Steaming Pastrami
From Habanero Smoker

Many have posted how much they like my pastrami recipe, but were not pleased with the texture of the meat. Fully smoking the meat in the smoker until it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F produces a dryer pastrami then one would get at their local deli.

In an attempt to get a product that is more moist, I left more fat on the meat, smoked it fat side up, and finished by steaming. Doing this, you do get a better finished product then smoking/cooking it completely in the smoker.
NOTE: If you notice a toothpick in one pastrami in the photographs, that is because I cured each pastrami differently. I used a dry cure (dry brine) on one, and pickled (wet brined) the other. The toothpick was placed in the pickled pastrami in order to keep track of it. I wanted to determine whether or not the brine cured one would be more moist. I always felt that you get better pastrami from a dry cured brisket, and at least for this trial, that came true.
Ingredients:
  • Prepared pastrami, uncooked*
    • Use your favorite prepared cured and seasoned pastrami recipe. If you don't have a recipe, either one of these are fine choices; Beef Pastrami, or Pastrami Recipe.
    • *If your pastrami is already fully cooked you can still use this setup to reheat (steam) the pastrami until it is heated through, prior to serving.
Directions:
  1. Smoking: (optional)
    1. Place pastrami on an inverted Bradley tray, fat side up, and allow to air dry at least 4 hours in the refrigerator, or 2 hours at room temperature using a fan to help air dry. Next place the pastrami in a 100°F pre-heated Bradley Smoker and begin applying four hours of smoke. After the first two hours of smoke increase the temperature to 225°F. For smoke flavor I like to use 2 hours of oak, and finished with 2 hour of apple. Smoke/cook until the internal temperature reaches 150° F.

    2. When the pastrami reaches an internal temperature of 150° F, take it out of the smoker. And allow meat to rest and completely cool down, before steaming. It’s better if you allow it to cool down 24-48 hours in the refrigerator. During cooling, wrap the brisket in one layer of plastic; fat side up and place in the refrigerator. If you going to refrigerate 24 hours or more, cover plastic with one layer of aluminum foil.

  2. Steaming: (Click on Pictures to enlarge) - {Please excuse the quality of the pictures}
    1. After pastrami has sufficiently rested and cooled, it is now time to steam it using your oven. Place oven rack in the second position from the bottom, and preheat the oven to 275°F - 300°F. In a roasting pan, place one inch of hot water in the bottom of the pan, and place meat, fat side up, on a rack to keep it out of the water.


      • If you do not have a rack to elevate the meat to keep it out of the liquid, you can use an inverted Bradley rack (if it will fit in your pan). With the Bradley racks you will not be able to add one inch of water, so you may have to check the water level during cooking. Or you can tightly wad up aluminum foil into four one inch balls, and place a cooling rack on top of the aluminum balls; as pictured below.



      • I recently came across these 9 inch wok steaming racks that work well. One rack is large enough to hold one entire pastrami above the water. You will need one rack for each pastrami. What makes them versatile is that they are small, so if you only have one pastrami to steam; they will fit in a smaller pan and make for easy clean up.


    2. On the stove top tightly cover the pan with a tight fitting lid or use heavy duty aluminum foil, making sure the foil does not touch the meat. Bring liquid to a boil, and carefully transfer to the oven, and allow it to steam until an internal temperature of 160°F* is reached. If you are using a probe, it is best to position the probe prior to sealing the foil. I generally will not plug the probe into the receiver until after I have placed the pan into the oven.



    3. After steaming allow to rest for 45 minutes to an hour. After resting your can slice, or again allow meat to cool then wrap in plastic wrap, then a layer of foil, and place in the refrigerator for later use. You can either eat it cold or warm it up.

      To reheat cold pastrami steam until heated through and then slice. When ready to eat thin slice the pastrami across the grain for a tender slice. Or pre-slice the pastrami, seal them in FoodSaver bags, and you can reheat by placing the bags in simmering water until heated through. Pastrami can be stored in the refrigerator for up to seven days, or frozen for longer storage.



Additional Information:
  • I came across a Culinary Institute of America recipe. In that recipe they brought the pastrami only up to 150°F. I did this once and it was delicious and very moist; but word of caution – you need to slice it deli thin or it will be on the tough side.

  • For leftovers check out the Black Bean and Pastrami Soup recipe.