How to Make Homemade Pastrami (a.k.a Smoked Meat)

Pastrami Montreal-Style Smoked Meat Viande FumeOk, enough with all those travel and event posts.  Time for an actual food-from-scratch post!  Pastrami!  This is one definitely one of our favorite dishes!  In New York where I’m from (Mid-Hudson Valley) there’s nothing like a good pastrami sandwich from a proper deli.  Head to Montreal and Quebec City and you’ll find it’s called smoked meat or viande fume.  Other than foolishly deciding to smoke meat during the hottest week of the summer so far, this backyard experiment turned out deliciously well. 

No matter what you call it you use the same cut of meat as corned beef: beef brisket.  The differences between pastrami and corned beef are the brine seasonings, amount of time you leave the brisket in the brine, and how you prepare it.  For pastrami brining takes only 3 days, and instead of boiling it you coat the beef with cracked peppercorns and smoke it over low heat.  Pretty simple and you get big slab of meat.

Turning once again to Ruhlman’s Charcuterie, I searched out his recipe for the brine and cooking instructions.  Once brined, I set the meat in the refrigerator and waited for the salty liquid to work its magic.  When the big day arrived I prepared the smoker, got it to the right temperature, and put the meat on.  It wasn’t a big piece of meat, about 4 lbs, so it didn’t take all that long to get the brisket’s temperature up to 150°F, about 2 ½ – 3 hours in the smoker.  After pulling it out of the smoker I brought the meat inside and slow roasted it in the oven for a couple of more hours until fork tender.  Yes, the house smelled great that day, my friends!

I think this is very good recipe to try if you’re just starting out smoking meat like I am.  I didn’t need to tend the fire for any long amount of time and the meat finishes up in the oven in a nice warm, moist environment.  It’d be pretty difficult to mess this one up.  The keys to success are getting a lot of smoke on the meat in the beginning since it doesn’t spend that much time in the smoker.  So throw on a couple extra chunks of hickory, mesquite, cherry, or whatever wood you’re using, in order to get more up-front smoke.

Pastrami (or Smoked Meat) from Charcuterie


  • 4 L (1 gallon) of water
  • 350 gr kosher salt (1 ½ C)
  • 225 gr sugar (1 C)
  • 42 gr pink salt (Prague Powder #1) (8 tsp)
  • 8 gr pickling spice (1 Tbs)
  • 90 gr dark brown sugar (½ C)
  • 60 ml honey (¼ C)
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced

In a large pot (big enough to hold the beef) combine all the ingredients and bring to a simmer, stirring to make sure all the sugar and salt is dissolved.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Once cooled, refrigerate the brine to chill it further.


  • 5 lbs beef brisket
  • 1 Tbs coriander seeds
  • 1 Tbs black peppercorns

Place the beef brisket in the chilled brine and weigh down with a small plate so it stays submerged in the brine.  Refrigerate for 3 days.

After three days remove the brisket from the brine, rinse it, and dry it off.  Discard the brine.

With your mortar and pestle (or spice grinder) crack and grind up the coriander and peppercorns.  (I used a lot more of the black peppercorns than coriander, probably more like 2-3 Tbs of pepper because I wanted more pepper in the crust and I wanted more cracked pepper than ground.  Either way you want a coarse mixture of coriander and pepper.)

Coat/rub the beef evenly with the pepper mix.

Coated and ready for the smoker!
Coated and ready for the smoker!

Hot smoke the meat to an internal temperature of 150°F.  [Side Roam: I have a Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker and on the temperature gauge there is a range between 200°F and 275°F where it says “SMOKE” so this is the range I kept the temperature in.  It wasn’t that difficult really, for the most part the Weber did a great job on its own maintaining an even temp within the smoke zone. Ruhlman advocates for smoking the brisket around 200°F but I figured if I was in the range my Weber said to be in everything would be fine.  And it was.  Of course the longer you have it in the smoker; i.e. lower temp; the more smoke flavor you’ll get.]

See you in a couple of hours Mr. Brisket.
See you in a couple of hours Mr. Brisket.

Remove the brisket from the smoker.  Pre-heat the oven to 275°F.  Pour about an inch of water into a roasting pan large enough to hold the brisket.  Bring the water to a simmer on the stovetop, and turn off heat.  Place the brisket in the roasting pan and cover tightly with aluminum foil.

Place the roasting pan in the oven and slow cook for 2-3 hours until the brisket is fork tender.

Slice up some rye, spread mustard on the bread, and make one helluva sandwich!



  1. chef mimi says:

    I own the book, but you’ve now inspired me to make pastrami! Looks delicious!

    1. Lot’s of good inspiration in that book.

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