Smoked Corned Beef?
For the last year or so, we've been making our own corned beef. This time I decided to try smoking one, attempting a pastrami-like creation.
I took a 12 lb brisket and corned it with the dry rub technique found in Cook's Illustrated magazine. However, this time I let the corning occur in a vacuum sealed bag for the 6 days.
Instructions for corning are found at our Corned Beef page.
At 4 p.m. I washed off the corning rub, and coated the brisket with yellow mustard. I then ground a spice mixture that is mostly tellicherry pepper....with some coriander seed, celery seed, paprika, onion powder and garlic powder. I applied it with a shaker can to all sides of the meat.
I brought the Kamado to about 220 in the dome. Some soaked cherry wood in an aluminum foil pouch went on the coals. Two fire bricks are supporting an 18" round Weber grill and the brisket is on that. Under the grid are two aluminum drip pans.
I decided to leave the brisket on the K overnight...
When I woke at 5 a.m. the temp had dropped to 160 degrees (it needed more fuel).... the internal temp of the meat was 165 by then. I got it back to 250 in a few minutes then took the meat off at 8 a.m. when it had reached 195 degrees internal. I guess it had been higher than the 165 earlier and was cooling down along with the K.
I wrapped it in aluminum foil and let it rest for about 1/3 hour, then put it in the refrigerator, for reheating later in the evening.
The results were very very good.... not quite a corned beef, not quite a pastrami...... best called a spicy smoked corned beef. We had guests drop by, and it was enjoyed by one and all.
By the way, the uncooked weight of the brisket was 12 lbs, the final cooked weight was 8.5 lbs.... not too bad.
Additional thoughts about smoked corned beef / pastrami
In the 70's, we used to live a couple of blocks from Pastrami King... and they made a very respectable pastrami sandwich.
Now that we live in NJ, and do quite a bit of outdoor cooking, we make our own pastrami.
Well, let me qualify that a bit. We make our own smoked corned beef (which, to my understanding, is fundamentally what a pastrami is.)
The advantage we have is that we buy a full brisket (12-15lbs) and do a dry corning technique (found in Cook's Illustrated, from a couple of years ago) that takes about 7 days in the refrigerator.
The reason I consider this an advantage is that I can start with great meat (usually prime grade) and control exactly what goes into the corning spices.
I don't use any saltpeter or other nitrates/nitrites. An interesting side note is that the only reason corned beef is pink is that the consumers seem to demand it. The companies that make commercial corned beef have found that only New Englanders will buy brown colored corned beef, so that's the only place they sell it... everyone else gets saltpeter or other additives to make the meat pink.
One the meat has corned for a week, I coat it with ground spices (black pepper, coriander seed, and/or whatever I'm in the mood for) and smoke it for about 18 hours at 225-250 degrees F.
Because this is an entire brisket, both cuts are involved. The "first cut" (also called the "flat") is what you'll always see in the supermarket. It's lean, and tends to be dry if made from a commercial corned beef. The thicker "second cut" (also called the "point" or "deckel" cut) is fattier, and incredibly flavorful. Good Jewish delis usually make sandwiches that have slices from both the first and the second cuts, yielding a tasty sandwich.
With all this talk about steaming a pastrami... I think folk are missing one of the great taste treats... eating a pastrami that has just come off the cooker (rather than one that's been steam reheated later).
Another truly wonderful thing about smoking an entire corned beef brisket is that you can take the fattier slices from the second cut, and grill or pan fry them. You get something that has some of the same qualities/texture as bacon, and the crispy bits are amazing!
So, the secret to great pastrami... in my opinion, is start with great meat, control the corning process, and smoke it slowly over low heat.
You don't know what you're missing until you've tasted it.
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