A bucket list recipe for us and one which doesn’t disappoint, the combination of cure, spice crust and gentle hot smoke is just excellent! If you research pastrami recipes you’ll be inundated with a whole range of different processes and techniques, so it’s difficult to know which direction to take. We’ve distilled these down into a practical 3 step process with the option to eat the results straightaway or store for a few days to eat cold. Think New York Deli style pastrami sandwiches – hot or cold!
Our smoke flavour of choice for this dish is Cherry. We wanted a mellow, rounded flavour which wouldn’t overpower, but would at the same time be able to compete with the spice elements of our recipe. We went for a couple of handfuls of Cherry smoking chips, protected in our stainless steel smoker box. For something stronger try Hickory Check out our wood chip flavours here
First challenge is to source a great piece of brisket, first stop would be a good local butcher or farmshop (they may also trim the meat for you by removing any excess fat and sinew), though most sources of brisket will be fine given the wonderful rich spicing of this dish.
STEP 1 – CURE
1. Prepare the meat by removing any areas of fat and fatty sinew with a sharp knife.
2. Crush the various seeds for the cure lightly in a pestle & mortar and mix together with the salt and sugar.
3. Line a porcelain dish with a layer of the cure mix and place the joint of beef on top, then cover with more mix, coating all sides and ends, massaging in gently.
4. Cover with a layer of clingfilm and leave in the fridge for 12 hours. Remove and turn the beef over, recoating with the mix where you can. You’ll see that liquid will progressively form in the base of the dish and the meat will become dark and firmer. The cure is getting to work!
5. Repeat the turning and recoating for a further two days at which point the beef will have turned a deep rich colour and will have shrunk slightly in size.
STEP 2 – DRY
6. Remove from the cure mix which can be discarded, rinse thoroughly under the tap, dry the meat carefully then leave on an open rack in the bottom of the fridge for a further 12 hours to allow air to circulate. The surface of the meat will be slightly tacky after this period ready for the next stage.
STEP 3 – HOT SMOKE
7. For the spicy crust, crush the whole spices by hand with a pestle and mortar or for a finer more even consistency, use a grinder. Mix well and sprinkle onto a board. Coat the cured meat in a light layer of olive oil, then roll in the crust mix and evenly coat on all sides and ends.
8. Prepare your BBQ or smoker. We used our ceramic grill for this cook, with both heat deflectors in place, but so long as you can achieve a low heat you can use any type of BBQ with a lid. The aim is to cook at a temperature of around 120 to 130 degrees, so you need the flame to have died back to ensure you’re cooking slowly on a low residual heat.
9. Add cherry chips to a smoker box or foil pouch, douse the chips with a little water (we find this helps the wood to smoulder and inhibits an often bitter taste that can result from dry chips which immediately ignite when placed on the heat source.) Put the smoker box or foil pouch directly on your coals.
10. Place the pastrami joint in your BBQ or smoker and leave to cook slowly for around 3 hours. Once cooked – it can be a little pink in the middle – wrap it in foil and allow to rest for at least 20 minutes.
Pastrami can be eaten cold, but it’s delicious freshly sliced and served on rye or brown bread with plenty of mild American style bright yellow mustard, lots of gherkins … and of course, a cold beer.
- 2kg beef brisket
FOR THE CURE MIX
- 100g sea salt
- 80g light muscovado sugar
- 60g pink peppercorns
- 40g coriander seeds
- 20g mustard seeds
- 10g juniper berries
- 10g black peppercorns
- 4 garlic cloves finely chopped
FOR THE SPICE CRUST
- 60g pink peppercorns
- 60g coriander seeds
- 20g salt crystals – we used Himalayan Pink Salt
- 20g black mustard seeds
- pinch of freshly ground black pepper
- American style mild yellow mustard
- Pickled gherkins
- Rye bread