Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Pastrami Sandwich And How To

Remember the pastrami I smoked the other day with the meatloaf, here are shots of the finished product.

And in case there is one person out there unsure of what to do with it, here’s what I did.

Good rye bread, homemade pastrami, Guggisburg Baby Swiss, spicy brown mustard and a kosher dill – doesn’t get much better than this. Oh, I’m sure I could get better at Katz’s Deli in NYC, but doubt I can in East Tennessee and sure I can’t in Greenback. I make them this way without the onion.

Pastrami is nothing more than corned beef that has been coated with a dry rub, which nearly always includes coriander and black pepper, then smoked. If you like pastrami at home, but your only source is the grocery deli, you really should consider making your own. Buy yourself a corned beef brisket, and soak it for a couple of days with 2-3 water changes. The corned beef is heavily salt laden, which is not a problem when cooked in a pot, as it gets boiled out, and flavors the veggies cooked in the same pot.

You can go on line and search out a rub that appeals to you and blend up a batch (don’t include any salt regardless of the recipe). When the meat comes out of the soaking, rinse it off, apply a heavy coat of rub, wrap in plastic and stick in the frig overnight (this is my process but it can be applied and immediately put on the smoker). Here is a basic rub to try and there are many more available (use just the cooking rub) LINK.

I’ve posted this before, but if you have a grill (gas or charcoal), you likely have a smoker. You just must be able to have fire on one side and not on the other. This is an anti BBQ purest statement, but since the process takes several hours (mine took nine) a gas grill is easier – a charcoal grill requires a lot of fire management, but will likely make a little better product. The gas or charcoal provides the heat on one side of the grill and the meat is cooked on the other side. For a gas grill, smoke is generated buy putting soaked wood chips in foil pouches, with a few holes in the top, and laying them just above the fire – my grill has flavorizer bars where they can be placed. For a charcoal grill, dry wood chunks or foil pouches can be tossed atop the charcoal. Try to find you some charcoal without fillers and they usually say “all natural”. You can use lump or briquettes, but I would not use standard blue bag Kingsford or similar types. The all natural can be added to your grill without pre-burning as it doesn’t have all the junk in it that must be burned off before using. Around here, Stubb’s can be found at Lowe’s and will likely provide all the smoke you’ll need.

The grill temperature should be maintained between 225* and 250* and the meat smoked to an internal temp of 165*-170*. It’s best if you have a couple of external probe thermometers. Put the first one in the center of the thickest part of the meat. Stick the other one through an old wine cork (or something else) and lay it on the grate near the meat – make sure the probe tip isn’t touching anything. This way you’re controlling temp to the same one the meat is seeing verses the dome of the grill, which will be different. Be careful with the probe cables as the grill lid can cut them. If your gas grill has a vent slot all along the upper back, wad up some foil and close off all but a few inches on the meat end to force the heat and smoke in that direction. Only open the cover to add more wood every couple of hours.

Cooked to a 165* internal, the meat is great to eat but needs to be sliced thin, as it is still a little tough (tender brisket is cooked to around 200*). What the big time NYC deli’s do is steam the smoked pastrami for an hour or so and slice it hot for their sandwiches - which is what I did for the above sandwich.

It probably goes without saying, that this procedure turns your grill into a smoker for other meats as well. I smoked a pork butt and a beer can chicken on my cousins gas grill last summer to demonstrate for them and both turned out great. You can also run at higher temps (275* range) to speed up the process and can go to the 300*-325* range to achieve crispier skin on chicken. You will probably want to rotate your food 180 degrees (so each side faces the fire) a few times to ensure even cooking. Or if you have a larger 5 burner grill, you can run the two outside burners with the meat in the center. Keep in mind that a smoker, or grill set up as one, is just a convection oven with a little smokier atmosphere - consider the possibilities. If you decide to give it a try and need more info, feel free to contact me directly - it's easier than you probably think.

Give it a try and you won’t have to hope a good BBQ joint or deli opens in your area, just make your own.

I spent the afternoon yesterday doing something that's just barely more fun than hitting yourself in the head with a hammer - working on my taxes - could almost make me dislike spring. Have a great day and thanks for stopping by.



  1. I would love to make my own pastrami!!! I didn't even know it was possible!

  2. Looks great! I still need to do my taxes - I might take off on Friday and do them. I hate it so much that I put it off to the last minute every year.

  3. That sandwich looks really good and with those pickles and that swiss cheese. Fabulous. My gas grill also has those flavor bars. I'm tempted to give this a try.

  4. Pastrami is one of my favorites. Great looking sandwich. Also great info on the pastrami preparation.

  5. You mean Greenback doesn't have a good place to buy a really good Pastrami Sandwich????? ha ha ha .... Neither does little Crossville... ha

    Your sandwich looks fabulous--and I would love it --with lots of that melted cheese.

  6. That is one killer lookin' sammie there!! Dang, wish I had one. Great instructions on the smoking too.

  7. Isn't it great? I loved mine too.

    Great tips on converting a gas grill to a smoker. That's how I started out trying to smoke sometimes. It worked well enough, especially for someone who doesn't want to invest in a smoker that they'll only use a few times a year.


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