Pastrami is slow food

September 25th, 2014 by | 3

You will brine a 5 pound beef brisket 3 days under refrigeration. Make certain the brisket is submerged in the brine in a non-reactive vessel. Turn the brisket each day to stir the brine. The brisket will not spoil because the brine includes pink salt, so called because it comprises 6 percent sodium nitrite, 94 percent table salt and pink coloring so it is not mistaken for table salt.

Then, you will rest the brisket at least 24 hours in the refrigerator to allow it to dry and form a pellicle that will hold the smoke.

Next you will smoke the brisket in a kettle grill such as a Weber or a barrel grill such as a Char-Griller with a side box  to an internal temperature of 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep the temperature in your kettle or barrel below 200 degrees Fahrenheit to allow the brisket to take up as much smoke flavor as possible as it cooks.

Finally, you will finish the pastrami in the oven in steam until a fork stuck into the brisket removes without resistance. I use a roaster with a rack. Put boiling water under the pastrami, cover and place the roaster in a 300 degree Fahrenheit oven.

Pastrami is slow food because the process takes about a week. The finished pastrami will last 3 weeks under refrigeration.

First, measure the ingredients for the brine:

  • 1 1/2 cup Kosher salt
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 8 t pink salt
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 5 minced cloves of garlic

Pastrami brine spices measured

Now boil 4 quarts of water. If you can smell the chlorine in your municipal water, buy a gallon of spring water because of the taste.

Wait for the water to come to a rolling boil.

Now turn off the heat and stir until the sugars and salt dissolve.

Pastrami brine all in

When the brine nears room temperature, add a tablespoon of pickling salt. See the related post to make fresh pickling salt.

Cover and let cool to room temperature. After it reaches room temperature, you will chill it overnight in the refrigerator.

Tomorrow, 5 pounds of beef brisket continues the journey to pastrami.


I've been an investigative reporter for more than 40 years and taught journalism at the college level for another 10. I've owned and trained retrievers, pointers and spaniels for about the same amount of time. My love of the outdoors and interest in cooking, eating and libations has been life-long, starting on my family's farm in Indiana and the hearty home-cooked meals there.

3 responses to “Pastrami is slow food”

  1. Kate says:

    What is pink salt?

  2. Donna Zimmerman says:

    And where is the rest of the recipe 🙂

  3. Kate says:

    Looking for related post on fresh pickling salt. Also, pix of non-reactive vessel and actual pastrami–can’t wait to see them!

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