Homemade Pastrami

If you want the punch of a spicy, intensely aromatic pastrami, then this homemade pastrami recipe will have you smiling from the first mustard-smeared bite to the last.


  • 1 4-5 pound brisket, short rib slab, or boneless short ribs.


  • 2 liters water (half gallon)
  • 5 tsp pink curing salt*
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 5 1/2 tbsp kosher salt
  • 10 cloves garlic, flattened with the flat side of a knife
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon whole allspice
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 cinnamon stick, crushed or broken into pieces
  • 3 bay leaves, crumbled
  • 1 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Dry Rub

  • Equal parts ground pepper and ground coriander, preferably freshly ground (enough to cover the meat)


  1. In a pot large enough to hold the entire piece of meat, combine all the brine ingredients in a large pot. Simmer and stir until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature before refrigerating. When the brine is completely chilled, place the meat in the pot. Use a plate to keep the meat submerged, if necessary. Refrigerate for four days.
  2. Remove the meat from the brine and rinse well. Dry the meat and then cover completely it in the pepper/coriander rub. Smoke the meat until the internal temperature of the meat is 165F. This will take a couple hours or so. After smoking, steam the meat for a couple more hours until tender.
  3. If you’re eating the pastrami right away, you can remove it from the steamer and start slicing it up. If you’re not serving the pastrami right away, you can let it cool and then wrap it up in plastic wrap and refrigerate it. Cooling the pastrami also makes it easier to slice thinly if that’s how you like it. Whether you keep it whole or slice it up, steam the pastrami for 5-10 minutes to warm the meat and give it a bit more moisture before serving.



The key to preserving pastrami’s familiar red color is using pink curing salt (i.e. sodium nitrite). You can purchase it at most spice shops, order it online. You can omit it, but the pastrami will be brownish gray instead of red.