With the long days of summer coming soon, at TEC Grills we can’t think of a better way of spending a Saturday than with a full-day smoking project! While smoking a beef brisket may be somewhere on your project list, why not take it one step further and make pastrami?
Pastrami is just beef brisket that is brined, smoked and/or roasted, and typically has a spice rub on the outside. With its pepper coating and smoky flavor, pastrami takes a tough cut of meat and makes it juicy and flavorful. Bonus is that with just a little work and the Infrared Smoker/Roaster accessory, you will have pastrami Reuben sandwiches for all of those beach and lake days coming up!
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Pastrami differs from corned beef in that the latter is also brined, but then usually steamed or boiled. But they are often from the same cut of beef, that is the beef brisket. The beef brisket flat end is perfect for slicing for sandwiches. Or choose the point section of the brisket, which will be fattier and juicier, but also harder to cut into slices.
You can choose to brine your own brisket, or you can buy it already brined and sealed in a package with pickling spices like the typical corned beef you probably bought for St. Patrick’s Day. If you choose to brine your own, just be sure to give yourself some time since it takes about 3-5 days to fully brine it (some say up to 2 weeks).
If you decide to buy an already brined brisket, keep in mind that they can be a tad too salty once smoked. If you want it a little less salty, soak the brisket in cold water to leech out some of the salt.
PREPARE THE PASTRAMI
If you have decided to brine your own brisket, read this easy recipe from Steven Raichlen, or this more involved recipe from Michael Ruhlman.
If you have purchased a packaged corned beef brisket, follow these steps:
Rinse the corned beef brisket with cold water. As noted above, if you want it to be less salty, soak the brisket in a large baking pan of cold water for eight hours in the refrigerator. Remove the brisket from the pan, and rinse again with cold water.
Pat the brisket dry with paper towels, and place in a disposable heat-safe aluminum baking pan, fat-side up.
Make the rub. Combine the following in a small bowl (this is enough for a 3-4 pound brisket):
3 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground yellow mustard
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Sprinkle the top of the brisket with the rub, and pat to adhere to the meat. Let meat rest at room temperature while preheating the grill.
SMOKE/ROAST THE PASTRAMI
Just like a good brisket, smoking pastrami will take a while so it is the perfect weekend project. Since the size and thickness of brisket cuts differ greatly, temperature is the best way to tell when the brisket is done versus going by time.
In order to keep the pastrami juicy, you will want to leave it in the disposable pan while smoking and roasting. The pan will capture the juices and fat, and basically self-baste the brisket. Also, the steaming and resting steps at the end of the cooking process are important to keep the brisket from drying out and becoming super tender.
Place the Smoker/Roaster rack on top of the grates of your TEC Grill. Position the chip corral in front of the rack, and fill the corral with small wood chips (we suggest something strong like mesquite). No need to pre-soak the chips!
Preheat the grill on medium for 10 minutes with the hood closed until the chips start to smoke.
Place the aluminum pan with the brisket on the Smoker/Roaster rack.
Turn the heat down to low, and close the hood.
Check on the pastrami about every 30 minutes to replenish the wood chips, check its temperature, adding additional liquid to the pan if it becomes dry (it shouldn’t).
After about 3 hours, when the internal temperature of the pastrami is around 160°F, cover the pan tightly with foil to capture the steam. At this point, you can stop adding wood chips, as the pastrami will not absorb much more of the smoke.
Roast the pastrami for about another hour, until the internal temperature reaches at least 190°F.
Turn off the grill at this point, and move the pan to the other side of the grill if you have a 2-burner unit. If you only have a 1-burner grill, then place the pan in an insulated cooler or even in the oven (with the heat OFF!). Let the pastrami rest for an hour longer before slicing.
TEC Tip: To make pastrami Reuben sandwiches, layer slices of the pastrami on grilled marbled rye bread that have been slathered with Thousand Island dressing. Melt some Swiss cheese over the meat, and top with sauerkraut.