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Homemade Pastrami Just Like Katz’s New York Deli

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pastrami sliced



Soak, marinate, smoke, chill, steam. Yep. You are just 5 easy steps, and 4 days away from the best tasting, knee weakening, Homemade Pastrami sandwich to ever pass your lips!

This does take 4 days to make, but it is so totally worth it!!! And it really truly is easy. If I can do it, you can do it. 😉

I mean, just LOOK at that sandwich!!!

I’ve never had the “pleasure” of enjoying a famous pastrami sandwich from Katz’s Delicatessen in New York City, (remember the infamous scene from “When Harry Met Sally“? 😉 ), but I seriously can’t imagine it being that much better than this!!! Anyways, my hubby has actually been there, and after he sank into his first bite, and his eyes returned to the front of his head, he said, “My, god! This is as good as Katz’s!”  And there you have it. 😉




Homemade Pastrami!



Ok, so, firstly, since I had never made my own pastrami, and it was our first time using our smoker, I called out for help and advice from the very best grillers and smokers out there! The recipe is from AmazingRibs, and my friends, Kita, of Girl Carnivore (who also made this recipe!), Adam, of The Unorthodox Epicure, and Jane, of The Heritage Cook, all lent my hubby and I a helping hand in making this adventure I’m calling, “#ProjectPastrami“! They all gave me the confidence that I needed, and I’m so glad that I did it! And you will be, too. So let’s rock right to it!!

I started with an uncooked, corned beef brisket. Since it has already been cured in salt, that salt has to be removed, or the end product will taste way too salty. Also while it’s cooking, all of that infused salt will draw out the moisture, and “pastrami jerky” is not what we’re going for here. 😉 So the first day, you simply soak it in a pot of cold water and let it go overnight to draw out most of that excess salt.

The next day, mix up your rub, and remove the brisket from the water. Trim down the fatty side to about an 1/8″ thick. Don’t pat the brisket dry, leave it moist so everything will stick, and pat on about half of the rub up the sides and meaty side of the brisket. Spray the rack from your smoker that it’s going to be cooking on, and place the brisket, coated side down, onto the rack. Pat on the rest of the rub on the top (fatty side). *You always want to slow-cook meat fat side-up, so that as the fat solids cook, break down and melt, they naturally baste the meat and keep it moist.



pastrami with rub



Place the rack onto a baking sheet and pop it straight into the fridge uncovered. Don’t worry. It won’t dry out one bit. Let it sit in there all day and overnight.

So here we are, already to day #3!

Preheat your smoker according to your manufacturer’s directions using whatever type of wood chips you’d like. We used half mesquite and half apple, and it was AMAZINGLY good!

Safety first! Keep your smoker away from the side of your house, and make sure it’s positioned so that your house doesn’t fill with smoke. 😉

Also make sure that you have 2 oven mitts handy, just in case you’d need to remove the rack for whatever foul ball life has a way of throwing you now and then. I was a Girl Scout. I’m always prepared. What can I say. 😉



smoker safety



We used our new Char-Broil Electric Smoker that we bought with a gift card that I had won, and it could not have been easier! 



smoker cooking




It was a very windy day, but I was determined to get a shot of the smoke! And WOW did it ever smell good!!!




smoker smoking!




This is what it will look like after it smokes. We set it to reach an internal temp of 190º F, and it took right about 4 hours. Not bad at all!!! But our champ was just a wee bit on the petite size, weighing in at a small, but mighty, 3.33 lbs.! Yours may take just a bit longer, so a meat thermometer is very important to use to ensure that it turns out extremely tender.




pastrami smoked




Once it’s done, carefully place it onto a sheet of foil and seal it closed, but try not to disturb the rub. Now you’re going to chill it overnight. I know. But be patient! It’s all worth it!!




pastrami steaming




The last day, serving day or day #4, you’re going to steam it. I filled the bottom of my large roaster with about 10 cups of water and placed a rack in it that actually didn’t go with the set. It only fit in to go down about halfway, and kept the rack OUT of the water, which is what you want. This allowed me to add the nice amount of water so that I didn’t need to add any more during steaming. (*If your pan and rack doesn’t allow you enough room for a lot of water, just do not let all of the water dissipate. Check and add more if needed during the steaming process, but remember, steam is HOT and will burn you just as bad or worse than fire. So make sure that you lift a corner of the foil, carefully, wearing a good oven mitt to protect your hand from getting burned).

So, you just open up the foil that you chilled the roast in, and place it on the rack. Then cover your roaster well with foil to hold in the steam. Turn on the stove to medium to get the water going, (about 5 minutes), then turn down to low. (Total time is 2 hours. But since ours was just a little small, the brisket was completely hot, and reached the goal temp of 203º F, in just an hour and a half).




pastrami done!




Just look at that baby!!! Perfectly steamed and ready to slice! (We let it rest for 5 minutes before slicing, though, so all of those wonderful juices didn’t run out!)




pastrami ready




Now here’s the pay-off…..

….absolute perfection!!!!!



pastrami sliced




My hubby found some wonderful New York-Style Rye bread at the grocery store, and we piled those mouthwatering, tender slices high with….




pastrami piled




….good spicy brown mustard, and shaved White Cheddar Horseradish Cheese by Cabot!




pastrami with cheese




You wanna talk about HEAVEN!!!!

OMG….I don’t know that I’ve EVER had a better sandwich in my life!!




Homemade Pastrami on Rye!




It was so amazing that I was just in awe. I kept thinking….,”I made this? I….I….made this?? I made Homemade Pastrami?!!” You just simply must make this yourself at least ONCE in your lifetime. Then after you make it once, you’ll see how easy it is; and, like me, won’t be afraid to make it several times over the summer. 😉 But don’t make the same mistake I did. Cook at least two. We may do THREE next time. 😉


And remember, all you have to do is ….

… soak, marinate, smoke, chill, steam, … and enjoy!


*This freaking awesome recipe was adapted from two very talented grillers,  Amazing Ribs and Girl Carnivore! And an extra shout out to Jane, of The Heritage Cook, for also helping to guide the hubs and I through our first smoker adventure, #ProjectPastrami!! Many thanks to you ALL! You rock!!


Homemade Pastrami Just Like Katz's New York Deli
Yield: 4 nice-sized deli-style sandwiches

Homemade Pastrami Just Like Katz's New York Deli


  • 1 (3 - 4 lb.) corned beef brisket, uncooked (mine was 3.33 lbs.), *trim fat side down to only 1/8" thick of fat
  • 4 Tbl. coarse ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbl. ground coriander powder
  • 1 Tbl. brown sugar
  • 1 Tbl. paprika
  • 2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 2 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 tsp. ground mustard powder


  • Two days before you're ready to smoke the brisket, place the (trimmed) corned beef into a large stock pot of cold water and pop into the fridge to draw out all that excess salt they cure it with. (*You must do this or it will be too salty in the end).
  • The next day (day #2), in small to medium-sized bowl, combine well all of the spices. Remove the corned beef from the water and place meat side-up onto a baking sheet. Coat meaty side and sides with a thick layer of the spice mixture using about half of it. Place onto sprayed smoker rack that has been placed onto another (clean) baking sheet, placing brisket meaty side-down. Coat top and spots missed with rest of rub mixture patting on thickly. Refrigerate overnight, uncovered. (Don't worry, it won't dry out).
  • The day of smoking (day #3): Fill smoker bin with wood chips, prepping if needed according to your smoker. (We used half mesquite and half apple). Add water to the water pan, or as per your smoker's directions, and preheat to 225º F. Let prepared corned beef sit out at room temp while smoker is heating up. (Ours takes about 30 - 40 minutes to preheat). *If yours comes with a meat thermometer, insert probe into thickest part of meat on end of brisket nearest to side of smoker where you'll plug it in. Or just make sure it will reach.
  • When smoker is heated, quickly place prepared corned beef already on smoker rack, (fat side-up just as you already have it) into smoker, plug in thermometer, close door, program smoker, and smoke until internal temperature of brisket reaches 190º F.
  • When internal temp is reached, remove from smoker, place brisket onto a sheet of foil, wrap - but don't disturb the seasoning on sides and top, and cool completely in the fridge overnight.
  • Steam when ready to serve, (day #4): Place pastrami on a steamer rack, or metal wire rack, above simmering water in a large pan on the stovetop making sure the meat isn't touching the water. Cover with a lid or foil, and steam for 1 1/2 - 2 hours (depending on size of brisket) over low heat, slowly, until internal temp reaches 200 - 203º F. *Add water if needed during steaming. Do not let all of the water evaporate.
  • Slice against the grain into thin slices, about 1/8" thick is all. (Don't try to put this on a slicer, it will just fall apart). Serve, piled high, on rye bread, with good spicy brown mustard, and a little cream cheese or swiss (or other cheese of choice), if preferred. (*We used grated, paper-thin slices of white cheddar horseradish cheese for something completely different and totally amazing!!)
  • Serve with lots of napkins and ice cold beers!

  • *As always, unless specified, this is not a paid endorsement of any of the products mentioned. They just work well for me, I enjoy them, and the opinions are my own.

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    Wednesday 29th of November 2023

    If using an uncooked beef brisket instead of a corned beef brisket, would you just skip the soaking step? Would more salt need to be added to the rub?


    Sunday 12th of June 2022

    So glad I could help you a little with your wonderful pastrami, it looks amazing! Enjoy!!


    Saturday 11th of June 2022

    Doing a wagyu brisket up for pastrami. Brine for 9 days and smoking but then doing the chill and steam! Cannot wait. People, Kats LIKE or INSPIRED references the PASTRAMI. Make the sandwich how YOU like. Jeez.


    Sunday 15th of July 2018

    I have made several pastramis over time and it is well worth the effort. I have used commercial corned beef brisket but the very best results come with brining your own brisket to create the corned beef in the first instance. Try it some time - heaven!

    Finally, as a kid from the Bronx I have to take issue with the shaved cheese on the sandwich. I admit I am a purist. Its a no no. Home baked rye bread using Bernard Clayton's "Jewish" rye recipe in "The Complete Book of Breads" and Goulden's brown mustard are, in my view, the only permitted additions, unless one gets esoteric with a combo sandwich with corned beef or brisket! But that is too much work even for me.

    Saleem Majid

    Monday 20th of August 2018

    Kelly, thanks for the recipe. It was delicious. While I agree that you should have the pastrami as you feel it should be made, I agree with RKS in that once you invoke Katz's deli as your inspiration, it's hard to have it with Horseradish cheese. Katz's deli specifically does not recommend anything but Jewish rye and good deli mustard with your pastrami sandwich. All in all great recipe and thanks.


    Sunday 15th of July 2018

    Some of us think outside of the box, and some can't. Enjoy it however you like it! And I will do the same. ;) Horseradish cheese goes extremely well with pastrami! Maybe you should try it sometime!


    Thursday 14th of June 2018

    I am presently smoking my first homemade pastrami. The corned beef I'm using weighed just over 4lbs. It got the 24 hour soak with water changes, 2 days in the refrigerator coated and this morning on the grill. I have it in a Visions Kamado grill with pecan and cherry wood for the smoke. For the overnite chill I will deviate slightly and use pink butcher paper and steam it in that, mainly to protect the bark.

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