Smoked Beef Brisket Pastrami

On a lark, I went to the grocery store to get a brisket to smoke for Halloween, but wound up also grabbing a corned beef brisket knowing that with a little effort it could turn into some tasty pastrami. The brisket was good not great, but I held out hopes for my pastrami experiment.

I’ve never tried to make it before, but amazingribs.com rarely steers me wrong. I found the “Close to Katz’s” recipe and figured it was worth a shot.

For my first attempt, I only debrined it for a little less than 24 hours, switching the water every 6-8 hours, so (spoiler alert) it wound up too salty.

Debrined corned beef, lathered in olive oi

Debrined corned beef, lathered in olive oil

After all the water soaking, despite dabbing with paper towels, the corned beef was still pretty moist from all the water. You can understand why the recipe called for lathering the brisket with olive oil to get the rub to stick.

Corned beef seasoned with rub

Corned beef seasoned with rub

For the trial run, the rub was less peppery and more on the sugary / seasoned salt side with plenty of onion powder and garlic powder.

Corned beef positioned on my new WSM

Corned beef positioned on my new WSM

I own a lot of BBQ gadgets and thingies, but hadn’t bought myself a nice smoker before. I have made a UDS and used my 22″ Weber kettle regularly, but that was it. Finally my wife was sick of hearing me say not to get me anything for Christmas or Fathers’ Day or my birthday or whatever. She gave me an ultimatum and said that she was going to buy me a smoker for Fathers’ Day with or without my input so I may as well pick it out. Without much hesitation I told her the 22″ Weber Smokey Mountain. This is its first big task.

Cherry wood logs in the WSM

Cherry wood logs in the WSM

Amazing Ribs suggested cherry wood so that’s what I went with, along with some hardwood charcoal.

After several hours of cherry wood smoke...

After several hours of cherry wood smoke…

Love the color and aroma as this thing slow smokes.

And plenty of smoke later, the corned beef is pastrami

And plenty of smoke later, the corned beef is pastrami

A good 12 hours after putting this thing on the WSM my corned beef transformed into pastrami. We pulled it and carved and served it up hot.

I should have checked the internal temperature, but failed to. It was close to dinner time, so I pulled it off for a rest.

Giving the pastrami a nice rest

Giving the pastrami a nice rest

By hot I mean of course after letting it rest for at least 20 minutes.

Well damn I have to say that looks pretty

Well damn I have to say that looks pretty

Carved up, I have to admit this is a gorgeous piece of meat.

Kids crushed it without any complaints – major rarity. My lessons here were: (1) debrine longer, (2) get the actual ingredients for the Katz rub from the Smoking Ribs site, and (3) check that internal temperature.

So… we were invited to a Friendsgiving dinner party. I offered some pastrami to our host and he obliged. Second attempt:

Debrined for 36 hours, with lots of water changes.

Two debrined corned beef briskets

Two debrined corned beef briskets

I was told to expect about 50ish people, with everyone bringing something. Hence the two corned beef hunks, though I probably should have made a third. This is about 6-7 lbs total, including the 30% weight added from the brining.

Unmixed Katz' pastrami rub

Unmixed Katz’ pastrami rub

This time I followed the Katz facsimile rub recipe, but doubled it given the amount of meat.

8 tablespoons fresh coarsely ground black pepper
4 tablespoons coriander powder
2 teaspoon mustard powder
2 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoon paprika
4 teaspoons garlic powder
4 teaspoons onion powder

Well-rubbed corned beef brisket

Well-rubbed corned beef brisket

All sides got a heaping helpin’ of rub, after a good lube of olive oil (per the recipe). This is a very pepper-heavy rub. Very.

A couple of pickling spice packets

A couple of pickling spice packets

Each corned beef came with a vacuum pack of pickling spice, which Amazing Ribs said to just sprinkle on top of the corned beef on the grill.

Pickling spice applied, smoke ready to go

Pickling spice applied, smoke ready to go

My gifted WSM is up to the challenge. This time I chose pecan wood because… well it’s what they had in log form at Ace instead of cherry or other fruit wood.

Just 2 hours in

Just 2 hours in

I took pic every two hours…

4 hours in...

4 hours in…

6 hours...

6 hours…

8 hours...

8 hours…

10 hours

10 hours

And I checked that internal temperature and found all around that I had hit 205 or above. Smoking Ribs said it could take up to 12 hours but my WSM was running a little warm today.

As this WSM continued to smoke, I found myself checking the fire and temperature regularly. I kept the smoker at about 225-250 degrees, with plenty of pecan logs on the fire. I again used hardwood charcoal as the main fuel.

A few minutes of resting...

A few minutes of resting…

I gave it them a few minutes to rest before checking to see if there were any problems… you know, for scientific purposes.

Turns out this is just fine

Turns out this is just fine

Well this was friggin’ delicious. Kids were picking at it and I had to wrap it up for the dinner party before it got crushed.

After about 20-30 minutes of rest, I wrapped each up tightly in aluminum foil and put it in the fridge.

To carve, just cut perpendicular against the grain with a very sharp knife. I have a very nice custom boning knife gifted to me by a leadfooted friend who have a few too many speeding tickets. I caught someone recklessly slicing bread with it and warned her of the knife sharpness.

I bought a variety of mustards and a jar of sauerkraut, along with some rye bread squares, and served it all up on a carving board. It went quick and was a big hit.

The results of my labors

The results of my labors

I hate to boast but this was as good of a BBQed item as I’ve ever made. The Friendsgiving crowd obliterated the pastrami to rave reviews and I probably should have made a third one. It wasn’t nearly as salty as the first attempt – those extra 12 hours really helped. The rub was extra tasty and peppery – follow the recipe on Amazing Ribs.

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