Pastrami is a labour of love. No sandwich has taken as much trial and error as this one, believe me.
1. The first step is to brine the beef brisket in a pickling solution for a week. This cures the meat and adds deep flavour and essential saltiness. I'd suggest buying pre-brined beef at your local butchers to save on fridge space.
2. Wash and submerge the brisket in a big container in the fridge overnight. (You might need to cut the brisket up to fit.) This removes the inedible pickling salts that make the beef too salty at this stage.
If you're not sure if it's too salty, cut a bit off and fry it quickly so you can taste it. It will be chewy, but you're only testing for saltiness. If it's too salty, submerge the brisket in a fresh batch of water and put back in the fridge for a few more hours. Repeat if needed. It should be salty but pleasant to eat - like bacon.
3. After soaking, trim excess fat off the brisket. It wont be cooked long enough for heavy fat deposits to render down, so you want the brisket to be nice and trim.
4. Now the brisket is ready for a rubbing. Combine these ingredients in a bowl and add to a shaker for even distribution when applying to the meat:
5. Place the brisket in a fridge and leave for at least 8 hours. We leave ours overnight.
6. This is where pastrami differs from salt beef: smoking.
Preheat your smoker to 250f. Smoke the brisket for about 2 hours (the thinner 'flat' of the brisket will take less time) until it reaches 155f. This ensure you reach a food safe temperature whilst avoiding the 'stall' temperature of 160f, where meat contracts as it looses water.
If you love kitchen toys, get yourself a remote BBQ probe that allows you to monitor the temp of the meat, without opening the smoker lid. You can find them on Amazon.
Let the brisket cool for half an hour before wrapping in clingfilm and placing the fridge overnight.
7. Steaming. On the day you want to eat the pastrami, preheat your oven to 300f. Keeping the pastrami in the clingfilm, place on a baking tray, in the oven. (Insert your remote meat probe in you have one)
Cook for roughly 3 hours, through the 'stall', until the meat gets to the magic temp of 203f. Leave to rest for 10mins.
8. Cut your pastrami with a sharp knife at right angles to the lines in/ 'grain' of the meat. You can find the grain by pressing the meat with your fingers and pushing it apart in different direction. If you don't, it'll be too chewy and you'll end up with sandwich all down your front.
9. Serve in a rye bread with swiss cheese, sauerkraut, dill-pickled gherkin, garlic mayo and sweet mustard.