/ Recipes From My Dad

Best New York City Pastrami Recipe

Growing up in the Bronx, we didn't eat pastrami sandwiches from the local deli. Not for my father. He'd get a nice piece of brisket from the Shmuel the Butcher, spice it up, and braise it for hours.

The pastrami would come out of the oven so tender, almost falling apart. Dad would place the fresh, crusty rye from his bakery on the table, mustard that he had made, kosher sour pickles that he had brined, and we'd have a meal. Maybe even with a little potato salad that my mom had made from scratch. Funny part is I remembering being jealous about my friends that used to eat the "real" pastrami at Lenny's Deli. Yeah. What did I know.

Anyway, this has been a long way to say that I've spent too much time thinking about Pastrami. And here's the recipe for the Best New York City Pastrami:

Ingredients

  • Beef Brisket - whatever size you want. For five people, it should be at least 4-5 pounds. Trim the brisket so that the fat is about 1/4 inch thick (10 mm).

  • Salt - 2 tablespoons

  • Sugar - 2 tablespoons

  • Black Pepper - 2 tablespoons

  • Coriander - 3 tablespoons (I buy coriander seeds through Amazon. Two pounds is about 15 dollars. I then grind it myself in a coffee grinder).

Procedure

Raw piece of brisket

  • The night before you're going to cook the brisket, liberally cover the meat with a 50-50 mixture of salt and sugar. You can start with two tablespoons of sugar and two tablespoons of salt. If you need more, go for it. Cover and refrigerate (The idea of adding sugar is to cut down on the saltiness. If you prefer a more salty flavor, you can reduce the amount of sugar or cut it out altogether).

  • Next day, or the day after, rinse off the salt and sugar. Pat dry.

  • Look for the grain (lines) in the brisket. Get familiar with the way that the grain runs. Later, after the brisket is cooked, it will be sliced against (across) the grain. The red lines are against the grain.

Showing against the grain

  • Now that you're familiar with the grain, use a blend of coriander/black pepper (I also throw in some garlic powder) and completely cover the brisket. Get it in all the nooks and crannies. Use your hands. Use a lot. Get it all covered. This is not a sprinkle. You want to form a layer of the rub all over the brisket. Homemade pastrami will likely be spicier than the store bought. If you don't want it that spicy, use less black pepper. If you want it spicier, use more black pepper.

Pastrami rubbed with spices

  • Place the brisket in a baking pan. Add water about halfway up the side of the brisket.

  • Tightly cover the pan with aluminum foil so that it will steam. If you have one, place the pan on a cookie sheet in case the liquid overflows. It has never happened to me, but it's better to be safe. At least that's what my dad always says.

  • Place brisket in a 275 degree Fahrenheit (135 Celsius) oven and braise for a long time. Probably at least five to six hours. The internal temperature of the brisket should be over 195 Fahrenheit (90 Celsius) in its thickest part. Don't rely only on the temperature. Use a fork to make sure it's tender. And don't get frustrated if the internal temperature of the brisket doesn't increase for a while. That's normal.

Cooked Pastrami With Internal Temp of 203 fahrenheit

  • Let the brisket rest for at least half an hour (even better if it's refrigerated over night).

  • THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT. Thinly slice the pastrami against the grain**.

Against The Grain

DO NOT SLICE with the grain. This is why I told you before to get familiar with the grain. Find the lines. Check the top and underneath. Scrap away some of the rub if you can't see the lines. Do NOT cut until you know which way the grain is running. Slice across the lines. Not with the lines. Got it. I've sent back pastrami sandwiches in delis that have cut the brisket with the grain. It's a shonda (Yiddish for shame).

Pastrami Sliced

Pastrami on Rye

Pile the sliced pastrami a mile high on rye bread. Generously add mustard. Have a sour pickle. Nosh some potato salad. You're now a honorary kid from the Bronx.

Enjoy.

Al Weiser

Frequently Asked Questions

  • I made your pastrami and it was great. I'm just confused why the pastrami was brown and not reddish like in a deli? Most deli meats use sodium nitrite to preserve the meats. A side effect of the nitrite is that the color of meat stays a pinkish color. You don't use sodium nitrite at home because the meat is going to be eaten quickly. Sodium nitrite does not give pastrami its flavor. Rather its distinct taste comes from a combination of salt, black pepper, and coriander. So to make a pastrami, one only has to incorporate those ingredients.

  • What isn't your pastrami smoked? NYC Jewish Deli pastrami is NOT smoked. It's braised/steamed. If you like a smokey taste, go for it. I hate smokey meats. Wasn't brought up with it. Using smokers in apartments in the Bronx wasn't that popular.

  • The pastrami that I've had in a deli is usually paper thin. Do I need a meat slicer? No. Not for homemade pastrami. This pastrami will be very tender. Just slice it by hand as thin as it will go. If the cooked pastrami has been refrigerated overnight, it will be firm and easier to slice thinly. The problem with using a meat slicer with pastrami is that you'll have to clean the machine for hours. The coriander and pepper will fill every crevice of the machine. I know. I have a meat slicer and never use it for pastrami.

  • How do I reheat the pastrami? After it's sliced, steam it for a couple of minutes. I use a metal steamer basket over simmering water. You have can also heat the pastrami on the stove top in a pan.

  • Can I use a microwave to cook the pastrami? Uhhhhhhhhhhh, no.

  • Can I use a microwave to reheat the pastrami? Never tried it. Let me know how it works.

  • How come you don't recommend using the point of the brisket for the pastrami? Brisket is comprised of the flat and the point. Flats are usually what can be found in most supermarkets. They have much less fat than the point and are drier. I also prefer the point, but I also butcher a whole brisket and use both parts to make a pastrami.

  • I saw a recipe that said I should roast the pastrami only until the internal temperature is 165 degree. Why are you saying to cook it for much longer? Because I don't want you eating shoe leather. Brisket that isn't cooked till at least 195 is inedible.

  • Can I use mayonnaise instead of mustard? It's your pastrami, use whatever you like. Although I would suggest trying it with mustard. You can even make your mustard at home.

  • I don't have any coriander, can I just use garlic powder instead? You can but then it won't be a pastrami. Buy the coriander through amazon. A couple of pounds is very inexpensive.

  • The pastrami wasn't as salty as I like it. What do I do? Add salt.

  • The pastrami is too salty. What do I do? Make sure you rinse off the salt and sugar before covering it with coriander/black pepper.

  • I don't have a brisket. Can I use XXXXXXX instead? You can use anything you like. NYC Deli pastrami is made from the brisket.

  • The pastrami meat was too tough. What did I do wrong? You either didn't cook it long enough, you sliced the meat with the grain, or you sliced it too thick. Thin slices against the grain is the key.

  • I had a pastrami sandwich at Subway and your recipe tasted nothing like it. Why? Because Subway is not real pastrami. I don't know what it is.

  • Can I eat the pastrami on white bread? You can eat it on anything you like. But try it on rye.

  • The pastrami didn't have much flavor. What did I do wrong? The shelf life of spices is fairly short. That's why I grind the black pepper and coriander seed each time that I make pastrami. Think of it like coffee beans.

  • The pastrami was too spicy. What do I do? Use less black pepper and/or less rub.

  • Help! I sliced the pastrami with the grain and it's really tough. What do I do? Hmmmmmmm. I've never done that. Try cutting the long strands into smaller pieces. Good luck. Remember against the grain.

  • I'm going to be in Hawaii, are there any good places to have a pastrami sandwich? My house.

  • What do you think of Max's Deli in San Francisco? Don't care for the pastrami. They once served me a sandwich where the pastrami was cut with the grain. I couldn't believe it.

  • Do you like the pastrami at Langer's in Los Angeles?
    Not particularly. And it's definitely not the world's best.

  • Do you like Carnegie Deli's pastrami? It's okay.

  • My friend said that Brent's in Los Angeles has the best pastrami? She's obviously never had homemade.

  • You really think that your pastrami is better than XXXXXX? Try the recipe and you'll experience a whole new world. It's much better than any pastrami you've ever had.

  • Have you ever thought about writing a book? My close friend has.

Al Weiser  

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