Homemade Pastrami Recipe

4.91 from 21 votes

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Tender, homemade pastrami is a labor of love, but isn’t at all difficult to make — it just takes time! Each step of this pastrami recipe builds flavor from the bottom up, from the salty brine to the peppery dry rub all the way to the smoker.

slices of homemade pastrami on a white countertop

Pastrami is a spiced, tender brisket that is either smoked or roasted. Anyone familiar with this succulent deli meat knows a good pastrami recipe is all about that black pepper flavor, and I promise that my dry rub has plenty of it to go around! It’s coated in an incredible, peppery crust but maintains a juicy bite. It’s delicious!

Here I outline how to make pastrami from either packaged corn beef or by corning a fresh beef brisket yourself. This requires some homemade brining — a process that makes any meat, from salmon to turkey to pork, amazingly tender and moist.

sliced homemade pastrami on a white countertop

We have a lot to cover, so I’ll make one final comment: this is a hands-on, involved pastrami recipe. But you’ll be so happy that you took the time to learn how to make pastrami with your own two hands.

Tip From Kevin

To Steam or Not to Steam?

To make the most tender pastrami, first, you’ll brine the brisket. You then encrust the brisket with a coarsely ground spice mix and then smoke it. A final (optional step) is to steam the pastrami to tenderize it.

I personally always steam it for that ultimate fall-apart goodness. I give you all the information and options in the recipe card below!

closeup: dry rubbed pastrami recipe

Ingredient Notes and Substitutions

  • Corned Beef – You can either make your own or use store-bought corned beef — just know you’ll have to add an extra step by desalinating the pre-made meat.
  • Black Pepper – Coarsely ground, freshly cracked black pepper is preferred for dry rubs for a textured crust and amazing pop of flavor when you bite into it. 
  • Ground Coriander A little peppery and very lemony. Substitute with cumin if needed.
  • Ground Mustard – This is a bitter seasoning that becomes much stronger when cooked — a little goes a long way. 
  • Brown Sugar – Far more effective in a dry rub than white. Its flavor is deeper and more complex and helps to form a really delicious crust. 
  • Garlic & Onion Powder – There isn’t too much to say about this dynamic duo of seasonings! Granulated garlic or onion are fine substitutes in this dry rub. 
  • Chili Powder – Store-bought powder, unless it’s a specific blend, can contain any combination of spices: any mild chili pepper (such as Ancho, New Mexico, or California), cayenne, black pepper, cumin, coriander, and Mexican oregano. If you make it at home, you’ll know exactly what’s in it!
process shots on how to make pastrami in a smoker

Tip From Kevin

Venting While Smoking

There are a lot of opinions on keeping the vent open or closed during the smoking process. As the smoker has limited smoke, I keep it closed for the first hour, then open it up for ventilation and constant airflow so I don’t have to keep re-loading with wood chips (you won’t have to worry about this if using a Traeger).

I’ve read that with time and temp the ability of meats to retain smoke diminishes past 140 degrees F. So it’s usually a 2 to 4-hour smoke window for optimum smoke absorption.

closeup: steamed pastrami recipe with a meat thermometer

How to Make Pastrami in the Smoker

  1. Prepare Meat. Remove the meat from its package and rinse with cold water. Transfer to a large stock pot and cover with cold water. Refrigerate overnight, or for at least 4 hours. OR if you’re starting with a beef brisket, follow the brining instructions in my homemade corned beef recipe and then proceed as follows. 
  2. Dry Rub & Cure. Add all of the dry rub ingredients to a small bowl and whisk together. Rinse off the beef and shake off excess water before rubbing the seasonings all over its surface. Place the seasoned beef on a platter and refrigerate, uncovered, for 8 hours. (You could go right to the smoker or oven without air curing, but I find it adds the most flavor). 
  3. Smoke. Give the meat two hours to come to temperature before transferring to the smoker. Smoke for 6 hours at 225°F, or until the internal temperature reaches 200°F. See the recipe card for additional guidance on using your specific smoker.
  4. Steam. For that extra tenderness I highly recommend steaming until it reaches 204°F, see below.
  5. Slice.  Transfer to a cutting board. Discard any remaining fat cap, if desired, before slicing against the grain into 1/8″ pieces.

How to Make Pastrami in the Oven

Follow instructions 1 and 2 above, and then continue:

  1. Prepare Oven & Pan. Give the meat two hours to come to temperature and preheat the oven to 300°F. Pour 4 cups of water into the roasting pan and line with a wire rack.
  2. Roast. Place the meat on the rack with the fatty side facing up. Tightly wrap both the meat and roasting pan with a double layer of aluminum foil. Transfer to the oven and bake for 3 to 4 hours (usually an hour per pound) until the internal temperature reaches 200°F.
  3. Steam. For that extra tenderness I highly recommend steaming until it reaches 204°F, see below.
  4. Slice. Transfer to a cutting board and slice against the grain into 1/8″ pieces.

How to Steam Pastrami

Remember that this is an optional step, but I almost always steam my pastrami for the most tender brisket possible! After roasting or smoking, the meat can be cooled and refrigerated (not yet sliced) for up to 5 days to steam later on. 

  1. Prepare Steamer. Fill the pot with enough water to leave just an inch of space between the water and steamer rack. 
  2. Steam. Heat over medium-low and steam for two hours, periodically checking the water level and adding more as needed so that the meat steams the whole time. 
  3. Slice. Remove the meat from the pot just before it hits 204°F — the meat will continue to cook as it rests (see above image after 5 minutes it hit 207°F!). Transfer to a cutting board and slice against the grain into 1/8″ pieces.
  • 12×15″ Roasting Pan – You’ll also need a wire rack to keep the meat above the water.
  • Smoker – I switch between using my Traeger or Masterbuilt 30” Digital Electric Smoker.
  • Steamer Alternatively, you could use an Instant Pot with a strainer made to fit the size of the machine. 

Storing and Reheating

Refrigerate your hard-earned homemade pastrami for up to 5 days. If you don’t think you’ll eat it within that time, freeze it so you don’t waste a single bite!

Freeze after slicing so that you can individually wrap, store, and thaw only as much as you plan on eating at one time. It also thaws much faster this way.

Reheat in the microwave or by steaming to keep the meat moist and juicy.

overhead: sliced homade pastrami with bread, cheese, and mustard to the side

Frequently Asked Questions

Is pastrami just smoked corned beef?

Not necessarily. Pastrami and corned beef are both cut from the brisket and are brined before cooking, but the cooking itself is what separates them.

Corned beef is boiled or braised in broth alongside potatoes, carrots, and cabbage. A pastrami recipe, alternatively, is dry rubbed, air-cured overnight, and then either smoked or roasted.

What is pastrami?

Pastrami is made from a beef brisket. It is sometimes specifically from a “deckle” or “point” cut, which are the two fattier cuts on top of the flat cut — the cut most often used to make corned beef.

How long does it take to cure pastrami?

Brisket needs to brine for 5 to 10 days before it is dry rubbed, air-cured, and then smoked. 

The length of time depends on how strong you want the flavor to be. Some feel 10 days is too long and only brine for 5. I go into a little more detail in my corned beef recipe where I describe the brining process.

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This is a fantastic step by step recipe to make homemade pastrami! Fantastic flavor and perfect for sandwiches, rarely are there any leftovers. www.keviniscooking.com

How to Make Pastrami

4.91 from 21 votes
My pastrami walkthrough makes a melt-in-your-mouth brisket with an earthy, peppery crust — even better than at your favorite deli!
Servings: 12
Prep: 1 day
Cook: 8 hours
Total: 1 day 8 hours


Pastrami Dry Rub

  • 4 tbsp coarsely ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp ground coriander
  • 2 tsp ground mustard
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp chili powder (See Note 2)


For Pre-Packaged Corned Beef

  • Take the corned beef out of it’s packaging and rinse with cold water. Place in a large stock pot and cover with cold water. Keep refrigerated overnight or 4 hours minimum to remove the excess salt. This is the desalinating process.

For Beef Brisket

  • If starting with a beef brisket, see my recipe on How to Make Corned Beef first to brine, then go straight to applying the dry rub.

Dry Rub

  • In a small bowl whisk together the dry rub ingredients. Rinse corned beef in water and allow excess to drip off. Apply dry rub mixture evenly over all sides. Place on a platter and refrigerate over night or 8 hours. No need to cover with plastic wrap because when you remove it most of the dry rub sticks to the wrap and is wasted. Air cured is fine overnight, but feel free to go right to the smoker. I have found overnight adds more flavor then straight to the smoker or oven. Use your own discretion.

Smoke the Brisket (Option 1)

  • Let the brisket come to room temperature, about 2 hours. Smoke the brisket for approximately 6 hours at 225°F. We will want an internal temperature of 200°F for that tender meat. (See Note 4).
  • Steam. For that extra tenderness I highly recommend steaming until it reaches 204°F (see below).
  • Feel free to discard whatever fat cap is still there and not rendered down completely. With a sharp knife be sure to slice across the grain into about 1/8″ and serve! Slicing across the grain will ensure a tender, fall apart piece of pastrami.

Oven Roast (Option 2)

  • Let the brisket come to room temperature, about 2 hours. Preheat the oven to 300°F. Pour 4 cups cold water into the bottom of a 12×15" roasting pan lined with a wire rack inside the pan.
  • Place the brisket on the wire rack, fatty side up. Tightly cover the brisket and roasting pan with a double layer aluminum foil. Bake until it reaches an internal temperature of 200°F. This should take about 1 hour per pound or 3 to 4 hours total. Let the meat rest for at least 30 minutes before slicing.
  • Steam. For that extra tenderness I highly recommend steaming until it reaches 204°F (see below).
  • With a sharp knife be sure to slice across the grain into about 1/8″ and serve! Slicing across the grain will ensure a tender, fall apart piece of pastrami.

Steaming (Maximum Tenderness)

  • If not steaming right away allow meat to cool and refrigerate overnight, or at least 8 hours, covered with a loose fitting piece of aluminum foil (We don’t want the dry rub to come off). Otherwise take directly to the steamer. (See below instructions).
  • If refrigerated, remove from refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature, then steam for 2 hours. I use a bamboo steamer with the meat resting on a bit of aluminum foil (See Note 4). In a large pot over medium low heat pour enough water in pot that there is an inch gap between steamer rack and water and steam for 2 hours. Check occasionally to make sure water does not evaporate and refill as needed. We want an internal temperature of 204°F. Just before it hits that I turn off the heat because the meat will continue to cook. (See picture in post, it rose all the away to 207°F while resting!)
  • If you don't have a steamer, you could use an Instant Pot. Use the Instant Pot with the strainer made to fit the IP size. Put the smoked, refrigerated pastrami in the steamer basket, added 1 cup water and set it on STEAM and LOW for 2 hours.
  • Feel free to discard whatever fat cap is still there and not rendered down completely. With a sharp knife be sure to slice across the grain into about 1/8″ and serve! Slicing across the grain will ensure a tender, fall apart piece of pastrami.


  1. Either use a pre-packaged Corned Beef or a beef brisket. If starting with a beef brisket, see my recipe on How to Make Corned Beef first, then go straight to applying the dry rub.
  2. Unless a chili powder is specific, like Ancho Chili Powder, it can be made up of various ingredients. Basic Chili Powder mixes include Ancho, New Mexico, California or any other mild chili pepper, cayenne powder, ground black peppercorns, cumin, coriander and Mexican oregano.
  3. I use either my Traeger Smoker or a Masterbuilt 30″ Digital Electric Smoker, but follow your smoker instructions. For the Masterbuilt, add an inch of water to the water tray, and use cherry wood chips, or maple, apple or grape. While the smoke flavor is going to add to the quality of the pastrami, you do not want to overpower the flavor with a strong woods like hickory or mesquite.
  4. Cover loosely with aluminum foil and lay meat on top in steamer. If you don’t have a bamboo steamer a metal one will do fine that you use for steaming vegetables. Another steamer method is propping the plate and beef on top of rolled up prices of aluminum foil to raise it up and pour water in pot up to plate and steam.


Calories: 333kcal | Carbohydrates: 3g | Protein: 24g | Fat: 24g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 12g | Cholesterol: 87mg | Sodium: 1257mg | Potassium: 535mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 113IU | Vitamin C: 45mg | Calcium: 28mg | Iron: 3mg

The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

Course: Dinners
Cuisine: American
Have You Made This Recipe? Let Me Know on InstagramTag @keviniscooking or tag me #keviniscooking!
sliced pastrami with mustard cheese and rye bread


Whether in the kitchen or on the grill, you’ll find me cooking American favorites with a love for BBQ, Mexican and Tex Mex. I’m passionate about making tasty food because life’s too short to be bland!

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  1. I just read through the 92 comments, and I am surprised someone hasn’t asked this question yet❗🤔

    When making pastrami, If you don’t have a smoker, so doing it in the oven, can one use liquid smoke either brushed on the corned beef or pouring it in the 4 cups of water so you can still get a smoked version?

    what would be the best way to do this, and how much liquid smoke should one use?

    Thanks in advance for your reply❗

    1. I haven’t used liquid smoke for this and it can be a little overpowering. I’d start with 1-2 teaspoons in the water first and go from there Noel.

    1. They should all be 200°F and then steam to 204°F Lee. The original post had lower temps and this has since been revised to reflect a better end result. Hope this helps!

  2. After brining brisket, does one also boil the finished product before smoking it to make pastrami or do you skip the boiling after the brine and go right to the smoker?

    1. Brinem dry rub then smoker Paul. And if you want that extra tender pastrami, I highly recommend the steamer. All in the recipe card!

    2. 5 stars
      I made this recipe from start to finish with brining my own beef, it is absolutely amazing! Made a Reuben with homemade rye and 1000 Island dressing, slapped on some kraut, and baby Swiss! Was delicious! That crust is soo good! I was worried about the amount of pepper, but proceeded anyways, after it cooks slow, tastes perfect! My beef ended up weighing only 3.5lbs after shaving off a ton of fat,(grocery store beef! But it was half off, so I got a good deal!) so I did only brine it for 6 days, and that was perfect!

  3. Hi Kevin,

    I guess to most important thing about your post is that the recipe is just about totally fail safe. I got a smoker last year and immediately thought of making pastrami or Montreal smoked meat (I am in Canada after all). After reading your instructions I summoned up the courage to invest in a full beef brisket and, voila, beautiful pastrami, first time, no fuss, no muss. As previous comment said, I have now achieved cult status with friends and neighbours.I am on my third batch right now and have done a couple of tweaks with the rub, not because of problems with this recipe, but simply to experiment.

    One point worthy of note is my IP does not have a steam/low setting. I pressure cook on high for 1 hour with great results. Thank you for your corned beef and pastrami recipes. They are now family favourites.

    1. That is FANTASTIC and I really appreciate you taking the time to come back and give feedback. Cheers Greg!