1 Full or Half Corned Beef Brisket
1 Pouch Rae&Ryan’s Pastrami Rub
So, we all love Pastrami, right? Who doesn’t?! It’s this perfect deli meat that, one would think, must take a team of people to properly execute and bring to market and is surely a guarded secret family recipe from a matriarchal Jewish grandmother that has been passed down through the generations from the old world to the new…one would think, and you wouldn’t necessarily be wrong. Jewish family recipes are as valuable as stocks and bonds, maybe more, and rightfully so, but that doesn’t mean that this deliciousness is not achievable by the ambitious. With a few simple steps you too can make what many consider the ultimate deli meat!
You need to buy a Corned Beef roast that comes in a bag, which always goes on sale for St. Patricks Day. If you have freezer space then stock up for the year 😉 When you open the bag give the roast a good rinse and pat dry before placing in a disposable pan that will FIT IN YOUR FRIDGE. Yes, you can absolutely brine your own brisket, but that’s another recipe all together 😉 If you are sensitive to salty foods you can soak the roast in tap water overnight in the fridge and then rinse and pat dry the next day to remove some of the extra salt in the brined roast.
This is not a “less is more” situation. You are not sparing someone’s feelings or walking gingerly through a business negotiation, you are laying down the law! Ok, by law we mean the rub, which should be liberally applied to all nooks and crannies. Brisket is a thick and tough cut that takes a lot of seasoning to penetrate properly. When you come to slicing, you’ll see that all of your flavor is built into the outer inch, at best, of the roast and that level of flavor needs to carry for all the inner meat that is exposed after slicing. So, don’t skimp on the rub, get it in everywhere and you’ll be duly rewarded.
Start with the fatty side down and rub the lean side first. I usually apply the rub twice per side in intervals so that I can see where the rub got soaked up and add a little more to compensate. The first picture below shows how the rub looks wet and is getting soaked up. I apply a second layer until there is enough rub on there so that it stands above the moisture and looks dry. On the lean side, gently press the rub into the meat to get it to set as best as you can. Don’t actually “rub” the seasoning in, you’ll just end up with more on your hands than the meat. Give the roast about 5 minutes to set and then flip it over and apply to the fatty side in the same manner. After the Corned Beef Brisket is fully rubbed place a wire rack that fits your disposable pan under the roast and place the roast fat side up on the rack. At this point, the roast needs to go into the fridge uncovered for a minimum of 24 hours with 72 being optimal. This dry aging rest period allows the salt to interact with the meat and draw out moisture, which interacts with the rub and then the meat draws the moisture back inside. You’ll see that very little moisture is actually lost in the bottom of the pan after the resting period and that moisture is not necessarily lost. This osmotic exchange of moisture from the interior, to the surface, and back inside again helps draw the flavors of the rub deep into the center of the roast. Placing the roast on the rack helps the rub to set and adhere without becoming soggy on the bottom of the pan. The airflow created by sitting on a rack is very important!
You want to place the roast on your grill/smoker with the fat side up so that it will melt down and hydrate the meat, not drip off into the pan. Fat is your friend with BBQ, don’t be afraid of it! A dedicated smoker is best for cooking brisket in any form unless you have the time to manage a fire in a traditional charcoal grill/pit. It is doable, but it’s an all-nighter or you need a friend to help take shifts. This is real BBQ y’all 😉
See our Summer Cooking Blog Post for a breakdown on grill types and where each one excels best. For this recipe, a pellet smoker or upright smoker with trays works best. Use what you have and use your skills to hit the goals laid out below.
I personally like Mesquite wood for brisket and most things beef. Mesquite can be a powerful flavor and overwhelming on small cuts of meat, but beef can really hold up to it and often needs the boldness to taste adequately smoked. I’ve seen recipes that call for all sorts of wood from your standard Hickory to fruit woods like Apple or Pecan. Choice of wood really does come down to personal preference so feel free to experiment, but keep in mind that beef usually benefits from stronger wood flavors where something like fish needs a more delicate smoke.
Set your smoker to the smoke setting or build your offset fire to smolder a low heat smoke. Goal temp here is 150-180 with strong and frequent smoke intervals. The first 2 hours of smoking is the most important. Once the exterior of the roast reaches 120 degrees it will no longer absorb smoke flavor because the protein molecules have set, the door has closed, and you are only smoking the rub or sauce at this point. You want the roast to go straight from the fridge to the grill so it has a long buffer to heat up while smoking. In general, a wet rub or sauce will absorb more smoke than a dry surface will, but brisket is one of the few types of meat I don’t spray with moisture during the smoke period because the bark is so important.
You are going to smoke for 6-10 hours depending on how consistent your fire method is until you hit the Stall. If you don’t know what the Stall is, it is worth a quick google search, but the essence is that roasts will stall at a temperature and no matter how much time you cook them they just don’t seem to get any hotter inside which means you risk burning your outside or drying out the roast all together. Some method of wrapping is usually what helps get you past the stall and up to the desired temp. For Pastrami we need a minimum of 150 internal before it can come off the grill, but closer to 170 is better. Traditional Brisket, you want 170-190, but there’s a secondary cook method for pastrami so we can pull it early. 150-170 is our goal for this cook and as soon as it is done it needs to go back into that (cleaned out) disposable pan with the wire rack and wrapped up tight with good quality aluminum foil. If you do have trouble with the stall then set and wrap the roast in the pan with the rack and put the whole thing back on the grill at 225 until it hits temp. You have a remote probe thermometer right…? If not, get one, super clutch. Regardless of how the stall affects you, you’ll likely need to kick your fire up to 225-275 to push through gently without stressing the meat. Don’t rush it, the meat tells you how long it needs, not the other way around, ok?!
Once it cooks you can see that the whole brisket I cooked separated into its two main muscle groups. The point, which is usually cheaper by itself, is the top section that looks to be pulling up and away. This is the fattier portion, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The bottom section is the flat cut, which is leaner and more expensive. You get a more consistent cook from the flat with a deeper flavor, but it can be drier overall. I feel like it is really two halves of a whole that need each other to balance out rather than a tale of the Prince and the Pauper with regards to who eats “High on the Hog”, er cow, so to speak.
The Cold Crash:
The wrapped up roast in its pan needs to go back into the fridge in a timely manner, but can sit out for 30 minutes or so to not be piping hot and compromise your fridge temp. The point of this is to get the roast to seize up and hold onto its moisture and not “bleed out”. Also, it is a lot easier to slice a roast when it is cold and firm rather than warm. The roast needs a full 24 hours in the fridge, but you can leave it an extra day or two if your schedule requires before slicing.
Unfortunately, a deli slicing machine is not an easily substitutable tool and this roast really benefits from one. If you know someone who has one, ask to borrow it, otherwise you’re gonna have to use your sharpest knife and slice as thin as you possibly can. Either way, slice across the grain, not with it, so that the meat is the most tender. Shave it like parmesan, don’t slice it into bite-size. Other than that, it is up to you how you want to break it down.
Steam To Order:
Yes, steam is the final step to bring together all we have worked for. Regrettably, we don’t have any pictures of this step of the recipe, we must have been too overcome with excitement to eat our creation that we dropped the ball on pictures. Sorry 🙁
So the idea here is to take the thinly sliced Pastrami and place it into a steamer insert inside of a pan you can place on the stove. Many pots come with a custom fit steamer basket or you can buy a collapsible one for pretty cheap from Walmart etc… The juices released from steaming are pure flavor and we don’t want to lose those. Create a little basket of tin foil you can place on top of the steamer insert and fill that with your portion of Pastrami. The steam will wrap around and cook the meat, it doesn’t HAVE to come up through the holes in the steamer insert. The goal temp here is about 203, but you pretty much have to eyeball it at this point. The meat should start to curl, the fat should start to melt and those released juices should be poured into a bowl with the meat and mixed around to let it soak them back up!
At this point, your meat is perfectly cooked and ready for whatever application you intend it for!
Wait, what’s that, you don’t know what to do with Pastrami after you’ve cooked it besides the obvious of shovel it into your face shamelessly with a fork, or fingers, or whatever….
Ok, if you need a suggestion on what to do with it here’s a quick-fire idea 😉
Make Texas Cheese Toast with Rye Bread buttered and seared on both sides.
Melt Gruyere Cheese on top!
Stack up the Pastrami as high as you want,
pour some of those extra juices over it all.
|Cover with Havarti Cheese and melt in your broiler||Serve with Saurkraut, pickles and a drizzle of mustard and/or Russian dressing|