For a few years I’ve been making pastrami simply by making this corned beef, then after the cure is finished, coating the meat with crushed coriander and black pepper, then hot-smoking to temperature. This is a method that has served me well, but I’ve been reading quite a bit about the Jewish delis of New York, most notably David Sax’s book Save the Deli. In his description of how the pastrami is made at Katz’s, there were two surprises to me.
First, he says that they don’t actually use brisket, but “navel”. This is definitely not part of standard Canadian meat-cutting nomenclature, but it’s described as being adjacent to the brisket, which made me wonder if it was what we would call beef plate. And actually later I saw in Ruhlman and Polcyn’s Charcuterie that they suggest beef plate as a good cut for pastrami.
I tried a batch with beef plate, and it was way, way, way too fatty, even for me. Like more than half fat. Not good. So either I’m confused about the exact cut, or there is something very different about the cows these Americans are using.
Until I can solve this mystery I’ve settled on using brisket, but separating the point and flat muscles before curing so that I can precisely control the fat content, and carve against the grain easier when the meat is ready.
The second surprise was that the pastrami at Katz’s is cured with a dry cure, not a brine. So I wanted to give that a try. To be totally honest I don’t know if it made a significant difference to the finished product, and the dry-cure takes at least twice as long as a brine… it’s likely that I’ll return to my corned beef brine. Anyways, here’s the recipe.
- 1 x 5.515 kg brisket, point and flat separated and trimmed to 1/2″ fat in all places
- 125 g kosher salt
- 125 g brown sugar
- 30 g FS Cure #1 (5% sodium nitrite)
- 50 g ground coriander
- 6.5 g ground allspice
- 3 g ground bay leaf
- 20 g mustard powder
- 20 g ground black pepper
- 30 g finely minced garlic
- extra coriander and black pepper for coating
- Put beef in a non-reactive container.
- Combine salts and spices in a bowl and mix thoroughly. Rub evenly over the surface of the beef.
- Cover and keep refrigerated for two weeks, overhauling the cure every few days.
- After two weeks, rinse the beef and pat very dry with a clean towel.
- Apply coriander/pepper mixture thoroughly.
- Put the been on a wire rack on a sheet tray and leave uncovered in the fridge overnight.
- The next day, hot-smoke the beef until it reaches an internal temperature of 150°F. Stretch this as long as you can. I try to start with a cold smoke.
- Steam the pastrami until very tender.