Monday, April 16, 2012

How to Turn Corned Beef into Pastrami – Abra-ca-deli!

Great pastrami is not the easiest thing to find west of the Catskills, so a few years ago I embarked on a mission to find a way to turn the common corned beef into something similar. My goal was to come up with a reasonable substitute that could be done in less than a day at home, without a smoker, or any other special equipment. Impossible? No!

As you'll see in this video, I came up with a fairly easy method, which really worked well. While this homemade pastrami may not be exactly what you get at those famous New York delis, it's tender, very tasty, and piled between a couple slices of rye, makes a great sandwich.

The spice blend is fairly traditional, except for the smoked paprika addition. This gives the beef a nice, very subtle smokiness without having to worry about the considerable time/temperature management required by an actual smoker.

By the way, this is a pretty fiery rub. If you’re scared, you may want to reduce the amount of pepper(s), and/or leave out the cayenne. However, if you want the punch of a spicy, intensely aromatic pastrami, then this recipe will have you smiling, from the first mustard-shmeared bite to the last. I hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!

Editorial Note: No, you are not going crazy. We did do this video post before, but it was filmed for About.com, and played only on their website. That old post is no longer up, and being replaced with this one. Thanks!


Ingredients:
(Note: the dry rub should make more than you need)
3 to 5 pound corned beef brisket (should be the ready-to-cook variety)
1/4 cup fresh, coarsely ground black pepper
2 tbsp ground coriander
2 tbsp smoked paprika
1 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp white pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne
2 tbsp garlic oil (mix 2 crushed garlic cloves with vegetable oil, and let sit for one hour)
heavy-duty aluminum foil

View the complete recipe

55 comments:

roddie said...

My wife and I watched this in bed at 2 AM last night. Talk about "borderline inappropriate."

Is a "ready to cook" corned beef something I should be able to find easily?

Chef John said...

VERY easy to find in any large grocery store or butcher dept.

Food Junkie said...

Oh this sounds good. I will have try this sometime when I want pastrami and can't be bothered run up and down the stairs to tend the smoker. Thin sliced, warm pastrami, piled high on rye bread and slathered with brown deli or yellow mustard - heaven.

Damian S. said...

I tried your old version last Christmas at my Mom's house and it was KILLER! I think in your original post you said to wrap it in aluminum like 5 or 6 times. Glad to see you're cutting back ;) I added a few additional spices like mace, cloves and red pepper flakes as well.

Steven K. said...

That brined corned beef looked pretty amazing even before you cooked it. Can I ask what brand?

Chef John said...

Sorry, don't remember!

Chef John said...

I got at whole foods I think.

Steven said...

Does white pepper taste different from black pepper or is that just for color?

Chef John said...

it has a slightly different flavor and type of heat

rich said...

"get into every nook and cranny no matter how inappropriate it may look or feel" (coupled with the side of the corned beef showing when you said that)...lol...john you are a seriously funny dude.

ps...great humor aside, love your recipes.

Madonna said...

I don't mean to ask a stupid question, but I always have trouble with that. Cut across the grain?

Chef John said...

Yes, always! :)

Maureen said...

I haven't had good pastrami for years. I love you, Chef John. :)

Vincent said...

Remember the oven smoked pulled pork you did a while back? I think that'd be a good method to make this as well.

Anonymous said...

Awesome pastrami Chef John, but what is even more awesome is that you can take a bite and chew AND at the same time keep talking normally...now that is a feat!!! :-)

AdamofStJohns said...

Great video Chef! I used this technique just last night; Pork Tenderloin with a Memphis-style rub. Worth the wait; turned out great! I'll be sure to keep my eyes peeled for a brisket to do next. I must admit I sank a little when you failed to slice that bad boy Bobby Flay style...it's okay, Chef John style cuts the mustard too. :)
Thanks again!

Gretchen in NOLA said...

Oh MY!! the double entendres!! *rapidly fanning face whilst remembering a man named Reuben and a sandwich he made*

Emerald_Mare85 said...

Hmm, but aluminium foil is toxic (yes, I worry about you)!

Can I just use a pot? Its just to trap moisture inside.

Chef John said...

foil is not toxic.

Anonymous said...

Foil definitely isn't toxic. There has been some speculation as to the aluminum in antiperspirants contributing to dementia but even that wasn't toxic. I have never seen anything about using foil for cooking. I remember being told not to use plain aluminum pots for boiling, but that might have been an urban myth. Does anyone know anything about this, that isn't just speculation?

roddie said...

I made it yesterday and got to try a bit today. The taste is definitely there, and amazing. I did find it to be a little tough, though. I'm thinking it could be one of a couple of things:

1) A LOT of juice leaked into the baking pan during the last hour or so of cooking and again while it sat in the fridge. Minus 1 for my wrapping skills.

2) I sliced it too thick. Minus 1 for my slicing skills.

3) I overcooked/heated it in the frying pan. Minus 1 for my reheating skills.

I'm hoping it's #3, but I'll see how it goes when we have some for dinner tonight.

Axel14222 said...

I knew there was a good reason why I bought 2 corned beef briskets in March. I made this today. It took every ounce of willpower to let it cool and then to refrigerate it without even tasting it. Gives me something to look forward to tomorrow.

Emerald_Mara85 said...

Although not very conclusive about the brain (as one lab says indefinitive and another says risk factor but there is the Camelford water pollution incident) but its more conclusive about contibuting to breast cancer due to increasing the estrogen related gene.

That's all I know about aluminum.
Best to stay away for now, is what I think.

Dre said...

That mustard looks conspicuously like Dijon. I'm not sure how I feel about that.

Rita said...

While in Victoria BC we went to this Bistro who served their home made pastrami; fantastic.Thanks for sharing your recipe.
Rita

axel14222 said...

I enjoyed making this and may use the technique, rather than boiling, for my next corned beef and cabbage dinner. The meet was succulent and aromatic and did well on my homemade rye bread. This is a recipe for anyone who truly loves pepper. This would make a killer reuben. I wonder how it would be if I used that braised red cabbage in place of kraut.
Thanks Chef and, by the way, the video could get you banned in Boston.

Paulette said...

Chef John - rather than brisket, can this be done with boneless bottom round? Or if not - with other cheap cuts of beef? Many thanks!

Steve said...

Chef:

A question and a comment:

Is there any reason why you didn't use a Dutch oven instead of aluminum foil? Does tightly wrapping the meat bring anything special to the party?

Regarding aluminum, you're right, it's not especially toxic and, in fact, it does show up in some foods, mostly from additives and food coloring, I believe. Unless you're pounding down aluminum burgers, it's most likely not a problem. All metals can exhibit some toxicity if ingested to excess, but that's pretty hard to do (too much silver will permanently make your skin blue!).

Once upon a time there was thought to be a link between Alzheimer's Disease and aluminum but that's been fairly well disproven. I've had the privilege of working in one of the country's premiere neuroscience labs and rub shoulders with some leading Alzheimer's researchers. I've asked specifically on a couple of occasions and told that the answer is no, there's not significant correlation.

I'm not a doctor or a PhD researcher, though, and only repeating what I was told, so your mileage may certainly vary.

Chef John said...

I wanted to encase the meat as tighly as possible, so it all cooked in it's juices evenly, rather than sitting in a D.O. Thanks for the info!

Chef John said...

could be done with other fatty cuts, like short ribs, but round is too lean.

Anonymous said...

I looked but couldn't find your recipe on how to make rye bread. I'd like to see how you made that loaf.

creepyp1 said...

OMG!! I love Pastrami!!! I can't wait to try this! Thanks again for posting such wonderful recipes! As for all things medical, I believe that fast foods and processed frozen meals are a huge contributer to current health and cancer issues, you can never do wrong by providing meals that are truly homemade and they taste better and are better for you! Thats what I love about foodwishes!

Happy Aussie said...

For any other Australians wondering, I made this with Silverside (our easily obtainable version of corned beef) and it is fantastic. I added another 30 minutes to the cooking process to account for the thickness of our corned beef compared to the US version and it came out perfect.

Anonymous said...

The hardest part about this recipe was not touching it between the time I took it out of the oven last night to about an hour ago today when we sat down to dine. This really was a simple and delicous recipe. We didn't plan on doing the pan reheating part but I tried it at the last second and I'd highly recommend it. As good as the pastrami was cold it was twice as good with a slight reheat. I don't know how you do it Chhef John but you always make it look easy and it always actually is. Thanks!

Natalia said...

Chef John, do you know, what would be the correct term for Corned Beef in spanish, not the translation but the actual term to find it in south america? :/
Thank you

Kara P. said...

Dear Chef John,
What is the purpose for refrigerating the meat overnight, besides helping with the cutting process? Is it necessary?

I'm making this for my dad and he loves hot pastrami, so I was wondering if I could just serve it once it's done, after it rests a bit, of course.

Chef John said...

Yes, to make cutting easy, and to let the flavors develop!

Kara P. said...

I'll definitely let is rest then, thank you for answering so quickly. :D

P.S. You're the only chef I watch anymore. You're great and so funny!

S/V Blondie-Dog said...

Greetings Chef!

I'll have ya' know that this pastrami was super easy to prepare and even better yet, it was a big hit at a friends Super Bowl Party.

And I'm sure glad that I had better sense than to show up at that party with the gurly-man Eggplant Sandwiches that you suggested in a recent post.

Yippers... and I still gots my manhood card to prove it too!

Thanks!

sizzleradio said...

Thank You Chef John!!

In San Antonio, Tx and not easy to find a place to pick up a good Pastrami sandwich. Made this for Superbowl and was a Huge hit. 4lbs disappeared faster than the Beer.
Thanks Again Sir.

Chris Thompson

VS said...

Hello, I want to use this recipe, but I have a big family, can Chef John or anyone tell me how long and under what temperature I should use to cook this home made pastrami for 9.5 pounds of Corned Beef, thank you very much

DrChuck said...

Chef John, can you please tell me the brand of that beautiful rye bread? I can't seem to find a nice fluffy soft rye loaf like the one in your video.

Chef John said...

I think it was Orowheat, but i don't remember!

Los Angeles home chef said...

Hi Chef, John.
I assume the corned beef brisket is the store bought in a bag with the "spice packet"? Do I rinse and pat dry the brisket and substitute the "spice packet" for your "rub recipe"?
Thank you!

Greg Labbe said...

Chef,

Can I use an "unbrined" or "fresh/raw" brisket?

I really enjoy your blog.

Greg
Toronto

Chef John said...

Sure, but it will be more like roast beef than pastrami/corned beef.

wvcapt said...

Hi Chef John, I have been enjoying your recipes for years. Looking forward to trying this one. Can I use my electric smoker set for 250 degrees and hickory chips.

Chef John said...

Probably, but I've never used one!

wvcapt said...

Chef John, you did it again. Used the smoker at 230 degrees. Who would have expected fantastic pastrami here in Wild Wonderful WV. Katz's watch out.

Etienne Mattei said...

Hello chef John,
I don't see any salt in the recipe, is the brisket in brine ? If so, what shall I have to do before coating whith the spices ?
I'm in France, the beef is'nt cut lik in the US. Do you know what should be the closest name in France ?
Thank you
Sincerely

Chef John said...

Yes, our "corned beef" is already a brined brisket! Sorry, I can't give instructions on how to do at how. You need special salts, etc.

Etienne Mattei said...

OK, thank you for answering. I've seen french recipes where they use fresh beef (not brined). They put it in the brine 5 or 6 days. I think I'll do like this. After they cook it in a kind of marinade. Perhaps shall I cook it like you do.
Sincerely

Etienne Mattei said...

Hello Chef John,
Now, I've bought my piece of beef, the equivalent of the brisket, in France. I'll put it in the brine, two weeks I think, and then I'll continue your recipe. The only thing I want to know is about the bone. Shall I put it in the brine boned, or shall I remove the bone after cooking ?
Thank you
Etienne

Hattie1 said...

Ok, so I have little experience with Pastrami (apart from a brief stay in the USA about 15 years ago), and I'm sure the supermarket stuff we get here in New Zealand would make the average American cringe, but as I live on a farm and have an abundance of home-grown corned beef (not a fan) in my freezer, I thought I would give this a go…
AMAZING.
Not at all sure that it tastes as it should, but whatever; it tastes crazy-good! The heifer that is currently in the freezer was a prime animal, with a very stress free life, not sure if that has helped - but lordy, it is sooo tender, I have had to slice it with the grain just to give it some substance and not just melt like marshmallow!
So thanks, Chef John! My childhood dislike of corned beef has maybe just turned into an adults (only!) love for the stuff.
AMEN!

El Hermano del Hombre Hombre said...

No salt?