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Episode 102: Shoulders and Bellies

House-Cured Pastrami

Like bacon, pastrami is a dish most people would never think of making at home, but in fact, if you have a little time, it’s very easy.

The traditional cut used for pastrami is beef navel. This is a cut from the underbelly of the steer. It’s sort of the beef equivalent of bacon. It has the same broad striations of fat, meat, fat, and meat.

The beef navel is brined and cured for 10 days before it is smoked for 8 hours until it reaches a target temperature of 195 degrees.

For a deli classic, serve the sliced pastrami with mustard on rye bread.


More Pastrami Recipes:


House-Cured Pastrami

Recipe Notes

  • Yield: Serves 10 to 12
  • Method: Hot smoking
  • Equipment: Smoker: Bradley; Fuel: Apple, cherry, oak, or a mixture


  • 1 brisket flat with plenty of fat intact (6 to 8 pounds), or a beef navel

For the brine (to be made twice; once on Day 1 and once on Day 5):

  • 4 quarts cold water, divided use
  • 2/3 cup kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon pink salt
  • 1 small onion, cut in half widthwise
  • 8 cloves garlic, cut in half widthwise

For the spice rub:

  • 1/2 cup cracked black peppercorns
  • 1/2 cup coriander seeds
  • 2 tablespoons mustard seeds
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger

Recipe Steps

Step 1: Rinse off the brisket under cold running water and drain. Trim the fat so a 1/4- to 1/2-inch thick layer remains.

Step 2: Make the brine: Place 2 quarts of water, the salt, and pink salt in a stockpot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat; whisk until the salt crystals are dissolved. Stir in the onion and garlic. Stir in the cold water and let cool to room temperature. Place the brisket in a large resealable plastic bag. Add the brine and seal the top. Place in a second bag and seal, then place in a baking dish or foil pan to contain any leaks.

Step 3: Brine the brisket for 5 days in the refrigerator, turning it once a day. Remove the meat and discard the brine. Make a new batch of brine as per the directions above. When the brine has cooled, re-bag the meat and the brine. (This is called “overhauling.”) Let the brisket brine for an additional 5 days, turning once a day as before.

Step 4: Meanwhile, the last day, make the rub: Place the peppercorns, coriander seeds, mustard seeds, brown sugar, and ginger in a food processor and grind to a coarse powder, running the machine in short bursts. The final rub should feel gritty, like coarse sand.

Step 5: Drain the brisket, rinse under cold water, and blot dry with paper towels. (Discard the brine.) Place it in a roasting pan and thickly crust it on both sides with the spice rub.

Step 6: Set up your smoker according to the manufacturer’s instructions and preheat to 225 degrees. Add the wood as specified by the manufacturer.

Step 7: Place the pastrami fat side up in the smoker. Smoke the brisket until crusty and black on the outside and cooked to about 175 degrees inside, 8 hours.

Step 8: Wrap the pastrami in non-plastic lined butcher paper. Continue smoking until the internal temperature is 195 degrees and the meat is tender enough to pierce with a gloved finger or wooden spoon handle, 2 to 4 hours more.

Step 9: Transfer the wrapped pastrami to an insulated cooler and let rest for at least 1 hour. Slice crosswise for serving. You don’t really need a sauce or condiment, but I wouldn’t say no to some horseradish mustard.

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