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Yeah I’d Pastrami That, I’d Pastrami the Hell Outta That

Pastrami Pr0n

God I suck at the interweb. To compound my general aversion to perform web related tasks, I am apparently emitting some sort of EM field that causes computing devices to keel over and die. Anyway, this week Citypaper ran my pastrami article, of course drastically edited down for space. Here’s a taste (nyuk):

If you live in Baltimore, you eventually resign yourself to the fact that certain food joneses just aren’t going to get resolved. That’s why it pays to have transplant friends, who you can wheedle into being grub mules when they visit home. So thanks, Reuben, for taking the train all the way to New York to get pastrami from Katz’s, and then not eating it on the train ride back here.

 

The pinnacle of pastrami artistry for me is Katz’s in New York. Theirs is really transcendent – smoky, spicy, tender yet with a compact grain, well-lubricated with rendered fat and hewn by hand into thick slabs. But it’s $24/lb. not including the 8 hours travel time, and the grub mule (my term for friends that bring me food during their travels) system is unreliable. I once considered pastrami too holy, too mystical, too difficult for one as lowly (and lazy) as I to attempt. But emboldened by a string of smoked/cured meat successes last year (due in no small part to acquiring a massive Tiernan “Son of Brisket” smoker), I decided to suck it up and give it a go.

Two factors needed to be addressed initially, the cut of beef and the curing process. I searched high and low for the so-called plate cuts, i.e. navel plate or pastrami cut, favored by hardcore enthusiasts for higher fat content. Wasserman’s kosher butcher on Reisterstown could get some special order, but the price I was quoted – $7.99/lb. – convinced me to stick with the more readily available brisket.

Butchers usually carry fresh brisket, with the dependable JA Regan in lexington market on the low price end with $3.79/lb and Whole Foods/Cierello’s/Eddie’s on the high end at 5.99. Yet again, Amish butcher guy was the best solution to my meat quandaries, with his grass-fed local brisket priced at $4.39. Be wary of prepackaged supermarket briskets, since they are almost always pre-brined with a nitrite solution, that typically accounts for a fifth of total weight.

As far as cuts, generally the “first cut” of flat brisket is what is most readily available. This is the typical flat, rectangular cut with a cap of fat on top. Preferable is a whole brisket, which is the flat with the cap or “deckel” attached. This piece of beef is very savory and has great texture – some feel it’s the best cut of the cow outright. Then there is the point cut brisket, which comes from further up (towards the head) of the cow, and generally includes both cap and flat, and is more irregularly shaped. Some pre-packaged briskets use this cut, which has more fat than a flat cut. I also believe grass-fed to be particularly tasty for brisket.

Anyways, here is the full, uncut, overly long pastrami project, with lots of pretty pictures of meat. Enjoy!

Two whole briskets from my trusty Amish butcher:

 Yeah Id Pastrami That, Id Pastrami the Hell Outta That

This is the meat cure available at Bass Pro Shops. It’s actually sodium nitrite, as opposed to nitrate, but really these produce the same result – a brief explanation:

 Yeah Id Pastrami That, Id Pastrami the Hell Outta That

The brine, with kosher salt added until a raw egg floats (about 12 cup for 1 gallon):

 Yeah Id Pastrami That, Id Pastrami the Hell Outta That

Flavoring agents, in this case bay leaves, pepper, coriander, garlic, and thyme:

 Yeah Id Pastrami That, Id Pastrami the Hell Outta That

This is the traditional wet cure, which was injected once a day:

 Yeah Id Pastrami That, Id Pastrami the Hell Outta That

This is the wet cure under vacuum, using a standard home model Foodsaver:

 Yeah Id Pastrami That, Id Pastrami the Hell Outta That

(Note that the vacuum must be in a rigid container, otherwise it’s not a vacuum at all, as far as atmospheric pressure)

Injecting the beef (nudge nudge wink wink):

 Yeah Id Pastrami That, Id Pastrami the Hell Outta That

This is a pre-packaged brisket – you can kinda see how the grain is ‘looser’, perhaps due to the inclusion of papaicin, a fruit-derivied enzyme that breaks down portein, as a tenderizer:

 Yeah Id Pastrami That, Id Pastrami the Hell Outta That

The label – as you can see, much cheaper than fresh brisket, but then about of a 1/4 of the weight is simply added water:

 Yeah Id Pastrami That, Id Pastrami the Hell Outta That

Curing beef array – must be a band’s name somewhere:

 Yeah Id Pastrami That, Id Pastrami the Hell Outta That

After curing, the briskets are purged in fresh water to remove excess salts:

 Yeah Id Pastrami That, Id Pastrami the Hell Outta That

Aromatic spice coating:

 Yeah Id Pastrami That, Id Pastrami the Hell Outta That

Dry cure on the left, wet on the right – big difference in color:

 Yeah Id Pastrami That, Id Pastrami the Hell Outta That

A rather homespun solution for weighing the meat down before cooking:

 Yeah Id Pastrami That, Id Pastrami the Hell Outta That

Into the maw of my Tiernan smoker:

 Yeah Id Pastrami That, Id Pastrami the Hell Outta That

(Note the strips of fat on top of the meat – this is a trick I started using on smoked brisket last year. Instead of leaving a thick cap of fat on the meat, I trim it and then use the fat to self – baste. Since the meat surface is exposed, it gets more smoke and browning, while still retaining the benefit of increased moisture from the rendering fat, which I reposition periodically.)

Hour 1:

 Yeah Id Pastrami That, Id Pastrami the Hell Outta That

Hour 3, about the upper limit for smoke ‘absorption’ for beef:

 Yeah Id Pastrami That, Id Pastrami the Hell Outta That

A few river rocks for lift:

 Yeah Id Pastrami That, Id Pastrami the Hell Outta That

Meat in the steamer:

 Yeah Id Pastrami That, Id Pastrami the Hell Outta That

Here is the unsmoked brisket, sitting atop some crumpled foil:

 Yeah Id Pastrami That, Id Pastrami the Hell Outta That

The unsmoked after 3.5 hours:

 Yeah Id Pastrami That, Id Pastrami the Hell Outta That

The smoked after about 4 hours:

 Yeah Id Pastrami That, Id Pastrami the Hell Outta That

A sampling plate of 5 homemade, Katz’s, and Attman’s pastramied beef:

 Yeah Id Pastrami That, Id Pastrami the Hell Outta That

Deep concentration:

 Yeah Id Pastrami That, Id Pastrami the Hell Outta That

Some pastrami portraits, first the great Katz’s:

katzs Yeah Id Pastrami That, Id Pastrami the Hell Outta That

Attman’s:

 Yeah Id Pastrami That, Id Pastrami the Hell Outta That

And my own Dry/Smoked:

drysmoke Yeah Id Pastrami That, Id Pastrami the Hell Outta That

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7 Responses to “Yeah I’d Pastrami That, I’d Pastrami the Hell Outta That”


  1. Keep up the good work.

  2. pastraminator

    That was wonderful… but… where are the comments on how they compared? You’re killing me with all that setup and no conclusions. Since we weren’t there to taste, please share.


  3. pastraminator – Ah yes, I intended to do a piece by piece analysis, but I guess I never got around to it. I’ve killed several laptops since the pastrami project, but i’ll look around and see if i can’t find my notes. If not I can go from memory, but look for updates shortly. My hiatus is officially over.


  4. [...] Yeah I 39 d Pastrami That I 39 d Pastrami the Hell Outta That Posted by root 6 minutes ago (http://foodnerd.org) May 9 2008 i also believe grass fed to be particularly tasty for brisket anyways here is the full uncut overly long pastrami rss 2 0 trackback comment foodnerd org henry hong the food nerd is powered by wordpress Discuss  |  Bury |  News | Yeah I 39 d Pastrami That I 39 d Pastrami the Hell Outta That [...]


  5. Any news on the comparison? I’ve been making my own and decided the dry cure is much better (I always smoke it). My friend insists on the brine. Curious how you stacked up to Katz’s. I think I needed even more pepper than I already use.


  6. yummmy… thanks for the ideas , i’d love to adhere to your blog as generally as i can.possess a nice day~~


  7. [...] large hunks of fat, leaving almost everything intact. Everything I’ve read (mostly here, here & here), says that the dry salt cure will render out most of the fat. Combined with the 8 hour [...]

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