Pastrami Sandwich

When I used to live in Boston, I would frequently take the bus to New York and spend the day exploring the city. Now that I’m back on the west coast, I find myself missing the busy streets of New York and of course, the food. In my last visit to New York, I went to dine at the famous Katz Deli and was blown away by the pastrami Reuben sandwich. The quality of the pastrami was phenomenal, even the wildly popular Langers in Los Angeles does not compare.
Alas, since I do not see myself going to New York any time soon, I have but no choice than to make pastrami myself, using a recipe that claims to yield pastrami very similar to Katz’s. The process took about 2 whole weeks, first making corned beef than turning that into pastrami. I’m not going to lie, it was a lot of work just for a couple of sandwiches, but the quality? Amazing!






pastrami sandwich


Pastrami sandwich
Serves 6
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Corned beef
  1. 4 pounds beef brisket
  2. 1/2 gallon water
  3. 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  4. 4 ounces salt
  5. 2 tsp pink curing salt #1
  6. 2 1/2 tbsp pickling spices (Recipe below)
  7. 2 cloves garlic, smashed or pressed
  1. 4 tbsp ground black pepper
  2. 2 tbsp coriander powder
  3. 1 tsp mustard powder
  4. 1 tbsp brown sugar
  5. 1 tbsp paprika
  6. 2 tsp garlic powder
  7. 2 tsp onion powder
  8. 4-8 oz smoke wood
  1. 12 slices rye bread
  2. 6 slices swiss cheese
  3. sauerkraut
  4. Thousand Island Dressing or mustard
Cherry on my Sundae

For pastrami recipe click here

Pickling spice mixture
Yields 3
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Total Time
5 min
Total Time
5 min
  1. 2 tbsp whole black peppercorns
  2. 3 inch cinnamon stick
  3. 2 tbsp dill seeds
  4. 1 tbsp hot red pepper flakes
  5. 1 tbsp mustard seeds, any color
  6. 1 tbsp coriander seeds
  7. 1 tbsp celery seeds
  8. 4 bay leaves
  9. 1 tbsp dried thyme leaves
  10. 1 tbsp ground ginger
  11. 2 tsp whole allspice berries
  12. 1 tsp whole cloves
  13. 1 tbsp mace (opt)
  14. 1/2 tsp cardamom seeds (opt)
  15. 1 tbsp juniper berries (opt)
  16. 2 star anise pods (opt)
  1. Smash the cinnamon sticks and peppercorns with a meat tenderizer or hammer until crumbled. Tear up the bay leaves into flakes about 1/8 inches. Mix the cinnamon sticks, peppercorns, and bay leaves with the remaining ingredients and store in a tight jar.
Cherry on my Sundae

**Helpful tips and common mistakes

Brisket consists of two muscles, the point muscle, and the flat muscle. If you purchase your brisket at a butcher shop, you can choose to get a packer meat, which includes both muscles, or have it separated into the two muscles. It is highly recommended that you cut the meat in half to allow for a quicker cooking process. 
Now if you were to make corned beef, you want to remove most of the fat, leaving only about 1/8 inch on top. However, if you are making pastrami, you want to leave the fat so that you will have a more tender and juicy sandwich. Unfortunately, all of the brisket at my local market did not have much or any fat. 
When preparing the brine for the brisket, you must use pink curing salt #1 NOT pink curing salt #2. Pink curing salt #1, also known as Prague powder, only has sodium nitrite, while pink curing salt #2 has sodium nitrite and sodium nitrate. This pink curing salt contributes to the pink color and kills the bacteria in the meat. I had to purchase mine online at; however, you can substitute it with 2 tsp of table salt. Just keep in mind that your meat will be brown in color. 
You must use a non-reactive container when brining the brisket. This excludes aluminum, copper, cast-iron, garbage bags, and styrofoam. These materials all react with the salt and give the meat an undesirable flavor. 
Five days later and the corned beef is ready. You will find that the brisket is slightly tan in color and looks as it did raw. Of course, you can skip all these steps and buy already prepared corned beef.
After you have soaked the corned beef in water, season generously. The longer the pastrami sits in the seasonings, the better it will taste. I let mine sit for 5 days.
Now it is finally time to cook the pastrami! If you have a charcoal smoker, this is the best equipment to use.  The charcoal produces a deeper darker crust than gas or electric smokers. For the wood, any type will do since the pastrami already has so much flavor. 
If you are like me and don’t own a smoker, you can use your oven! Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F with the oven rack in the lowest position. Line a large baking sheet with two long sheets of aluminum foil, overlapping 1 inch in the center. Make sure the bottom and sides are covered and that there is enough excess foil. 
Scatter wood chips in an even layer in the bottom of the pan. Place a roasting rack on top so that it is 1 1/2 inches above the chips. If your rack isn’t high enough, you can flip it over. 
Place the brisket with the fat side up on the rack. Pull up the sheets of foil to extend over the meat, crimping the open ends tightly together to create a tent. Bring up the foil on the sides and crimp the edges together so that there are no gaps or open ends. 
Place the roasting rack over two burners over medium-high heat. Smoke for about 5 minutes or until a steady stream of smoke starts to pour out. Transfer to the oven and smoke for 8-10 hours or until the internal temperature is 140 degrees F. 
pastramiRemove the pastrami from the oven, cool to room temperature, chill and continue with the steps on how to steam. 
Since the pastrami is rather large pieces of meat, they did not fit in my steamer. No problem here because you can make one with your baking pan! My only suggestion is to lay the pastrami on a sheet of foil. Fold up the edges of the foil to create a bed for the meat. Doing this prevents the steam from taking off all the seasonings. It also allows the pastrami to steam in its own juices, making it even juicer!
Now making a pastrami Reuben is entirely up to you. You can make a simple pastrami sandwich and it will still be outrageously delicious. 
When slicing, make sure to slice across the grain. In other words, you want to see which direction the lines in the pastrami go. Cut the opposite direction of those lines. If the lines are horizontal, slice vertically. Slicing across the grain gives you less chewy pieces.
I cannot begin to describe how delicious this pastrami is! I was nervous about the outcome until I sliced into the pastrami and saw the juices pouring out. I can’t help but boast that I think this pastrami is comparable to Katz deli. The spices make the pastrami so incredibly flavorful and the slow smoking process combined with the two hours of steaming yielded a tender, fall apart pastrami. Thank goodness I made extra because I cannot get enough of this pastrami! 
pastrami sandwich
Looking for someone to come to your house and prepare these dishes for you? It is possible! If you are in Los Angeles and looking for a private chef, please feel free to contact me. For more information, visit Private Kitchen Los Angeles


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  1. Delicious, may well find the enthusiasm to do this one day, thanks.

  2. I was just wondering why the internal temp. needs to be 190-200 in a smoker and only 140 in your oven. Thanks.

    • The heat sources are different in a smoker and an oven. The oven heat is stronger than the heat in a smoker, even at low temperatures, so the pastrami should be cooked only until 140 in an oven. Hope this helps clear things up!

    • I’ve been cooking mine only to 165 in my smoker and have never tried steaming it after. I just followed recipes from a few years ago when there weren’t a lot of pastrami recipes online. I am guessing that steaming makes it fall apart tender but doesn’t affect the flavor much. Glad to have found your site and thanks for such a quick response. I actually have three 4#’s in the smoker as we speak. I cannot wait to try some of your other recipes. Maybe I will hire you as my personal chef the next time I am in S. Cal 🙂

    • Yes steaming the pastrami does make it tender! Thank you for the kind words and yes feel free to have me cook for you anytime! 🙂

  3. What happened to the recipe? I have come to this web page twice before and it contained a complete recipe for making first a corned beef, then a pastrami. Now, it appears something has gone missing – there are no instructions for corning or smoking??? What happened to the rest of it?

    • cma0425

      I changed the format of the posts; to find the recipe click on the link above. It has instructions for how to make the corned beef and pastrami.

  4. brent

    Enjoyed your post,
    When you steam, at what internal temp do you take the brisket to?

  5. Hi ! This is a great recipe of Pastrami that I want to try soon! i am just wondering… After you rub the meat with spices, where do you let it sit during 5 days? in the fridge ? covered in film or…? I’m confused or maybe I’ve missed reading something in your post. Thanks in advance for your answer!

    • cma0425

      Let it sit wrapped in film in the fridge – think of it as marinating the meat! Hope that clears things up!

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