months ago

We made some fab sandwiches – the brine made the meat especially juicy – we’re having a big party in June and this is on the menu – can’t miss

James Rojas

6 months ago

Thanks for the update. I am looking to learn this and thought this recipe would be a great start. I want to use the whole packer the way that Pieous in Austin does. The pastrami I had there is the gold standard for what I’m shooting for and these pictures look amazing. I’d appreciate anything you can share on the process and the final results.

James Rojas

6 months ago

Reading through your article you mentioned taking the brisket to 185 internal temperature. Did you find that it was as moist and juicy as you would get taking a normal brisket to the range of 195 – 205 that many take theirs to before resting? I’ve never had a brisket ready at 185 IT but I wasn’;t dealing with one that had been brined either. I know that Pieous adds one additional step to their pastrami cook in the form of a C-Vap unit, but I don’t think that’s necessary.

How many times have you cooked with this recipe now?

Bryan Gooding

6 months ago

I have been cooking briskets for years and have cooked three of these pastrami’s. I believe the brine is the difference in the cooking temperature. I know in the case of smoking chicken that cooking to 168f and resting, I end up with tons of moisture in a fully cooked breast. I would assume the same with the pastrami, I think the pictures show a lot of juiciness in the flat I used (flats being notorious for turning dry). I have not done a complete brisket pastrami (point and flat) and would assume there would be an adjustment. Also since I am on an island and trying to stay local in my sources, the briskets here tend to run small and can be lean since they are organic. You read the latest article posted on Aaron Franklin and he’s even mentioning barometric pressure? All these things can affect the quality. Experiment!

James

6 months ago

I am going to use your amazing article as a starting point for my own journey and keep you up to date on my shenanigans. I’m going to be cooking the entire packer on a Fast Eddy pellet smoker with a blend of mesquite, pecan and oak. I’ll probably brine for about 3 weeks on my first attempt. I’ll definitely keep you in the loop.

I cook lots of briskets but the wonderful pastrami I had at Pieous spoke to me in a special way. I knew after that experience that this was something I wanted to learn to cook.

I love the picture on this article and it does look very moist with great bark and that signature rosy color. If you have other photos I’d love to see them.




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