Homemade Pastrami

Pastrami is to beef brisket as bacon is to pork belly. The “Michael Symon’s Carnivor” recipe (on which I based this) uses a hybrid cook of dry smoke to 150 deg F internal followed by enclosing the brisket in a covered pan w/water (steam) cook to finish. I considered it a waste to cut short great smoke conditions for cheesy steaming so used apple wood chunks (for smoke) in an indirect heat Kamado grill setup with a cup of water in the drip pan (early steam) and allowed the grilling temperature to slowly increase from 225 deg F to 275 over 4-5 hours, removing the brisket at 180 deg F internal, foil wrapping and “resting” 1.5 hours in a towel-lined insulated “cooler”. My indirect Kamado set-up elevates the meat rack 3 inches with a 14 inch flat aluminum pizza pan “heat deflector”, 1/2 inch air gap and 12 inch deep dish pizza “drip pan” between the coals and the meat- blocking radiant heat transfer.

The result is firm, a bit on the dry side, and intensely smoky-salty flavorful. I sliced by hand (chef’s knife) so could only control to around 1/8 inch thickness. Firm enough to go half that thickness with a power rotary slicer. Steaming it prior to some uses might be desirable. Portioned slices into freezer gauge ziplock bags for future test of Symon’s “Fat Doug Burger”.

The 3 -day wet brine for a 5 pound brisket calls for 1 gallon water, 1.5 cups salt, 1/2 cup sugar, 8 tsp curing salt ( I used Tender Quick), 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, 1/2 cup honey, 2 tbsp minced garlic and 1 tbsp Pickling Spice (next paragraph). Bring all to a simmer, cool, pour over brisket in non-reactive container , weight to submerge and refrigerate for 3 days.

Pickling Spice makes 1/4 cup (more than enough for a 5 pound brisket) and calls for 1 tbsp black peppercorns, 1 tbsp mustard seed, 1 tbsp coriander seed, 1 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes, 1 1/2 tsp allspice, 1 1/2 tsp mace, 1 1/2 tsp whole cloves, 1 1/2 tsp ginger, 1 small cinnamon stick and 10 bay leaves.

Remove brisket from brine, rinse in water and dry with paper towels before coating in a coarsely ground blend of a tbsp each toasted black peppercorns and whole coriander. Place in preheated smoker or grill setup and monitor internal temperature to desired done-ness. Steam or not: it’s your call.