The Unorthodox Epicure — Homemade Smoked Pastrami Sous Vide

Dateline: June 30, 2017. Citi Field; Queens, NY. Mets vs. Phillies. Though the hometown starter whiffed a dozen visiting batters, this wasn’t exactly a game for the ages.

But the ballpark fare — hot pastrami — turned out to be a taste of Seventh Heaven.

pastrami sandwich

The pastrami at Citi Field

Now, I’ve been to a lot of baseball parks through the years and hot dogs are my culinary tradition. But on this crisp evening, after seeing another fan worshiping a steamy red-hued basket of cured and smoked beef, I went on a mission to find my own. I missed a half inning in the process.

And it was so worth it.

Pastrami has roots that go much deeper than your average sandwich filler. According to National Geographic, it dates all the way back to the 13th century in the Ottoman Empire (Turkey), when goat and other meats were ‘cured’ between a horse and saddle. Jewish cooks in Russia eventually adapted the method using beef, to keep things kosher, and that led us to our modern-day version.

There have been books written about the genesis of pastrami’s arrival to America, and none of the claims can be set in stone.

Pastrami Sandwich

The ‘Dive House’ pastrami

The iconic Katz Deli (‘When Harry Met Sally’) is widely credited with introducing the cured creation here, but there’s also plenty of documentation that shows it being sold in New York more than a decade earlier. Some culinary historians even believe that pastrami arrived in the U.S. with German immigrants — in Texas — before showing up in The Big Apple.

I’m not so sure about the Texas theory, but I do know that Texas-style brisket smoking is one part of the process for producing the melting marble-laden pastrami that we have come to love here. But first, the beef must go through a cure — just like bacon or anything else you might buy at a deli counter. And when it’s all said and done, the cured-smoked pastrami is steamed, or boiled. For a single brisket, we’re talking almost a week from butcher to table. Not your typical weeknight main dish.

I studied the process long and hard, and finally decided that I would use the method featured on Serious Eats. As tasty and true-to-the-real-thing as it turned out, the smoking time just wasn’t long enough to produce the toothsome but tender beef brisket that I’m accustomed to. Enter the sous vide and about 18 more hours and … nirvana.

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Homemade Smoked Pastrami Sous Vide


Homemade Smoked Pastrami Sous Vide — worth every minute of prep

5.0 from 1 reviews
Homemade Smoked Pastrami Sous Vide
Homemade Smoked Pastrami Sous Vide — worth every minute of prep
Dry Cure
  • 5 TB – Morton Tender Quick
  • 2 TB – Packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 TB – Ground black pepper
  • 2 TB – Ground coriander
  • 1 TB – Granulated garlic
  • 1 tsp – Ground allspice
  • 1 tsp – Ground bay leaves
  • 1 – Beef brisket flat, about 5-6 lbs, fat cap trimmed to ⅛-inch
  • 3 TB – Coarsely ground black pepper
  • 2 TB – Coarsely ground coriander
  • 1 TB – Granulated garlic
  • 2-3 fist-size chunks of medium smoking wood, such as oak or hickory (I prefer pecan)
Make the Dry Cure
  1. Mix Morton Tender Quick, dark brown sugar, black pepper, coriander, granulated garlic, allspice, and bay leaves in a small bowl.
  2. Coat entire brisket with the cure and place in a large resealable plastic bag.
  3. Place in the coldest part of the refrigerator and cure for 4 days, flipping brisket twice a day.
Prepare and Smoke
  1. Remove brisket from bag and wash as much cure off as possible under cold running water.
  2. Place brisket in a large container and fill with water and let soak for 30 minutes.
  3. Remove from water and pat dry with paper towels.
  4. To make the rub, mix together black pepper, coriander, and granulated garlic in a small bowl; coat entire brisket with the rub.
  5. Preheat smoker or grill to 225°F (107°C), adding chunks of smoking wood when at temperature.
  6. When the wood is ignited and producing smoke, place brisket in, fat side up, and smoke until an instant read thermometer registers 165 degrees when inserted into thickest part of the brisket, about 4 to 6 hours.
  7. Remove brisket from smoker and allow to cool just enough so that it can be handled.
Sous vide
  1. Place brisket in freezer-grade zip-close bag, or alternatively a pressure seal bag.*
  2. Seal the bags with a pressure sealer (if using), or by using the water displacement method, if you're using zip-close bags.**
  3. Cook at 155ºF (68°C) for 18 hours.
  4. Remove bag(s) from water bath and set aside.
  5. Carefully remove brisket from bag, discarding liquids, and allow to sit for about 15 minutes before slicing.
*- Depending on the size of your brisket, you might need to cut it in half to fit in a bag for sous vide. This is fine.
**- Unless you own a pro-grade sealer, this dish is better suited for zip-close bags. To remove the air from the bag, close all but a small portion of it, then slowly lower it into the water bath until the air is displaced. Seal. (If the bag floats, you still have air in it. Try again.)




  1. Just today I bought a brisket at the store — now I know what I’m going to do with it! As soon as I find out where to get some Morton Tender Quick!

  2. I’m so doing this! It looks absolutely mouthwatering, Adam.

    • adamjholland says:

      These photos don’t do it justice. It was really more red in color. (Blame my post-Harvey lighting system.)

  3. Wow Adam, you went all out with your post Harvey cooking with this one!!! Drooling here…

    • adamjholland says:

      Though this pastrami takes longer to prepare than anything on this website — except for the aged beef — it’s probably in the top three of easiest recipes. And when it’s all done, all you need is a loaf of Jewish rye and some brown mustard.

  4. Just purchased a 5/12 Fresh Brisket. Do I still have to brine it? Pastrami is my favorite and it’s my first try. Any suggestions would be appreciated. 👍😋

    • adamjholland says:

      Not sure what a 5/12 fresh brisket is, but if you want pastrami from a fresh brisket you’ll need to follow the process outlined above. Please let me know how it turns out. 🙂

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