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Neal's Deli Smoky Pastrami
© John Kernick

Neal's Deli Smoky Pastrami

  • ACTIVE: 2 HRS
  • TOTAL TIME: 8 HRS Plus 6 days curing and chilling
  • SERVINGS: Makes one 6-pound pastrami
  • MAKE-AHEAD

"I bet you'd be hard pressed to find anyone else who puts pastrami on biscuits," says Matt Neal. His sandwich is hugely popular at Neal's Deli, but the well-spiced, juicy pastrami is divine however it's served. The recipe is surprisingly easy, though it does take time—five days to cure the brisket in a simple brine and one day to chill it, followed by a few hours of smoking the peppercorn-and-coriander-crusted meat on a partially covered grill.

  1. 6 quarts water
  2. 1 1/2 cups kosher salt
  3. 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  4. 2/3 cup light brown sugar
  5. 3 tablespoons pink salt or other curing salt (see Note)
  6. 1 tablespoon pickling spice
  7. 1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
  8. 8 garlic cloves, crushed
  9. One 7-pound first-cut beef brisket, fat layer trimmed to 1/3 inch
  10. About 8 pounds hardwood charcoal
  11. 6 cups hardwood chips, for smoking
  12. 1/4 cup whole black peppercorns
  13. 2 tablespoons coriander seeds
  1. In a large pot, combine the water with the kosher salt, granulated and brown sugars, pink salt, pickling spice, mustard seeds and garlic. Cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until the salts and sugars have dissolved. Pour the brine into a large bowl and let cool, then refrigerate until chilled.
  2. Using a metal skewer, poke holes all over the brisket. Pour the brine into a large roasting pan. Add the brisket and cover the pan with plastic wrap. Weigh the brisket down with heavy plates to keep it submerged in the brine and refrigerate. Let the brisket cure for 5 days, turning it once a day.
  3. Remove the brisket from the brine and pat dry with paper towels. Place the brisket fat side up on a rack set on a rimmed baking sheet. Refrigerate, uncovered, for 24 hours.
  4. Bring the brisket to room temperature. Light the grill, using about 50 charcoal briquettes. Soak the hardwood chips in water for 30 minutes. In a spice grinder, coarsely grind the peppercorns with the coriander seeds. Cover the fat side of the brisket with the peppercorn-coriander mixture.
  5. Arrange the red-hot coals around the perimeter of the grill and set a double layer of heavy-duty foil in the center. Put an 8-inch aluminum pie plate on the foil and fill the plate halfway with water. Scatter about 1 cup of the drained hardwood chips over the hot coals. Set the grate on the grill and place the brisket, spiced side up, in the center. Cover and grill at 250°, partially vented, for about 5 hours. Every 45 minutes, replenish the hot coals and add 1 cup of the drained hardwood chips. The pastrami is done when an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part registers 170°. Let the pastrami cool, then refrigerate until chilled.
  6. Preheat the oven to 350°. Thinly slice the pastrami across the grain. Arrange the slices on a large rimmed baking sheet and drizzle about 1/2 cup of water on top. Cover tightly with foil and bake for about 20 minutes, until heated through. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Make Ahead The smoked whole pastrami can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks. Notes Curing salts (including pink salt, Prague powder and Morton Tender Quick) are a mix of salt and sodium nitrite. They're available from amazon.com (Morton Tender Quick is available at supermarkets).
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