This is an easy homemade Pastrami for all the poor sods like myself who don’t live around the corner from a New York Jewish deli. Tender, juicy and with the signature pastrami spice crust, this is astonishingly straight forward to make – and is outrageously good!
Use it to make giant pastrami sandwiches on rye, or Reuben sandwiches!
Homemade Pastrami recipe
If Katz’s Deli isn’t my first stop when I land in New York, it’s my second or third stop – and probably only because I had a prior dinner commitment.
Yes, I’m that obsessed with pastrami sandwiches.
Let’s be clear about one thing here – this is not a pastrami sandwich as many people know them here in Australia. The pastrami piled high in these sandwiches are light years away from the cold, slippery cuts we get over the counter at delis.
The pastrami you get at Jewish delis in the States is tender, juicy, fall apart and loaded with that wonderful earthy spice flavours of the pastrami crust with the obligatory black pepper kick.
It’s outrageously good. OUTRAGEOUSLY!!
I have searched high and low, but the sad fact is that there is simply nowhere in Sydney that has pastrami that is anywhere near Katz’s. So I decided to take matters into my own hands and make my own pastrami.
Real pastrami is smoked for days. Days, my friends. I’ve read that the Katz’s smoker is the size of an apartment. Pastrami is serious business!
Mine is a somewhat more achievable home version – made in the slow cooker or pressure cooker.
How do I make pastrami? (The easy way!)
Start with store bought corned beef*
Make our own homemade pastrami spice mix which is made with everyday spices and loads of cracked pepper
Coat beef in Spice mix, wrap in foil
Slow cook or pressure cook until tender.
Cool for ease of slicing before baking briefly just to seal the crust, then slice thinly, and pile high on rye bread.
* Corned Beef is beef that’s been brined, either brisket or silverside beef cuts. An economical cut sold in the fresh meat section of supermarkets. It’s called Salt Beef or Pickled Salt Beef in the UK.
Here are the spices you need for pastrami. You can buy coarsely ground cracked pepper but it’s better to grind your own if you can.
Is it as good as Katz’s?
No. And no homemade version ever will be.
But it is so darn good. So SO good. A billion times better than the stuff you buy over the counter at everyday delis. This pastrami that money can’t buy – certainly here in Australia at least, except at speciality stalls at some weekend markets.
So when you need a pastrami or Reuben sandwich fix, this will go a long way to curb your craving – until your next trip back to NYC! – Nagi x
PS If you’d like to try your hand at a real pastrami made in a smoker, I recommend this one from my friend Kevin at Kevin is Cooking.
How to make a Pastrami sandwich
Lightly toasted dark rye bread slathered with butter then mustard then piled high with lots of thinly sliced homemade pastrami. Melted cheese is optional (mandatory in my books!).
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Homemade Pastrami Without a Smoker
- 4 lbs / 2kg good corned beef, with a thick fat cap (Note 1)
- 4 tbsp fresh coarsely ground black pepper
- 2 tbsp coriander powder
- 1 1/2 tsp mustard powder
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 1 tbsp smoked paprika
- 2 tsp garlic powder
- 2 tsp onion powder
- 2 tbsp liquid smoke (optional)
- Mix Spice Mix and spread out on a tray. Pat beef dry then roll in Spice Mix, coating well all over. Sprinkle with liquid smoke it using (I rarely use this).
- Place beef fat cap side down and wrap in a large sheet of foil. Repeat again with another sheet of foil and flip the beef so the fat cap is on the top.
- Place rack in slow cooker (Note 2), place beef on rack. Slow cook for 10 hours on low or electric pressure cook for 1 hour 40 minutes (see notes for oven).
- Remove beef, cool then refrigerate for 6 hours +. Reserve juices in slow cooker.
- Unwrap beef. Place rack on tray, place beef on rack. Bake 30 minutes at 180C/350F until spice crust is set.
- Remove from oven, slice thinly - pastrami will be tender. Place some pastrami in a dish, spoon over a bit of reserved juices. Cover and microwave to warm (I like to add a slice of Swiss cheese).
- New York Deli style Pastrami Sandwich: Pile high on toasted rye bread slathered with plenty of mustard of choice. Serve with pickles on the side! Plus plain potato crisps (for the full deli experience!)
- Rebuen sandwiches - see this recipe.
Electric Pressure Cooker -you don't need to add liquid because corned beef is plump with extra liquid it has absorbed from the brining process so it drops liquid as it heats up, and it's that liquid that creates the steam that creates the pressure cooking environment. If for some reason it doesn't come to temperature (ie that whistling noise never occurs, pop in 1/2 cup of water - but I've never had to do this). You end up with the same amount of liquid at the bottom of the pot whether you slow cook or pressure cook.
Stove top pressure cooker: add 1/2 cup of water.
Oven - I haven’t tried this myself, but this is what I would do: wrap with foil one extra time, add 1/2 cup water in pan, put wrapped beef on rack in pan, cover pan tightly with foil. Recipe I reference (see below) says 110C/225F for 6 hours which sounds about right compared for the slow cooking time I use. 4. General notes: The slow cooking part tenderising the meat and allows the spice flavours to infuse. The cooling in the fridge makes it easier to slice thinly - if you try to slice hot corned beef, it crumbles. The baking seals the crust - it doesn't heat through, you want the centre cold for easier slicing. 5. SERVINGS: The corned beef will shrink by about 30%, so 2kg/4lb yields about 1.4kg/2.8lb cooked meat. Allow 300 g / 10 oz per serving for large pastrami sandwiches, as pictured. 6. Recipe loosely guided by this Allrecipes.com pastrami recipe. 7. Store leftovers for up to 5 days in the refrigerator. Reheat slices per recipe. Originally published May 2014, recipe updated June 2018 with a more streamlined, better recipe.
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