Homemade Oven-Smoked Pastrami

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Katz’s Delicatessen is a landmark in the Lower East Side. Opened in 1888, it’s been serving pastrami, corned beef, knishes and matzo ball soup for over one hundred years. While it’s a popular place for tourists to eat at and as a result always packed, for a New York transplant, it was definitely on my bucket list. And boy, it was worth it!

Breakfast in Bed(stuy) / Katz's

Their pastrami is amazing. It’s juicy and flavorful and perfect with rye bread and a good helping of mustard. And the experience at Katz’s is one of a kind. It’s a place full of history, bustling with people and activity. It’s a New York of a bygone era.

I’m always up for a foodie challenge and making pastrami at home has been on my bucket list for a while now. Last summer I made bacon at home  with the help of a local butcher shop in Brooklyn who smoked it for me and pastrami seemed like the only natural progression. But, given my lack of a smoker, I thought making homemade pastrami was out of reach. But then recently, scouring the internet for recipe ideas, I came across several posts of making homemade pastrami without a smoker in your oven! It was honestly such amazing news! I was giddy with excitement… which goes to show how much of a foodie geek I am.

Anyway, after opening my eyes to the possibility of homemade pastrami, I jumped right in and went with this recipe from ChowHound.

Breakfast in Bed(stuy) / Homemade Oven-Smoked Pastrami 
I’ll be honest — this recipe is intense and spans the length of many days. Mind you, some of that is inactive time where the meat is either chilling in the fridge curing or in the oven for hours, but it is an involved recipe. I can’t say I did everything right, but the final product is delicious and definitely pastrami!
Breakfast in Bed(stuy) / Homemade Oven-Smoked Pastrami

Pastrami [puh-STRAH-mee] A highly seasoned beef made from a cut of plate, brisket or round. After the fat is trimmed, the meat’s surface is rubbed with salt and a seasoning paste that can include garlic, ground peppercorns, cinnamon, red pepper, cloves, allspice, and coriander seeds. The meat is dry-cured, smoked and cooked.

To start your homemade pastrami making adventure, you’ll want to dry cure it. There’s a couple different spice mixture recipes I saw, but I decided to stick with ChowHound’s (which is pretty standard for my little knowledge of curing meats). Having made bacon last summer, I already had curing salt.

Breakfast in Bed(stuy) / Homemade Oven-Smoked Pastrami

Combine the spices, salts and sugars in a bowl. Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the brisket (fat side down) and let the meat sit for about 15 minutes. The meat will darken in color. Carefully flip the meat over and coat with the remaining curing mixture. Let rest for 15 minutes more. 

Breakfast in Bed(stuy) / Homemade Oven-Smoked Pastrami

And while you can go for a 4 to 5 pound piece of brisket, I could only find 2 pounds each, so of course, the crazy woman I am, decided to make both vs. messing with the recipe and proportions. I have a whole lot of pastrami now… but cured and smoked meat never killed anyone!

Place the brisket in a large ziploc bag or roasting pan. Cover tightly with foil if using a roasting pan and place in the fridge for about 7 days. You’ll want to flip it every 2 days. 

Breakfast in Bed(stuy) / Homemade Oven-Smoked Pastrami

On the eighth and final day of curing, remove the brisket and gently pat off the moisture. Some recipes call for rinsing the brisket of this curing mixture as it’s done its job. I opted not to and rather proceeded with the next steps but if I ever do this again, I’d rinse the brisket and repack the meat with a fresh spice mixture (without the curing salt). Refrigerate uncovered overnight.

The next day, its time for the  “faux” smoking. Let the brisket rest at room temperature for an hour.

In the meantime, prep your oven.. you’ll want one rack at the lowest position and heated to 200°F. You’ll also need smoking chips — I went with apple wood ones that I got at Home Depot (but hickory would work too) — and heavy-duty aluminum foil.

Line the inside of a roasting pan crosswise with the foil, overlapping it in the center of the pan by about 1 inch. Make sure that the bottom and sides of the pan are completely covered and that the excess foil extends over the long sides and slightly up and over the short sides of the pan. Scatter the wood chips in an even layer over the foil in the bottom of the pan. Fit a roasting rack over the chips.

Place the brisket on the rack fat-side up. Bring the long edges of the foil up to meet in the middle. Fold the foil down and crimp it to close tightly, making sure it’s not touching the brisket so that the smoke can circulate around the meat. Bring up the foil on the sides to meet the top seam and crimp, making sure the entire rack and brisket are completely surrounded with foil and there are no gaping holes.

Breakfast in Bed(stuy) / Homemade Oven-Smoked Pastrami

Place the roasting pan across two burners over medium-high heat until a steady stream of smoke pours out of the top seam of the foil bundle, about 5 minutes. Your small Bed(Stuy) apartment will now smell like smoked apple wood for the rest of the day.

Transfer the roasting pan to the oven and cook until it reaches an internal temperature of 140°F. This took about 7 hours for my meat, but could take anywhere from 4-6 hours.

Once cooked, carefully open the foil and transfer the meat to a baking sheet. You can discard the foil and chips. I went ahead and steamed the meat right after it cooked but you could refrigerate it and wait to steam it.

In any event, transfer the meat to a roasting pan and pour enough boiling water to reach halfway up the thickest side of the meat. Cover with foil and steam the pastrami for about 3 hours until it is knife tender.

Breakfast in Bed(stuy) / Homemade Oven-Smoked Pastrami

After curing for a week and “smoking” for 6+ hours and finally steaming the meat, it was amazing to uncover the foil and see the finished product. It was beautiful! It had that lovely pink cured meat color and smelled and tasted like real smoked pastrami.

Breakfast in Bed(stuy) / Homemade Oven-Smoked Pastrami

This might not have been on the same level as Katz’s but having made this at home in my oven, I was so proud of myself!

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This post is part of the monthly link up party Our Growing Edge. This event aims to connect food bloggers and inspire us to try new things. This month is hosted by Lindsey from Sneaks and Sweets

 

Homemade Oven-Smoked Pastrami
 
Ingredients
  • ⅓ cup Diamond Crystal kosher salt (about 1¾ ounces)
  • 2 tablespoons coriander seeds, toasted and finely ground
  • 2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns, toasted and finely ground
  • 2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon curing salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 (4- to 5-pound) beef brisket
  • 2 (18-inch-by-4-1/2-feet) sheets heavy-duty aluminum foil, plus more for steaming
  • 4 cups apple wood or hickory smoking chips (about 9 ounces)
Instructions
  1. Combine everything except the brisket in a small bowl.
  2. Place the brisket fat-side down on a work surface. Sprinkle it evenly with half of the curing mixture and gently pat the mixture onto the meat. Let it sit until the curing mixture hydrates, darkens in color, and adheres to the brisket, about 25 minutes. Flip the brisket over and sprinkle it evenly with the remaining curing mixture. Let it sit until the curing mixture hydrates, darkens in color, and adheres to the brisket, about 15 minutes more.
  3. Place the brisket in an extra-large (2- to 2-1/2-gallon) resealable plastic bag. (Alternatively, you can place it in a roasting pan and cover it tightly with aluminum foil.) Refrigerate for 7 days, flipping the brisket every 2 days.
  4. On the eighth day, fit a wire rack over a baking sheet. Remove the brisket from the bag and gently pat off any excess moisture with paper towels. Place it on the rack fat-side up and refrigerate uncovered overnight.
  5. Let the brisket sit at room temperature for 1 hour. Meanwhile, remove all of the racks from the oven except one arranged in the lowest position. Heat the oven to 200°F.
  6. Line the inside of a roasting pan crosswise with the foil, overlapping it in the center of the pan by about 1 inch. Make sure that the bottom and sides of the pan are completely covered and that the excess foil extends over the long sides and slightly up and over the short sides of the pan.
  7. Scatter the wood chips in an even layer over the foil in the bottom of the pan. Fit a roasting rack over the chips. (The roasting rack should sit at least 1½ inches above the bottom of the pan. You can try flipping it over if needed. If your roasting rack still sits too low, use a wire steaming or cooling rack that sits at least 1½ inches above the bottom of the pan.) Place the brisket on the rack fat-side up. Bring the long edges of the foil up to meet in the middle. Fold the foil down three times and crimp it to close tightly, making sure it’s not touching the brisket so that the smoke can circulate around the meat. Bring up the foil on the sides to meet the top seam and crimp, making sure the entire rack and brisket are completely surrounded with foil and there are no gaping holes.
  8. Place the roasting pan across two burners over medium-high heat until a steady stream of smoke pours out of the top seam of the foil bundle, about 5 minutes. (This step doesn’t produce a ton of smoke, but you still may want to open a window or turn on the fan above your range.)
  9. Place the pan in the oven and smoke until the pastrami reaches 140°F on an instant-read thermometer, about 4 to 6 hours.
  10. Remove the pan from the oven and carefully open the top seam of the foil. Remove the rack and pastrami to a baking sheet or heatproof work surface; set aside.Discard the foil and smoking wood chips. (You can immediately proceed with the recipe and steam the pastrami, or cool the meat to room temperature and refrigerate it tightly wrapped in plastic wrap for up to 24 hours.)
  11. Increase the oven temperature to 325°F and keep the rack in the lowest position. Place the pastrami fat-side up in the empty roasting pan; set it aside.
  12. Place the water in a large saucepan, cover with a tightfitting lid, and bring to a boil over high heat. Place the roasting pan on the oven rack and pour enough boiling water to reach halfway up the thickest side of the pastrami, being careful not to pour it directly onto the pastrami. (You may not need all of the water.)
  13. Cover the roasting pan tightly with foil. Steam the pastrami in the oven until knife tender, about 3 hours.
  14. Remove the pastrami to a cutting board and let it sit for 10 minutes before slicing against the grain.
 

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