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The Great Pastrami & Smoked Meat Experiment


Chef Fowke
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Another week of great pastrami, no cure problems whatsoever. Now that I've taken over the brining process entirely, we haven't had any problems. The injection is the key. We even had a few that went 4 days instead of 6 and they came out great.

btw, Irwin, we went a little lower and a little longer and the texture was indeed improved. I would say it was about perfect this week -- at least with the pieces that weren't extra thick.

We got a write-up yesterday in the Oregonian and were SLAMMED today. My f'n feet are tired! (And afterwards I headed over to the American Cheese Society Cheese Festival and ate about a hunnerd cheeses. I'm sweating butter!)

Here's the writeup:

http://www.oregonlive.com/dining/oregonian...7880.xml&coll=7

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The bread's pretty good. It's a light sour rye by Grand Central Bakery. It's about the right darkness and has a great texture. I haven't decided if I like how sour it is or not. We started with a 40% rye from a local German bakery, but they couldn't make the loaves large enough and square enough for our sandwiches. The texture of Grand Central's true artisan loaves are better, too.

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  • 4 weeks later...

I've got a couple of wagyu navel plates (about 14lbs each) that I'd like to make pastrami with. I didn't see the brine formula you used and was also wondering the brining time.

Any help would be appreciated!

Thanks.

Another week of great pastrami, no cure problems whatsoever.  Now that I've taken over the brining process entirely, we haven't had any problems.  The injection is the key.  We even had a few that went 4 days instead of 6 and they came out great. 

btw, Irwin, we went a little lower and a little longer and the texture was indeed improved.  I would say it was about perfect this week -- at least with the pieces that weren't extra thick.

We got a write-up yesterday in the Oregonian and were SLAMMED today.  My f'n feet are tired!  (And afterwards I headed over to the American Cheese Society Cheese Festival and ate about a hunnerd cheeses.  I'm sweating butter!)

Here's the writeup:

http://www.oregonlive.com/dining/oregonian...7880.xml&coll=7

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  • 1 year later...

Have been making pastrami starting off with the recipe from Charcuterie. Started with a brisket that was way too lean, brined for five days. Turned out too dry (expected), and far too salty.

For the second try, I wanted to use navel plate. It is fairly difficult to find beef navel plate in Seattle.. I had to drive about 20 miles south, but was able to get beef plate with no problems. Cured this for 3 1/2 days and it turned out spectacular! I wanted to use injection, but alas could not find my injector. There were only very thin areas that did not get fully cured.

Smoked over hickory and pecan in a Bradley smoker at 200 degrees for about six hours. Braised (instead of steamed) for four hours.

IMG_7520a.jpg

Note, my goal was to make a very fatty pastrami, a la Kenny & Zuke's in Portland.

Homemade pastrami reuben with homemade chopped liver is awesome!

Edited by phong (log)
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  • 2 weeks later...

Thanks for the post, phong. I'm also using the Ruhlman Charcuterie recipe with some CIA Garde Manger tips added. Why did you brine it for five days? Ruhlman says three, and CIA says 4-5. (They also inject brine into the meat.) And did you braise it whole or as needed for each meal? Melkor mentions doing the latter uptopic.

I've got a brisket curing (24 hours so far) as we speak. I'm hoping to take it out of the brine Wed (72 hrs), let it get a pellicle for a day or two, and then smoke it in the Bradley with hickory. Not sure what next, though, so opinions on braise vs steam and whole vs in pieces are welcome.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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I was taking some additional advice from here, written by Nick Zukin (of Kenny & Zuke's):

http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/319246#1872769

Like I said, his advice of brining for five days left my particular brisket too salty even without injection.

I braised the entire piece after smoking and sliced immediately. I'll fess up to using the microwave to reheat pieces as needed for Reubens. The pastrami was tender and moist enough to stand up to the microwave. Earlier in the thread somebody mentioned that freezing immediately after smoking works well.

I am not sure how necessary a pellicle is since you need the peppercorn/coriander rub to stick, and the meat stays quite a long time in the smoke anyways.

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Called several butchers in the area. The most highly regarded one in the city of Seattle said that they haven't gotten navel plate in for 20 years. I had to drive pretty far south (40 minutes) to a different butcher that said they get it in once a month and usually grind it up for hamburger.

Phong, how did you end up finding the beef navel plate? I've looked for it, even in hispanic groceries and nothing...

Did you go to a specific type of grocery?

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A couple crazy friends and I decided to do a pulled pork party. I've been making beef pastrami for a few years and was asked why not make it out of pork. So I followed the same Ruhlman method with pork shoulder and it was the hit of the party. We ended up with 9 types of pulled pork.

We had puerco pibil, adobo pork, goan pork, java rubbed pork, yellow curry pork, kahlua pork, pork rillettes, traditional southern bbq pulled pork, and the pork pastrami. All from pork shoulder and all smoked from 8 - 10 hours. Quite the feast.

Desserts went well, but we were left with a bunch of salads and vegetables. Not a balanced meal but no one complained!

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Anybody see a reason why pastrami couldn't be made with short rib meat? I imagine I could ask the butcher to give me short ribs without cutting them in between the bones. At home, I could slice the bones off, leaving a nice slab of meat, similar to this image:

http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1110/107899...fe9ba2f.jpg?v=0

The marbling and medium fat content of short rib meat seems like it would be perfect for the style of pastrami I'm looking for. I don't know if the differences in texture over plate or brisket would be a problem though.

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I think it's certainly worth attempting. Brisket and short rib meat have similar qualities, both being tougher cuts that benefit from long slow cooking.

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Most consumer-level pastrami these days is made with round. With that as a benchmark, how could short-rib pastrami not be an improvement?

With respect to Chris's post above:

Thanks for the post, phong. I'm also using the Ruhlman Charcuterie recipe with some CIA Garde Manger tips added. Why did you brine it for five days? Ruhlman says three, and CIA says 4-5. (They also inject brine into the meat.) And did you braise it whole or as needed for each meal? Melkor mentions doing the latter uptopic.

I've got a brisket curing (24 hours so far) as we speak. I'm hoping to take it out of the brine Wed (72 hrs), let it get a pellicle for a day or two, and then smoke it in the Bradley with hickory. Not sure what next, though, so opinions on braise vs steam and whole vs in pieces are welcome.

I did a pastrami (brisket) a few weeks ago that turned out so well that I decided not to share it:

5.5 lb beef brisket

Brine:

2 quarts water

300 g salt

180 g white sugar

100 g dark brown sugar

17 g pink salt

4 cloves garlic, pressed

12 allspice berries

12 cloves

1 T black peppercorns

1 T ground coriander

Bring water to a boil. Steep spices (except garlic and pink salt) until sugar and salt are dissolved. Allow to cool; add garlic and pink salt. Stir to dissolve, then add another two quarts chilled water.

Put brisket in a two-gallon zip-lock bag; add brine. Soak for three days, turning every twelve hours (more or less).

Pack surface with freshly-ground black pepper and corainder.

Smoke at ambient -- about 80 F -- for 18 hours over fruitwood (cherry and apple). Let rest for six hours, then refrigerate.

Portion and steam as needed -- about an hour. I found a little rack that fit into a saute pan.

I found that for main courses, where the meat has to be the star, steaming was best, but for sandwiches, pre-steamed and gently microwave-reheated was just fine.

I'm not saying this is the authoritative way (or even my definitive way) to do pastrami; I'm just saying it worked very, very well.

Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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I found that for main courses, where the meat has to be the star, steaming was best, but for sandwiches, pre-steamed and gently microwave-reheated was just fine.

When we had a deli and were bringing smoked meat in from Montreal, we found that the best way to warm individual, sliced servings was in a cambro container on a drain shelf with some water in the bottom of the container and a lid on. Or another, similar contraption would work. Steamed to order.

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  • 1 year later...

Have been making pastrami starting off with the recipe from Charcuterie. Started with a brisket that was way too lean, brined for five days. Turned out too dry (expected), and far too salty.

For the second try, I wanted to use navel plate. It is fairly difficult to find beef navel plate in Seattle.. I had to drive about 20 miles south, but was able to get beef plate with no problems. Cured this for 3 1/2 days and it turned out spectacular! I wanted to use injection, but alas could not find my injector. There were only very thin areas that did not get fully cured.

Smoked over hickory and pecan in a Bradley smoker at 200 degrees for about six hours. Braised (instead of steamed) for four hours.

IMG_7520a.jpg

Note, my goal was to make a very fatty pastrami, a la Kenny & Zuke's in Portland.

Homemade pastrami reuben with homemade chopped liver is awesome!

I've tried making this pastrami with the navel plate a couple times and each time it came out far too dry. Yours looks absolutely perfect.

Any ideas on what's going wrong?

Edited by mmille24 (log)
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  • 1 year later...

Just resurrecting this amazing topic having spent a whole evening drooling over it. I really want to make some pastrami but want to avoid the problems I've had with salt beef using brisket (ending up tasty but too dry). Does anyone have any tips what I should ask for in the UK to get what you guys call "plate" or "navel plate"?

Looking at the diagrams on wiki, "brisket" in the UK seems to go further towards the back of the animal than it does in the US, i.e. it seems to encompass what you call the plate. How can I describe it so that I get the right level of fat to make a good pastrami?

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  • 1 month later...

In the end I went with a 12lb brisket from a local Kosher butchers - seems the only way I can get one with enough fat on round here is to get from a kosher butcher.

I followed this recipe for the dry cure:

3/4 lb kosher salt

1/2 lb ground peppercorn

1/8 lb white sugar

1/8 lb coriander seed (rough grind)

3 TBL ground clove

3 TBL ground bay leaf

2 TBL instacure (pink salt)

and left it weighted in the fridge for 11 days, turning every day. After the curing (yesterday) I took it out of the fridge, rinsed thoroughly then soaked for 3 hours in cold water, changing the water every 30 minutes. I then ground up 1/3lb Peppercorns and 1/6lb corrainder seed and rubbed this well into the entire surface of the meat and stuck if back in the fridge overnight, weighted again.

Here's how it looks this morning, ready to be cooked:

pastrami 1.JPG

As you can see, today is a perfect day for lighting up the Weber... :)

pastrami 3.JPG

Just waiting the BBQ to cool down now and the meat can go in...

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Temp finally gets down to below 250F and the meat goes in, I'm using oak chips, possibly mixed with some maple later (for no other reason than that's what I had in the cupboard!):

We probably have about four hours of daylight left so I think I'll pull it out after that and finish it in the oven with steam.

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Happily smoking away in the snow (useful stuff, snow. piled some on the lid when it was getting a bit hot :cool: ):

pastrami 8.JPG

pastrami 10.JPG

pastrami 9.JPG

So, after four hours in the Weber (really can't do any more as its dark and about -7!) I've pulled it out:

pastrami 11.jpg

And brought it inside to finish cooking in the oven, its encased in a foil tomb, on a rack over some water, oven set to 250F to bring the internal temperature upto 185-190F over the next few hours.

pastrami 15.jpg

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In the end I went with a 12lb brisket from a local Kosher butchers - seems the only way I can get one with enough fat on round here is to get from a kosher butcher.

I followed this recipe for the dry cure:

3/4 lb kosher salt

1/2 lb ground peppercorn

1/8 lb white sugar

1/8 lb coriander seed (rough grind)

3 TBL ground clove

3 TBL ground bay leaf

2 TBL instacure (pink salt)

and left it weighted in the fridge for 11 days, turning every day. After the curing (yesterday) I took it out of the fridge, rinsed thoroughly then soaked for 3 hours in cold water, changing the water every 30 minutes. I then ground up 1/3lb Peppercorns and 1/6lb corrainder seed and rubbed this well into the entire surface of the meat and stuck if back in the fridge overnight, weighted again.

thats 6.25%+salt, notincluding the pink,,IMHO that is nearly twice as much as is good...

Hope I am wrong..Bud

Here's how it looks this morning, ready to be cooked:

pastrami 1.JPG

As you can see, today is a perfect day for lighting up the Weber... :)

pastrami 3.JPG

Just waiting the BBQ to cool down now and the meat can go in...

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thats 6.25%+salt, notincluding the pink,,IMHO that is nearly twice as much as is good...

Hope I am wrong..Bud

I seemed to find such differing amounts in the various recipes on the net for this - Chef Fowke's recipe earlier in this thread called for THREE POUNDS of salt for a 7lb brisket which seemed like a mountain to me (what's that, like nearly 43%?). Does the amount in the dry cure matter as much as how long the meat is in there for? Not sure.

Guess we'll find out soon... internal temp is upto about 180F right now, still feels very tight when I fork it so guess I'll need to wait a bit longer yet. Will report back later :smile:

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thats 6.25%+salt, notincluding the pink,,IMHO that is nearly twice as much as is good...

Hope I am wrong..Bud

I seemed to find such differing amounts in the various recipes on the net for this - Chef Fowke's recipe earlier in this thread called for THREE POUNDS of salt for a 7lb brisket which seemed like a mountain to me (what's that, like nearly 43%?). Does the amount in the dry cure matter as much as how long the meat is in there for? Not sure.

Guess we'll find out soon... internal temp is upto about 180F right now, still feels very tight when I fork it so guess I'll need to wait a bit longer yet. Will report back later :smile:

The cure, ideally, should go on until the meat comes to equalibrium, you put x%of weightof meat in salt on it and let it cure until the meatcomes to an equalibrium so it contains that %of salt equalally distributed thru the meat...makes it so it comes out the same ,and correct every time..Iuse it on Pancetta Guianchalle(s p) and Bacon...etc.takes longer,but is more accurate....

Bud

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The cure, ideally, should go on until the meat comes to equalibrium, you put x%of weightof meat in salt on it and let it cure until the meatcomes to an equalibrium so it contains that %of salt equalally distributed thru the meat...makes it so it comes out the same ,and correct every time..Iuse it on Pancetta Guianchalle(s p) and Bacon...etc.takes longer,but is more accurate....

Bud

Interesting stuff this and seems to make sense, how do you know when equilibrium has been reached though?

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I dont know of a time formula ,but a feel for it seems to work..I do a bacon pork belly,about an inch thick in a bag in the reefer for about a week or soturning every day,so all the liquid gets absorbed back into the meat ,obviously a largerThicker cut would taake longer I think its just a feel thing and if you are not sure ,do it longer..Jay Molanari who posts on the Charcuterie thread probably has some better thoughts on the subject...

Bud

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