We have been pleased with the first couple of batches of home made pastrami – see: Home Made Pastrami . However, I am always looking for variations that are (hopefully) better. We would like to lower the salt content and adjust the spices to better match our taste preferences.
Note that this recipe uses approximately 1/3 the salt vs. the weight of the meat of the starting recipe in: Charcuterie by Ruhlman and Polsyn, This book is a great intro to cured meats.
Please do not start with a pre-packaged corned beef and try this. It will be FAR too salty as they are both going for “food safety” and easy factory reproducibility, as well as assuming you will boil the meat, which leaches out much of the salt. It is worth the wait to start with uncured brisket.
This batch started as a whole 15lb “packer” beef brisket. It was carefully trimmed of excess fat with the flat and point separated into separate pieces. It was then brined for a week (flipping every 2 days) in one of the crisper drawers of the garage fridge. The other crisper bin coincidentally had a whole pork loin brining for 4 days for canadian bacon which was then smoked as before: Canadian Bacon
Weigh your salt, sugar and cure#1 rather than relying on volume as the proportions can easily be way off by volume, especially if changing brand and type of salt, cure or brown sugar. Please excuse the mixed US and metric measurements but the spice amounts are not near as critical as the salt and sugar.
1 gallon (4 liters) water
350 g Morton’s kosher salt
225 g white sugar
80 g pink salt (cure #1)
100 g dark brown sugar
10 green cardamom pods cracked
3 crushed bay leaves
1 Tbsp dried dill weed
6 Tbsp whole black peppercorns
2 Tbsp brown mustard seed
16 whole dried allspice berries
8 cloves garlic – chopped
15 whole cloves
Mix the brine, add the meat and weight with a large plate or platter. Flip every other day.
Remove from the brine and pat dry with paper towels. Sprinkle with 2 tsp ground coriander and 3-5 Tbsp fresh ground black pepper.
Place on the smoler with the thicker edges out and the thin edges touching or overlapping in the center. In the BGE (Big Green Egg) , place the conveggtor with the flat side down so that you have indirect heat. Place a tray with 2 qts water on it and then the grate on top of the legs. Set the Heatermeter temp for 225F (as measured with the probe clipped to the lid thermometer bracket) . Place the meat temperature probes in the thickest parts of the pieces and close for the night. I typically start at 7 pm for an overnight smoke so I can get up well after dawn to check the meat. The smoke comes from the hardwood (oak and hickory) charcoal and several (6) chunks of well cured cherry wood (slabs 3-4″ thick by 5-6″ diameter , cut in half). I greatly prefer the fruitwood (cherry or apple) smoke vs hickory pecan or mesquite which are too harsh for this meat in my opinion.
The meat should be in the range of 150-170F. Edges will be higher and the center lower. I slice a bit on the ends to check for color and flavor. It is tasty but still tough at this point (but great for a breakfast omelet).
Pull the meat and put in a large pot with about 1/2 ” of water and place in the oven at 235F. The meat will be done somewhere between 203 and 206F which should take another 3-4 hours.
It is now ready to serve and /or vacuum pack and freeze.
The slices on the right are from the point. You can see a small tan/ brown area in the middle of one of the point slices. This is where the cure did not completely penetrate. It could have used a few more days in the brine. The slices on the left are from the flat. At this point it is quite lean.
It all tastes great!
To learn more about smoking brisket and trimming the meat I recommend the Franklin Barbeque book.
If you don’t have a Heatermeter or are not up for building one, take a look at the Thermoworks Signals with the companion Billows temperature control blower. I have been using their probes and Chefalarms for years.