Cleaning out my fridge, I had a corned beef that needed to be eaten. A leftover from St. Patrick’s Day when corned beef brisket is cheap and plentiful. Rather than freezing the brined brisket, I instead to make a smoked pastrami. But pastrami aficionados will know that the process of curing, smoking, and steaming can take two to three days. And I wanted it for dinner tonight. So I took the best practices from several recipes and streamlined the process down to one day.

But what do we give up by speeding up the process? Maybe a bit of taste, but when I was done the meat was bold and spicy. I’m sure if it sat in the fridge for a day, it would be more mellow and flavored throughout. But dang, it was still tasty. Here’s the process.

One Day Smoked Pastrami

  1. Take one corned beef brisket, about four pounds, and soak it in a large bowl or pot of water for about 3-4 hours, changing the water about every two hours. This will remove the salt brine the meat was treated with. When done, it should look a dull gray.
  2. After soaking, pat dry and apply the spice rub. I used the pastrami rub from Amazing Ribs. Rub heavily all over the meat and place in foil pan.
  3. Once you rubbed the meat, light the grill or smoker (I use a Weber Kettle set up for indirect heat). Adjust the dampers so the cool side is about 225-250 degrees. Add wood chips to the coals for smoke flavor. A mild smoke is preferred, like pecan, cherry, or apple.
  4. Smoke the meat for about 3 hours or until the internal temperature is at 150 degrees. Add coals and adjust dampers to maintain a consistent 225 degree heat.
  5. Remove brisket from smoker, cover and seal the foil pan with heavy foil and place in a 300 degree oven for about 1 1/2 hours, or until the internal temperature is 203 degrees. Remove the brisket from the foil pan and allow to rest briefly in a glass baking dish. At this point you can chill the brisket for about an hour so it’s easier to cut, or wrap it in foil and put in the fridge to eat tomorrow.

Serving Pastrami Sandwiches

Slice the meat either thick or thin, I prefer about a 1/8 to 1/4 inch slice. If your pastrami is cold, you can warm it in a pan with a bit of beef stock. Or for an authentic taste, steam it in a bamboo or vegetable steamer. Frying the pastrami before assembling the sandwich will melt the delicious fat around the edge of the brisket.

To make the sandwich, spread dijon mustard on both sides of rye bread. (Try the Rye Sandwich Bread by King Arthur Flour). Butter the other side and place on a skillet to brown. Assemble pastrami, swiss cheese, and another slice of bread. Toast until golden brown and the cheese is melted. Serve with cole slaw. Alternately, if you want a true East Coast pastrami sandwich, skip the cheese, don’t toast the bread and just pile the hot pastrami high between the slices.