Recipe: Modernist Pastrami
Inspired by Greg Blonder’s research into salt diffusion, I’ve adapted his pastrami recipe for my smoker/sous-vide setup. My continuing hope is to understand each step intimately, paring the recipe down to its bare essentials and then codifying it for reliably reproducible results.
First step: curing. The highly calibrated amount of Prague powder and salt yielded a perfectly-colored and mildly salted pastrami—in 24 hours.
Second step: smoking. My smoker, the Smokin-It 3D, does a great job of maintaining temperature, so I can infuse plenty of smoke flavor without overcooking any of the meat. (In my past efforts, the slimmer end of the brisket shot well past my sous-vide temperature and wouldn’t slice cleanly.)
Third step: slow cooking. The 149°F-for-48-hours approach I gleaned from Chefsteps gave a texture that’s both buttery and sliceable, yielding to the tooth even when sandwiched between slices of soft rye bread.
I’d call this a superior product, prepared in a fraction of the time boasted by traditional delicatessens.
- 6 lb. trimmed point-cut kosher brisket (ideally with some marbling)
- 1 tsp. Prague Powder #1
- 0.5 tsp. Diamond kosher salt
- 8 Tbsp. black peppercorns
- 5 Tbsp. coriander seed
- 2 Tbsp. mustard seeds
- 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
- 2 tsp. garlic powder
- 2 tsp. onion powder
- Combine Prague Powder and salt. Using 1/4 tsp. increments, sprinkle over the brisket (3 increments per side) and rub in thoroughly.
- Place brisket in large zip-top bag and let cure in refrigerator for 24-48 hours.
- After brisket is cured, prepare smoker with applewood and heat to 175°F.
- Roughly crack peppercorns, coriander seeds, and mustard seeds, then combine with remaining ingredients.
- Remove the cured brisket from bag and coat all over with spice mix, rubbing in firmly.
- Smoke the rubbed brisket for 4 hours. The characteristic dark crust will form.
- With immersion circulator in an ample basin, heat water to 149°F / 65°C.
- Vacuum-pack smoked brisket and place in water bath. Cook for 48 hours.
- Serve or chill.