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Chef Fowke

The Great Pastrami & Smoked Meat Experiment

251 posts in this topic

Chef, do you have access to a digital camera? It would be really nice to document this visually.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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There hasn't been Pastrami or Corned Beef product that are being Cured or Smoked with Salt Peter, that i'm aware of being marketed. Most utilize derivatives similar to prague powder, or other curing agents, as Salt Peter requires more carefull attention while curing as I learned thru doing. Also i've never seen any lemon or citric acids in any Jewish/European Pickling Mixture. Never heard of Juniper Berries in Pastrami either. Why 1 pound of Thyme? The amount of Coriander Seeds in not consistant, more are used in a meat pickling mix for Pastrami. There is always more Whole Cloves of Garlic in the Pastrami Pickle to provide the taste expected from Pastrami even though it not applied in the coating used for smoking. Most provisioners, crack the Coriander seeds before mixing with the Cracked Pepper corns. Some also coat the pre-smoked Pastrami's before coating with the cracked spices all over with "Hungarian Paprika" to enhance the finished color of the meat, this darkens during smoking. It's a good practice to weigh down the meats while in your pickling solution, rotating in brine daily. Commercial picklers have built in agitators to do this job, plus submerged lid to weight meats down. It's important to consider during smoking that since your using different cuts of meats, each has a very different amount and location of the colligen content, that should be broken down and permitted to rest properly. The different types of meat also require pre-air drying and setting before you start smoking. If possable each piece would be easier to control if you leave a probe or heat resistant thermometer in a upright position in the thickest part of the meat, as they are going to cook at different times, due to type's of cut's being used. I'm sorry about having so much to say but i'm very interested and excited about your project. Wish you'd added some beef navel cut's, that's the real NYC Pastrami.


I don't say that I do. But don't let it get around that I don't.

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I'm not sure I understand the difference between saltpeter and Prague powder. Aren't they both just ways of saying sodium nitrite?


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Just got home from work and it is really late. Thank you for the feedback! It is great. I apologize for the point form. I cannot wait to sleep, tomorrow is a big day. Howie is in town from New York and I am going to tour him around the markets and docks.

1. Wife is at cottage with camera. She is back soon and I will photograph everything.

2. Yes, salt peter and sodium nitrate are the same.

3. The navel is coming, I called it the plate. I will be dry brining it.

4. I choose the wet brine because of personal experience. I spent the last month researching brines for pastrami and no two where the same. I picked and choose what I thought was the best.

5. The coriander/peppercorn ratio will be increased in the dry rub before smoking. You are probably right about dry-aging the beef for a few days before smoking.

6. I will make sure to weight the pastrami when it comes out of the brine.

7. I will not be rotating the brine. I am working under completely sterile conditions so I will not have a problem with bacteria.

I will get photos posted ASAP!


Chef/Owner/Teacher

Website: Chef Fowke dot com

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Steven and Brian:The difference in curing agents is mostly about even absorbtion of the cure. The two most commonly used for home curing are Sodium Nitrate or Sodium Nitrite. The Prague Powder # 1 is used for wet cures. Only 4 Oz is needed for 100 pounds of meat [1 tsp per 5 pounds]. This powder is a mixed chystalized to assure even distribution during the curing process, Another good product is Morton's Tender Quick, mixture curing Salt, Sodium Nitrite, Sodium Nitrate and Sugar, again crystalized for absorbtion. For whatever reason regular Salt Peter often absorbs uneven during curing, requiring more attention to the rotation/agitation of the meat by inspecting and checking color for equal balance. Whatever happens, Brians finesse and experience should assure success. Stephen can bring the NY Rye Bread and Deli Mustard. I'm willing to be blindfolded and Taste?


I don't say that I do. But don't let it get around that I don't.

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Brisket and plate are, I believe, contiguous parts of the underbelly. But I thought deckel in the context of brisket referred to the point cut of the brisket, not to the plate. This is way beyond what I really know, though -- we need an expert to help us out here.

Beef cuts chart I hope this helps.


Living hard will take its toll...

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2. Yes, salt peter and sodium nitrate are the same.

Sorry to disagree:

chemical compound, NaNO3, a colorless, odorless crystalline compound that closely resembles potassium nitrate (saltpeter or niter) in appearance and chemical properties. It is soluble in water, alcohol, and liquid ammonia. Sodium nitrate is also called soda niter or Chile saltpeter. It is found naturally in large deposits in arid regions of Chile, Peru, Argentina, and Bolivia as caliche, a crude, impure nitrate rock or gravel. Natural deposits are the major source of sodium nitrate; it is also obtained in small amounts as a byproduct of chlorine production by the nitrosyl chloride process, in which sodium chloride (common salt) is reacted with nitric acid. Sodium nitrate is used in making potassium nitrate, fertilizers, and explosives. It was formerly an important raw material for the production of nitric acid.

chemical compound, KNO3, occurring as colorless, prismatic crystals or as a white powder; it is found pure in nature as the mineral saltpeter (or niter). It is slightly soluble in cold water and very soluble in hot water. When it decomposes (on heating) it releases oxygen. Potassium nitrate is prepared commercially by the reaction of potassium chloride with sodium nitrate. It has been used extensively in the manufacture of gunpowder since about the 12th cent.; it is also used in explosives, fireworks, matches, and fertilizers, and as a preservative in foods (especially meats). It is sometimes used in medicine as a diuretic.


Living hard will take its toll...

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2. Yes, salt peter and sodium nitrate are the same.

Sorry to disagree:

chemical compound, NaNO3, a colorless, odorless crystalline compound that closely resembles potassium nitrate (saltpeter or niter) in appearance and chemical properties. It is soluble in water, alcohol, and liquid ammonia. Sodium nitrate is also called soda niter or Chile saltpeter. It is found naturally in large deposits in arid regions of Chile, Peru, Argentina, and Bolivia as caliche, a crude, impure nitrate rock or gravel. Natural deposits are the major source of sodium nitrate; it is also obtained in small amounts as a byproduct of chlorine production by the nitrosyl chloride process, in which sodium chloride (common salt) is reacted with nitric acid. Sodium nitrate is used in making potassium nitrate, fertilizers, and explosives. It was formerly an important raw material for the production of nitric acid.

chemical compound, KNO3, occurring as colorless, prismatic crystals or as a white powder; it is found pure in nature as the mineral saltpeter (or niter). It is slightly soluble in cold water and very soluble in hot water. When it decomposes (on heating) it releases oxygen. Potassium nitrate is prepared commercially by the reaction of potassium chloride with sodium nitrate. It has been used extensively in the manufacture of gunpowder since about the 12th cent.; it is also used in explosives, fireworks, matches, and fertilizers, and as a preservative in foods (especially meats). It is sometimes used in medicine as a diuretic.

Great detail. I am truly impressed! This is not meant to be demeaning, but...

both have the same chemical reaction in the tenderizing of protein.


Chef/Owner/Teacher

Website: Chef Fowke dot com

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It's interesting how everyone who's excited about Pastrami, is likely interested in Pickling, Smokingor Curing a variety of GOODSTUFFS. I've searched thru my files for this site that provides excellent information, plus recipes and other similar links. Actually it would have helped me answer questions to provide more accurate responses then from the top of my head, as on my previous posts. I hope that my sharing this site, provides the information that i'm happy to share with e-Gullet members, http://omicron.felk.cvut.cz/FAQ/articles/a3924.html


I don't say that I do. But don't let it get around that I don't.

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It's interesting how everyone who's excited about Pastrami, is likely  interested in Pickling, Smokingor Curing  a variety of GOODSTUFFS. I've searched thru my files for this site that provides excellent information, plus recipes and other similar links. Actually it would have helped me answer questions to provide more accurate responses then from the top of my head, as on my previous posts. I hope that my sharing this site, provides the information that i'm happy to share with e-Gullet members,  http://omicron.felk.cvut.cz/FAQ/articles/a3924.html

This is full of great information! Thanks for the link.


Chef/Owner/Teacher

Website: Chef Fowke dot com

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It takes time to cure beef. A lot of time. I have been very good and not looked at the meat everyday. I did check it today and we are almost ready to smoke the brisket....

The colour is a beautiful pink. The saltpeter worked. I tasted a corner and the salt is strong but not over-powering. I am going to take the meat out tomorrow, rinse it and soak it in fresh water for 24 hours.

It will then be pressed with the peppercorn/coriander on Saturday and I will smoke it for 6 - 8 hours (internal temperature of 160f).

Monday will be the day of truth. I will steam it...

I will apologize now for not having photos of the different stages of this process. I bought a very, very expensive digital camera from Fuji in the spring and it has spent most of its time in the shop getting 'adjusted'/fixed. I pick it up tomorrow and I will start taking some photos.

I have some friends standing by for Tuesday tasting (Fat guy; I will figure out a way to get you a piece to sample).

What are the criteria we are going to judge the meat by? Should we all agree on twenty points that need to be present in a great piece of pastrami?

I will do the first tasting with my 'foodie' friends and we will critic the meat. From here I will go back to the drawing board and develop a new recipe for the next batch. I will open the tasting to the eGullet public for this tasting in early October.


Chef/Owner/Teacher

Website: Chef Fowke dot com

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A few tasting criteria off the top of my head:

- Should be exceptionally tender, but not to the point of actually falling apart. In other words, it is possible to overcook pastrami.

- Smoke flavor should be readily identifiable but not to the point that it overpowers the other flavors.

- Seasonings should be well integrated, not just sitting on the exterior.

- Should be "juicy" -- marbled fat and collagen should have broken down and made the meat moist -- but not fatty (there shouldn't be big hunks of actual fat); this is a question of butchering as well as cooking, so it's not 100% a taste criterion.

- Moderate saltiness.

- It should "taste like pastrami." In other words, it shouldn't taste like corned beef and it shouldn't taste like just a smoked brisket.

Some things aren't matters of ranking but, rather, should just be observed. For example there are a lot of legitimate spice blends. The important thing is to note their characteristics.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I coated the beef tonight with a very aromatic crust (I initially started cracking all the ingredients by hand! It only took five minutes until I grabbed a coffee grinder to complete the job :blink: ).

70% black peppercorns

20% coriander seeds

5 % white peppercorns

5% mustard seed

10 bay leaves (pulverized)

5 Serrano peppers (pulverized)

The meat is now under 100lbs of weight (strip loins for the weekend) getting compressed. Tomorrow I will smoke the brisket for 6 hours or until it reaches 160f.

I will then press it until Tuesday. It will then steam it for 3 hours and I will do the initial tasting (with photos). I have already picked out the rye bread from my local Lebanese baker.

I have yet to be able to procure a plate. The non-existent Mad Cow scare has made it impossible to find different cuts of beef in this province. As soon as it is available I will do a dry cure and test the complexities of the pastrami with this


Chef/Owner/Teacher

Website: Chef Fowke dot com

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Brian, just letting you know that although there is little posting on this thread that does not mean that there is little interest.

We are all just waiting.


"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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Brian, just letting you know that although there is little posting on this thread that does not mean that there is little interest.

We are all just waiting.

*nods*

=R=


"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

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Just check out the number of views versus replies. The percentage of replies is a LOT lower than most threads.

We are indeed waiting with bait breath. Oh... that is baited breath. (What a stupid expression.)


Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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Just check out the number of views versus replies. The percentage of replies is a LOT lower than most threads.

We are indeed waiting with bait breath. Oh... that is baited breath. (What a stupid expression.)

It is a dumb expression, isn't it--and until I looked it up, didn't really understand where it came from:

http://www.quinion.com/words/qa/qa-bat1.htm


Arthur Johnson, aka "fresco"

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I haven't posted on this before but find this project incredibly interesting. Looking forward to the juicy results! :smile:

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fresco... That is a really cool site! I'll probably even send the guy a donation. I am always wondering about words.

Ain't it amazing what you can learn on eGullet.

Back to pastrami.


Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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Brian: In Vancover. any Kosher Butcher, should be able to get you "Navel Plates", as it a standard forequarter cut, and many butchers still purchase whole quarters. Very often it's utilized in trimmings for ground beef. Any Kosher Packer or Meat Supplier, who breaks ribs from forequarters can also sell generally at reasonable prices the whole plate, that contains the brisket, and the navel. This is often used in Vancovers Ethinic neighborhoods, Portugesse, Italian or Asian as Belly Beef, Brisket Stew or other nanes. Since Beef Bacon has become popular, the Plates are the cut used for this as well. Hope this makes it easier to obtain. The Whole Plate, is what remains when Whole Ribs are broken at the Meat Saw from the Forequarter, when the whole Rib section is cut at the bone. Irwin


I don't say that I do. But don't let it get around that I don't.

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Just check out the number of views versus replies. The percentage of replies is a LOT lower than most threads.

We are indeed waiting with bait breath. Oh... that is baited breath. (What a stupid expression.)

1560+ views. That's no joke. :wink: I'll bet it will break 2000 within a week or two.

I'm no expert, but I'm thinking about Fat Guy's criteria and they seem mostly on. Another important warning is that Pastrami CAN be overspiced. Heck, a lot of bad Pastrami is probably guilty of this--it becomes more about the crap on the outside than the meat. This may seem slightly at odds with Steven's "it shouldn't taste like just a smoked brisket" point, but all I'm really saying is that there is a happy medium somewhere.


Jon Lurie, aka "jhlurie"

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Isn't there supposed to be garlic involved somewhere along the line in the creation of pastrami? Or am I confused on that point?


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Isn't there supposed to be garlic involved somewhere along the line in the creation of pastrami? Or am I confused on that point?

I used whole garlic in the wet brine. I have read recipes that call for the meat being rubbed with whole garlic before the crust is applies and smoked.


Chef/Owner/Teacher

Website: Chef Fowke dot com

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:wub: The meat is in the smoker! It is a great day. I wish I could send you all a sample of the smell in the kitchen. It is truly a beautiful thing :wub:

Chef/Owner/Teacher

Website: Chef Fowke dot com

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:wub: The meat is in the smoker! It is a great day. I wish I could send you all a sample of the smell in the kitchen. It is truly a beautiful thing  :wub:

Sounds great! :smile:

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