Smoked Pastrami

Smoked Pastrami Recipe

The recipe is a culmination of much research and my awesome cousins Dan and Tim.  Last year at Memphis in May, over a three-day period we cooked ribs, pulled pork, brisket, smoked chicken, salmon, Memphis sausage & cheese, beef tenderloin, smoked brats…and much more.  But you know what the best thing we ate was, that we were all talking about for days?

This Pastrami.

Corned beef brisket

Dan brined it for weeks in California, where he lived at the time, and actually packed it in ice in his suitcase and brought it to Memphis.  How dedicated is that?  Since then, Tim recreated at our family Christmas gathering, and it was so ridiculously good that 3 of these 10lb suckers were eaten and gone in about 30 minutes.

I needed no further motivation to try it myself.

I won’t bore you with all the details here, as many of them have been given this week with the Pastrami Brine and Pastrami Rub.  Pictured above you see the brisket soaking in water.  This process pulls some of that salty brine out of the meat.  I soaked it for about 5 hours, but it should have soaked a lot longer – overnight minimum.

Corned brisket with pastrami seasoning

From there it’s as simple as patting the brisket dry and covering both sides in delicious rub.  Let it sit like that for at least 30 minutes so it adheres well to the meat before moving to smoker.

Meat ready to go onto the smoker

Then it’s all about the internal temp.  I used a blend of hickory and apple wood and smoked this big beauty for about 4 hours.  And yes, those are bacon wrapped potatoes you see.  That’s a fun and tasty little side dish treat for you…and why the heck not, you know?

Pastrami cooking on the smoker with potatoes

After smoking, I wrapped in an aluminum pan and cooked until the internal temp hit about 200.  After letting it rest for 30 minutes I sliced it and was absolutely smiling from ear to ear when I saw that the process had worked and this beef brisket was now a pink colored pastrami.  Such a neat process.

Sliced pastrami with vegetables

So thank you to my cousins for inspiring me to make this delicious meat.  I will say, it’s a time consuming process to go through a 3 week brining period on top of spending a half day smoking it….but it’s one of my most favorite things I’ve ever done.  I’m telling you it’s delicious.  And the sandwiches we had the next several days were out of this world.  Plan it out and try at least once.  I think you’ll be surprised at how much you like it.

Close up look at sliced pastrami

Smoked Pastrami

A brined and seasoned brisket is smoked until tender to reveal a succulent pastrami!
Prep Time 12 hours
Cook Time 6 hours
Total Time 18 hours
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Calories 298 kcal


  • 1, 7 + lb beef brisket
  • Pastrami Brine
  • Pastrami Rub


  • Brine Pastrami as instructed for at least 2 weeks.
  • Soak in water overnight to draw out some of the salt.
  • Pat dry and cover both sides with Pastrami Rub.
  • Smoke at 225-250, using a mix of hickory & fruit wood, for at least 4 hours or until internal temp hits about 160.
  • Place the brisket in an aluminum pan with a bit of liquid - apple juice, water, or whatever you want - and cook until the internal temp is around 200. Another good indicator is when your thermometer slides into the meat like butter.
  • Let rest for at least 30 minutes, slice thin.
Keyword Smoked Pastrami

71 thoughts on “Smoked Pastrami

  1. I would like to try this recipe with a turkey breast. Would be ok doing it bone in (probably would spatchcock) or ask the butcher to debone the breast? Thanks and I love your website. Thanks for going through the hell of bringing it back

  2. I’ve had 6 pound brisket flat sitting in this recipe’s brine for the last 3 weeks (as of this coming Saturday). I separated the point and ground it for burgers.

    My question is that I got carried away when trimming and removed almost all of the fat from the flat which I would never do if I was smoking a whole packer for BBQ brisket. Did I ruin the flat for the smoking part of the cook? Should I just boil it as a corned beef when done brining instead.

    Thanks for you help!

    1. Brandon – sorry for my delay. I think you’re still fine to smoke it with little fat. I trim the fat down to about 1/4″ for competitions and it turns out awesome. I hope it turned out great!

  3. Kevin, do you cure whole packer brisket (14-16 lbs) whole or do you separate the flat and the point? Do you have to adjust the curing salt ratios for a whole brisket, or just change out brine every week for 3 weeks? I’d think the point, being more fatty, might make some great pastrami, but most of the posts refer only to the flat. What’s your experience?

    1. I almost always do the whole packer. I just love the point too much to NOT do it! Plus…pastrami point? Heaven. Your instincts are on point. Pun intended. 🙂

      I just change out the brine every week for 3 weeks.

  4. How long to cook per pound would you say. I have a 15 pound brisket. Would it be about an hour a pound?

    Also do I start with on grate then last to pan?



    1. Nate – A lot depends on your smoker and what temp you cook at. I usually cook at 250-275 and get 15lb briskets done in around 7 hours. I usually end up at around an hour per TWO pounds…but that’s a flexible rule, depending on fat content, temp, etc.
      And yes, smoke directly on grate for first 4-6 hours, then move to pan for wrap stage.
      Good luck!

  5. Hi first time attempting making pastrami . I was just wondering when brining is it done in the refrigerator ?I have done some curing before and refrigeration was not required. Cant wait to try it .

  6. Dan
    Kevin that is the bomb turned out perfect I had the meat on my egg for 11 hours. I brined for 3 weeks and the meat is well we call it meat candy I have had nothing but people wanting more

  7. This recipe is absolutely fantastic. Just finished for the second time through with the brisket in the brine for about three weeks. Melt in your mouth good is the description I would use. Good tip on the big 2.5 gallon bags, you need them. Hard to get enough it goes so fast:)

  8. Hey gang! Are you leaving the fat cap on the brisket when applying the rub and smoking or are you removing it first to cover the meat in the rub? Thanks in advance!

  9. Hey Kevin – one more question if I may …
    I have an 8lb briskey brining now, and it will be feeding us for two meals.
    Do you think cutting in in half for the steaming and/or smoking is a good idea?
    I would then cook the meat each night.
    More smoke gets into the meat, two shorter steams, hot meat each night?
    Thanks! Tony

  10. Hi Kevin
    Hard to get full briskets here in the UK – so my butcher is carving me one special tomorrow!
    Very excited!
    One question.
    You take it to 160F on the smoker, and then up to 200F in the oven.
    If you’re using a WSM or ProQ smoker, there’s a water tray in there.
    Why not just leave it in the smoker?
    Great website, btw
    Best wishes Tony

    1. I’ve never cut one in half, but hey, it’s worth a try! I don’t see why it wouldn’t work. You absolutely can leave it in the smoker – I often do – but I offer the oven as a secondary option for the wrap phase since smoke doesn’t matter at that point. Plus if you have a smoker that is difficult to regulate temperature, the oven makes life easier.

  11. Looks great and I’m anxious to try it. Any rough guess on finishing time in oven and what temp? Trying to gauge overall time for process after 4 hours in smoker. Thanks!

    1. I would guess the wrap phase should take anywhere between 2-4 hours, depending on the size of the brisket and temp you’re cooking.

  12. I’m going to try venison pastrami. The roast I will use is going to weigh between 2-3 pounds. Do I need to adjust the ingredient amounts in the corned beef brine or will it be fine for the 2 – 3 pound weight?

    1. I have made this 3 times in the last 5 months. It is awesome. I slice it and food saver 8 oz portions then freeze. When the wife and I want a Reuben we pull a pack out of the freezer and thaw it out. It’s wonderful. All my coworkers got a frozen pack for Xmas and all I heard was “when can I get another package of that pastrami?!” My suggestion is to slice and freeze and you will be fine.

  13. Thank you this looks amazing. I do have a quick question for you, I was looking at the recipe for the brine and it says corned beef brine. My question is, at my local store they sell corned beef that is still in a bag with liquid, that looks like brine. Could I use one of these, to speed up the process, and just skip to the smoking part? Could the meat be frozen, and if so how long would it last? Thanks for you help

    1. Jamie – the kind you’re seeing in the store – I believe – is a pre-brined brisket. You can either smoke it or cook it in the oven, but it needs to be cooked in some way. But yes, that would speed up the process – you could skip the 3 weeks of brining.

  14. I did a packer brisket (separated) and three venison roasts. Pulled the venison at 150 internal and the brisket at 201. Seriously best thing to come out of my smoker as well. Started another brisket brining this morning and will be curing our own corned beef for St. Patties day this year.

    Can’t really convey how amazing this recipe is!! Thank you!

  15. Question… This is my first time curing meat. When I was dumping the cure too add more for the 3rd. Week my meat is very slimy and the brine was almost a gelatin. Should I be worried as too whether it’s safe for consumption? I followed your recipe for the brine. Using the Morton tender quick. I did not change the brine for the first two weeks. I did stir it after the first week and flipped the meat. Sorry for the newby question. I just don’t want to get anyone or myself sick. Thanks in advance.

    1. Derrin – I have to be honest – I’ve never had that happen, where the brine turns into gelatin. I’m not sure what to tell you there. If you rinse it all off and it smells fine, I’d forge ahead. I trust my nose when it comes to these things!

        1. what you had happen was the ropy experience ~~i have heard that means contamination but have heard others now a days say they just rinse it off and make new brine ~~i to have NEVER had this experience but have read much on it ~~i would be cautious though ~` hope you get back with us as to how it smoked up as i am curious if after that it had an off Oder about it all or taste

  16. Kevin I made way to much brine last time i cured my pork shoulder so ended up freezing the excess ~`not protein ever touched it and i am now wanting to cure a pork butt or shoulder for a quick ham and then smoke for Christmas ~`my daughter just put in hjer request or i would have done it much earlier but my question is for just a few days in the wet cure do you think it would be okay to use the cure i have in the freezer to inject with and let set for a few days ~~?? it has not in any way been contaminated ~~ smile ~~ thanks for any help ~~Merry Christmas

    1. Denise – I see zero issue with using frozen brine/marinade of any kind. The only thing I can think of is the salt might be less potent? But that’s just a guess – it might be exactly the same. Anyway, I think you’re safe to use it!

      1. I went ahead and used it as we had our Christmas this past Saturday as a family and needed to get all my bases covered quickly ~~it worked fabulously ~`both the sweet and the salty was still very much there as well as the pickling seasoning and i even cut my cure time by 3 days and only cured 1 week ~~rinsed well after a 2 hour soak ~then of coarse i scored ~`rubbed and air dried in the fridge overnight ~i have never done that before but i injected well so it was able to get where it needed to be ~~ and smoked for several hours with Maple and hickory wood ~`glazed ~`let set overnight for the flavors to really marry ~~~i honestly do think this is an important step folks miss some times ~~`reheated a bit for the day of and it was gorgeous ~`perfect flavor and my frozen brine had been in the deep freeze for a few months ~~so if any others make to much and it has NOT touched your product at all ~~try freezing it up to be used later ~` worked great ~~i would add a picture but can not see how on this page ~~i made a homemade raspberry ancho chili grand marnier glaze for it that later cooked down more went great with the sweet potato biscuits i made for horderves

    1. I always buy whole brisket packers at Sam’s or Costco. I love cooking them with the point on. Choice, Prime – they all work. You can also get just the flat from a local grocery store, but I think the whole packers cook better.

  17. Hey Kevin,

    So when you add the brisket to the aluminum pan…do you keep it in the smoker? Or do you add it to the oven? I’m a rookie and a little confused….I’m extremely excited to make this though!


    1. My rule of thumb for all cooked meats is about 7 days. You can probably find a more specific answer somewhere…but I’ve never had any issues in a week’s time.

  18. I found this recipe awhile back and have been saving it. I finally decided to go for it this year for the holidays. I went with two 5-6 lb flat cuts and they came out amazing! I cut off an end piece for a taste test and it was like nothing I have tasted before. I smoked for 5 hours in the 22 inch smoky mountain and then finished in the oven to free up the smoker for ribs and other meats. I decided to leave the 1/4 fat cap on this time, because my briskets were so thin to begin with (but I normally trim my brisket). It cooked fast 7-8 hours, and I was able to go up a bit higher ~250 without drying it out at all. This recipe is much easier to cook that regular brisket from my experience. It seems like its almost impossible to screw it up, I actually hit 200 internal temps in the oven (covered in a pan with apple juice and brown sugar), and I was worried it would be dry, but it is not dry at all! My girlfriend is going to bake fresh rye bread for sandwiches, and I cannot wait for finished product. Brisket is running me 6.50-11.50 a lb right now, which is quite high, but this recipe was totally worth the extra cost. I hope the price of beef goes down so that I can afford to make this recipe a few times a year. It’s my new favorite! Thanks Kevin for sharing – killer recipe!

  19. I have been using this method for making pastrami for about the past three years. The only variation is the meat. We use two venison hams (Hind quarters). I do not finish them in the oven but smoke for 10-12 hours.
    Best pastrami ever! Add Rye bread, Sauerkraut and Swiss Cheese, Best Reuben ever!
    I just tried a hot pastrami melt from a certain sub franchise. Not even close to my own.
    Time to fire up the smoker, it’s deer season and my friend gave me two 20 lb. hams. That’s this weekends project.
    Smoke on!

      1. As I recall we went for 165 to 170 F internal temp. Got a couple of “hams” marinating now.
        Now the long three week wait!

        1. I forgot to add that last year we had soooo much venison pastrami that we sliced up a bunch really thin and then dried it into jerky. OMG! Venison crack, can’t stop eating it.

  20. I don’t often leave comments on recipes, but I needed to acknowledge how amazing this turned out following this recipe. This was truly the greatest product that has ever exited my smoker. Well done sir!

  21. Hi Kevin,
    So it’s St Patrick’s Day and I have been holding off trying this for today. Just finished the four hour smoke and I wrapping it up to go back in right now. I also couldn’t help but try the bacon wrapped potatoes and bacon wrapped cabbage wedges. My mouth is watering already!!! My question is how do you usually time smoking your sides and main dish? Since the meat is only smoked the first four hours and the potatoes only take two I don’t know the best way to handle the time conflict? Do you pull the potatoes early and if so what’s the best way to keep them ready to eat for dinner?

    Thanks for all your help,


    1. Hey Jeff – I usually try to time it so all the smoked stuff comes off at the same time, just so I can shut down my smoker. If that means I have to keep the potatoes warm, I just put them in a covered pan. And if they need to be warmed slightly then I just put them in the oven for a few minutes.
      Good luck – I think it will be a hit!

  22. oh and i meant to ask if you would leave the rub on overnight as well ~~??? i have a large offset smoker and always do this for my pork butts ~~chicken and ribs ~~Miss ~~belle ~~a~~Que

    1. Sure! I would definitely leave on for at least several hours. Overnight won’t hurt it either. Just soaks in those flavors more!

  23. Kevin ~~love the way you did present this recipe in such a forthright manner ~~my gosh some of the recipes i have been looking at this week are simply daunting and shy one away from ever trying them~~:)~~i knew if i looked hard enough i would find one that did not scare me off and i am an experience smoke ~~question ~I have decided to use a medium – large chuck roast as i have one and have seen comments that both they and short ribs do make great pastrami so say if it runs maybe 5 pounds and not the 7 + you have listed here would you still use the brine and rub as listed or cut it back a quarter ???~~love your blog by the way ~~Miss ~~Belle ~~a~~Que

    1. You could cut it back, Denise. If you don’t, you’ll probably just end up with a little extra rub – which isn’t a bad thing! Either way, you’ll have success.

  24. Kevin,

    Love the website. Do we need to trim the brisket at all before brining or at any point during this process? Thanks.

    1. Hey Barrett – thanks for reaching out! Yes, I always trim. I’d say on the fat cap side, just trim some of the really hard fat, leaving about 1/4 fat. On the meat side, I usually trim that up pretty good, down to the meat, so all the flavors can penetrate.
      Have fun and let me know how it goes!

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