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Sous Vide: Smoked Pastrami

Pastrami combines the dense flavor and texture of beef brisket with the complex and vibrant sensation of a host of spices


Cured corned beef (raw), approximately 5 lbs./2.2Kg (serves 4+)
Egg white, powdered, 0.5 oz/15 g or one fresh.

Pepper, coarse ground, 1 Tablespoon.
Oregano, 1 Tablespoon.
Coriander seeds, whole, 1 Tablespoon.
Fennel seeds, whole, 1 Tablespoon.
Garlic, dried, 1 Tablespoon.
Ginger, 1 teaspoon.
Chiles, crushed, 1 teaspoon.
Nutmeg, ground, 1 teaspoon.

Equipment requirements
Immersion circulator, portable or stationary.
Heat rated container, minimum of 2 gallons/8 liters.
Lipavi L20 rack or equivalent.
Heat rated sous vide bags, 2 each.
Flour shaker or fine meshed strainer.
Kitchen tongs, metal.
Probe thermometer.
Smoker or kitchen oven.



Seal the cured beef in heat rated vacuum bags. Process the corned beef at
135F/57C for 72 hours.

For purposes of quality and safety, make sure that the package is fully submerged for the entire duration of the processing.

After the 72 hours has elapsed, drain or siphon out the hot water and replace it with iced tap water. If the temperature of the water is higher than 70 F/21 C after fifteen minutes, repeat the siphoning/refilling process. Once the water temperature stays at 70 F/21 C, siphon the water out again. The beef can then be lifted out in the rack, drained and staged into the refrigerator. Once it achieves 40 F/4 C, it is ready for the next step!

sous vide pastrami

Remove the corned beef from the packaging and save the juices. Pat the surface dry with a clean towel.  

Trim fat from exterior.

Dust lightly with the powdered egg white or use gloved hands to spread the fresh egg white on to the meat.

Spray the surface with water to activate the egg white (this step is not necessary if you use fresh egg white). The egg white forces the seasoning to stick to the surface of the meat.

Sprinkle and rub well with the pastrami seasoning.

Re-sprinkle any spots that may remain, and pat the seasoning into them.

Spray with PAM or drizzle with a few drops of oil to facilitate the development of the crust.

Smoke the coated brisket at
180 F/82 C for 4 hours.

Use a probe thermometer to make sure the meat achieves an internal temperature of 125++ F/52 C++. At this temperature, it will develop a moderately dark, dry crust.

Remove the roast from the smoker. The roast can be carved now and served if desired. Otherwise, put in a vacuum bag or a Ziploc gallon freezer bag. Immerse the bag in water to remove excess air, seal and shock the roast down to 70 F/21 C just like you would if it was coming out of the bath. This safety precaution can and should be applied to any cooked protein to prevent spoilage–but it usually isn’t.

We all know that roasts usually cool right there on the counter, or even on the communal table. That is not quite as bad as putting it in the refrigerator when it is fresh out of the smoker–doing that could elevate the temperature in the fridge and damage other foods that are already there. Even so, you want to spend as little time between 40 F/4 C and 125 F/52 C as possible, in order to avoid spoilage.

Once the package has achieved the necessary temperature, refrigerate to 40 F/4 C.

At Service

Remove the pastrami from the packaging. Cut corner to corner, exposing the grain of the meat.

Slice as thin as possible without compromising the structural integrity of the meat. A mechanical deli slicer works best for this.

The only thing better than a Reuben sandwich made with corned beef is a Reuben sandwich made with pastrami. That said, the above picture depicts a presentation with sweet and salty cured beets, fresh pear and orange wedges–equally appetizing and still novel.

Even so…something like this is still very evocative…

The classic deli san

While something like this is strangely appealing…

Still need more ideas? Tired of Reuben sandwiches already?

Pastrami hash–shredded and then  mixed with a little bit of cooked oats and scallions–formed into a patty and grilled…a throwback to simpler times!

Stay tuned!

Norm King


This hard working muscle is one of the toughest on the entire animal, save the shank and the cheeks. Traditional curing methods for pastrami combine the basic cure with an assortment of spices. Modern scientific discoveries indicate that only sodium ions can actually penetrate the tangled matrix of complex proteins.

Everything else is what is referred to as a "surface treatment." The laundry list of peppercorns, mustard seeds, coriander seeds and other spices are therefore applied after sous vide processing. This maximizes their contribution to the flavor, appearance, and overall sensation.

The curing methods for corned beef and pastrami then become indistinguishable.

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