Pastrami Cure Mix for 5 LBS. (2.5 KG) of Meat
- 3 Tbsp. (45 ml) Bradley Sugar Cure (Do not use more than this amount.)
- 2 tsp. (10 ml) garlic powder
- 2 tsp. (10 ml) onion powder
- 1 tsp. (5 ml) red pepper
- 1 tsp. (5 ml) white pepper
- 1 tsp. (5 ml) oregano
- 1 tsp. (5 ml) paprika
- 1/2 tsp. (2.5 ml) allspice
- 1/2 tsp. (2.5 ml) powdered ginger
- (A small amount of light corn syrup and coarsely ground pepper are also required.)
Note: If the meat weighs either more or less than 5 pounds (2.25 kg), the amount of cure mix applied must be proportional to that weight. For example, if the weight of the meat is 2 1/2 pounds (1.15 kg), then each ingredient, including the Bradley Cure, needs to be cut in half.
The Meat – Beef or Wild Game
Inexpensive cuts of meat are usually used to make pastrami. Almost any cut of beef or wild game can be used, but the most common cuts are beef brisket, plate, tri-tip, and shoulder. To be authentic, pastrami must be smoked.
Pastrami is thoroughly cooked. Depending on the processor, it is steamed, hot smoked, boiled, oven roasted, or possibly even grilled. (A modified form of hot water cooking is one of the methods suggested below, but other methods may be employed. Hot smoking can cause excessive drying. Oven roasting, too, can cause excessive drying unless precautions are taken.)
Exceedingly fat meat, or exceedingly lean meat (beef round, for example), should be avoided.
- Cut off loose flesh, and remove bloody spots and gristle to the extent possible. Remove excess fat.
- Cut the meat into the sizes that you want to process. Remember that thick meat requires longer curing time.
- Rinse all of the pieces of meat in cold water, and drain them in a colander. Blot them with a paper towel. Place the meat in the curing container(s) (plastic food containers) you will use, and refrigerate it while the cure mix is being readied.
Measure the thickest hunk, and allow 6 days of curing time for every inch (2.5 cm) of thickness.
- Weigh the meat. If more than one curing container will be used, calculate separately the total weight of the meat that will be placed in each container. Prepare, calculate, and measure the required amount of curing mixture for each container.
- Place the meat in the curing container(s). Rub the cure mix on all surfaces evenly. Cover and refrigerate. The refrigerator temperature should be set between 34° and 40°F (2.2° to 4.4°C).
- Overhaul the pieces of meat after about 12 hours of curing. (Overhaul means to rub the surfaces of the meat to redistribute the cure.) Be sure to wet the meat with any liquid that may have accumulated in the bottom of the curing container.
- Overhaul the meat about every other day until the required curing time has elapsed.
- When the curing is finished, rinse each piece of meat very well in lukewarm water. Drain in a colander, and blot with a paper towel.
- Use a basting brush to “paint” each piece of pastrami with light corn syrup, or honey diluted with a little water (this will help the pepper stick to the meat). Wait a few minutes to allow the surface become tacky. Sprinkle and press on coarsely ground pepper.
- Wrap each piece of beef in a paper towel, and then wrap again with newspaper. Refrigerate overnight.
- Hang the pieces in the smoke chamber, or place them on smoking racks. Dry at about 140°F (60°C) until the surface is dry (about an hour). Do not use smoke during the drying period.
- To avoid excessive drying and excessively dark coloration, smoke at less than 85°F (30°C), if possible. Smoke the pastrami for 3 to 6 hours, depending on how smoky you want the meat. Raise the temperature to about 145°F (63°C) for an hour or two toward the end of the smoking time if darker coloration is desired.
Option A: hot water cooking (poaching)
- Begin heating water in your hot water cooker. Raise the water temperature to 200°F (93°C).
- While the water is heating, wrap each piece of pastrami in plastic food wrap, and then put it in a plastic bag. Expel as much air as possible from each bag before tying or sealing it.
- Put all of the meat in the hot water cooker at one time, and press it below the surface. Maintain the hot water temperature as close to 200º F (93º C) as possible. Cook the meat about 2 1/2 hours. This long period of cooking at this high temperature is to make the meat tender; even gristle will be tender. A thermometer inserted into the thickest piece of meat is not required because the cooking time and rather high temperature will ensure that it will be fully cooked. CAUTION: Raising the temperature to the boiling point will cause the plastic bags to balloon, the water to overflow the pot, and the meat to shrink excessively.
- Remove the meat from the hot water cooker, open the plastic bags, remove the plastic wrapping, and drain in a colander.
- Cool at room temperature for about two hours, and then refrigerate, uncovered, overnight. The next morning, the pieces of pastrami should be put in plastic bags and sealed. Freeze the portion that will not be consumed in one week.
Option B: steaming or roasting
- Roast the pastrami in an oven, or steam it. In either case, the pastrami is done when the internal temperature is 170°F (77°C). An aluminum foil tent should be used if the pastrami is cooked in an oven. If it is steamed, wrap each piece of pastrami in plastic food wrap before steaming, and use an electronic meat thermometer with a cable probe to monitor the internal temperature. (A steamer may be improvised by using a large pan with an elevated rack inside; cover with a lid.)
Note: If the salt taste is too mild, the next time you make pastrami, add about 1 teaspoon of salt to the ingredients list. If the salt taste is too strong, reduce the amount of Bradley Cure by about 1 teaspoon.