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.



  1. Combine Prague Powder and salt. Using 1/4 tsp. increments, sprinkle over the brisket (3 increments per side) and rub in thoroughly.
  2. Place brisket in large zip-top bag and let cure in refrigerator for 24-48 hours.
  3. After brisket is cured, prepare smoker with applewood and heat to 175°F.
  4. Roughly crack peppercorns, coriander seeds, and mustard seeds, then combine with remaining ingredients.
  5. Remove the cured brisket from bag and coat all over with spice mix, rubbing in firmly.
  6. Smoke the rubbed brisket for 4 hours. The characteristic dark crust will form.
  7. With immersion circulator in an ample basin, heat water to 149°F / 65°C.
  8. Vacuum-pack smoked brisket and place in water bath. Cook for 48 hours.
  9. Serve or chill.