The Incredible Shrinking Pastrami

by zydecopaws on March 23, 2010

The best part about St. Patrick’s Day is the clearance sale on leftover corned beef in the week or so after. Not that we like corned beef so much, but it makes great smoked pastrami without the 3-day curing process. And since we happened to have one sitting around, it was time to give Bubba Ho-Keg another go at low-and-slow cooking, this time with pastrami on the menu.

The corned beef was soaked overnight and rinsed several times to remove some of the salt. A rub consisting of 3 tablespoons of peppercorns, 1 tablespoon of coriander seed, and 1 tablespoon of granulated garlic was ground together well in a spice grinder (actually a coffee grinder used only for spices) and spread over the meat.


Bubba Ho-Keg was set up with a load of lump charcoal, some wine-oak smoke wood, the BGE plate setter, and run up to a temperature of about 225°F. On went the soon-to-be pastrami, and off I went to my day job. I checked on it about every 30 minutes or so, and after about 3 hours opened up the vents on Bubba Ho-Keg a bit as the temperature had dropped to about 200°F.

And then I ran into interruptions at work. And a timer that wasn’t properly set on my phone. 2 hours later I remembered the pastrami and figured I better go check again. Much to my chagrin, the temperature had run up over 375°F and the meat had shrunk just a bit.


Ok, the meat had shrunk quite a bit, and the internal temps were more in the brisket range than pastrami. I pulled it off immediately, wrapped it in foil, and let it sit in a cooler for a couple of hours hoping that it wouldn’t be totally dried out.


Fortunately the foiling process (although it continued to cook the meat) allowed the pastrami to retain a fair amount of moisture and the end results were surprisingly good once the really dried out pieces were removed.

So more lessons learned today about the need to really keep a close eye on Bubba Ho-Keg when opening up the vents. And the need to cook more than one pastrami at a time, especially when you account for this sort of shrinkage. It also is a good idea to not leave the plate sitting out on the counter when the kids come home from school; if I’m lucky there might be enough left for me to have a sandwich for dinner later…

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