Today's Smoker Project: Pastrami

Vaughn McMillan

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I recently got a Masterbuilt electric smoker, and I've been having fun trying new things with it. Today's project is turning a store-bought corned beef brisket flat into pastrami. I made a dry rub with ground pepper (multiple kinds), ground coriander, ground mustard, paprika, brown sugar, and garlic powder. Here's the start. More to come if I don't mess it up too bad...
Pastrami 1 1024.jpg
 

Darren Wright

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ohhhhh! I've got 3 corned beefs in the freezer, I need the recipe...

Did you happen to do a brine or dilute the solution it was already in or is it straight out of the bag?
 

Vaughn McMillan

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About 4 1/2 hours in, stalled at 164º in a 225º smoker. I'm debating whether to wrap it in foil. I think it's getting plenty moisture from the water pan below the meat. Internet recipes vary as to the ideal temp to pull if from the heat, but I'm shooting for 165º to 170º, but I'm open to suggestions. Several recipes call for removing it from the smoker around 165º and then steaming it to an internal temp of 204º. (I have no idea why that number is special.) I'm open to suggestions. ;)

Pastrami 3 1024.jpg Pastrami 2 1024.jpg
 

Vaughn McMillan

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ohhhhh! I've got 3 corned beefs in the freezer, I need the recipe...

Did you happen to do a brine or dilute the solution it was already in or is it straight out of the bag?

I pretty much went straight out of the bag. Rinsed it well, then soaked it in water for about 8 hours in a stock pot, changing the water every couple of hours, to pull some of the salt from it.

Here's the rub I used (minus the onion powder, since I didn't have any handy.)

4 tablespoons fresh coarsely ground black pepper (I used about 3T black pepper and 1T of the pepper medley from the grocery store that comes in a pepper grinder bottle)
2 tablespoons coriander powder
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon paprika
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
 

Brent Dowell

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About 4 1/2 hours in, stalled at 164º in a 225º smoker. I'm debating whether to wrap it in foil.

Lately, I've been using the pink butcher paper instead of foil. It traps in the humidity, but supposedly still lets the smoke flavor in.

Don't know about the 204, but with brisket and pulled pork, seems like that might be a temp were it would be pullable, versus serving for slicing.

One reason I'd use the sous vide at a lower temp to heat it up and let it just soak up the goodness for a few hours.
 

Ryan Mooney

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The collage breakdown (dibs on band name) is basically a time plus temperature curve. According to McGee (On Food and Cooking)
  • over 140-150F - muscle fibers contract and loose their juiciness
  • 160-180F Collagen breaks down and turns to gelatin
  • Hot but under 120F is equivalent to accelerated aging (lessening the amount of time required in the 160-180 timeline). Below 120F muscle fibers shrink in cross section but not in length lessening moisture loss.

He notes that you can steam at 170 or 180F to keep the meat in the collagen breakdown zone longer (raising the temperature does more protein damage).

Based on that you'd note that generally long steaming would be bad for most meats... however brisket has a really high collagen level so it gives you that buttery texture once its dissolved.

I have no idea where the 204F comes from (I can't find anything magical about that). My best guess is that that's roughly a proxy for having held it long enough in the collagen breakdown temperatures that its likely to be juicy tender and delicious. Based on previous experiences I can say that things were "better" after about 4 hours, at least a few places go a full 12 hours. I don't recall significant improvement after around 4 although it might have been a wee bit more tender at 6 the improvement was marginal. I suspect 12 is possibly marketing or just works with the "put it in the steamer when we leave for the night" timing...
 

Ryan Mooney

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Also after it came out of the steamer it was definitely to soft to easily cut but Brisket is (again) high in collagen so firms up nicely as it cools a bit so you can get decent slices out of it then. The soft pulled bits are also pretty luscious of course but cut cross grain adds that little extra awesome for sandwiches.
 

David Johnson

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Have you tried a fresh brisket and brine etc. and then smoke. Something on the order of a fresh ham at Easter. A little work but very enjoyable and the ham usually comes out very tasty. Love my Master built.
David
 

Vaughn McMillan

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Finished it up, but I'll have to wait until tomorrow for cold sandwich slices. Total time (not including prep) was about 9 or 10 hours. Smoked for about 7 hours to 170º, rested for an hour or so, then steamed for another hour or two to a bit over 200º. Now it's cooling enough to be refrigerated, then I can slice it tomorrow. Based on how it feels when sticking the thermometer into it tonight, I'm pretty sure it's going to be plenty tender.

Here's another pic of a fairly non-descript brown piece of meat. Hopefully the real Kodak moment will be once I cut into it and see what the inside looks like. ;)

Pastrami 4 1024.jpg
 

Bill Arnold

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Sure looks yummy, Vaughn!!!

I use our Masterbuilt routinely because it's so easy! I still use my big smoker for turkeys and large rib runs, but the MB is perfect for most smokes.

Oh, yeah - my MB hasn't looked that clean since the first smoke!!!
 

Vaughn McMillan

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Ha! I keep the glass and grates clean between cooks, but beyond that...it's a smoker after all. :D

Figured I should post a finished pic. It worked out well, despite my iGrill temperature probe going AWOL on me during the steaming process.

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Dave Sweeney

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My Birthday is later this week and I bought myself a Masterbuilt as a present. It's due to arrive either tomorrow or the next day. I was going to smoke a chicken first but this looks so delicious I may just try this first.
 

Rob Keeble

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Man i had my dinner already but you making me real hungry. I have to work on a source for a corn beef like that. So far the cuts of brisket i have found around me are real thin bits. Sadly we don't have butchers anymore and even those that are still around are faced with getting meat from meat packers.
 

Vaughn McMillan

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My Birthday is later this week and I bought myself a Masterbuilt as a present. It's due to arrive either tomorrow or the next day. I was going to smoke a chicken first but this looks so delicious I may just try this first.

I think you'll enjoy it, Dave. I've been enjoying mine for the couple of months I've had it. So far I've smoked sausage, salmon, a pork roast, a bone-in turkey breast, and this corned beef/pastrami. Haven't been disappointed yet, although I did cook the sausage a bit too long.
 

Dave Hoskins

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A downright tasty thing to do! I considered one of those electric smokers but that's as far as I got. Still using my steel pipe one with the firebox. Sometimes that is not always convenient. Hmmm. Guess I need to ponder again.
 
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