Insanely Good Pastrami Rub Recipe: An Easy Guide

September 12, 2022

A pastrami sandwich is one of the most delicious meals on the planet without question. Great pastrami is made possible by a well-balanced generous coating of the dry rub. My personal favorite is a heavily tangy sour flavor that's lighter on the hot and sweet qualities.

I have been making smoked pastrami for decades now and my family has always relished my pastrami recipes. While it is fairly straightforward, making smoked pastrami requires patience and a decent skill at mixing the dry rub.

Only your imagination limits the variations you can make to a pastrami dry rub. In this post, I will walk you through this particular process so that you can make your own delicious, flavorful pastrami rub. Let’s get started.

Pastrami Rub Recipe

Assembling Your Homemade Pastrami Dry Rub

What you want to achieve ultimately is a rich, spicy blend that absorbs into your cured meat giving that extra layer of flavor and color. Below are three recipes that you can use with each one being a tad spicier and more complex than the previous one.

I would advise you to make a large amount and store the leftover in an air tight container or airtight Ziploc bags. This way, you have plenty in case you want a generous coating. Let’s start with a very basic rub.

Basic Pastrami Rub Recipe

Total time: 5 - 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp, black peppercorns or crushed black pepper
  • ¼ cup coriander seeds or ground coriander
  • 1 - 2 tbsp smoked paprika
Rubbing spices onto the meat

Instructions

  • Using a pestle and mortar, a spice grinder, or a food processor, mix and grind the black peppercorns and coriander seeds to granulated powder but not to fine dust. Granules will produce a better texture.
  • Evenly mix all three spices in a small bowl.
  • You have a basic pastrami rub.

Sweet And Spicy Pastrami Rub Recipe

Prep time 5 - 10 minutes | Total time 5 - 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 4 tbsp, black peppercorns, or ground black pepper
  • ½  cup coriander seeds or ground coriander
  • 2 tbsp smoked paprika
  • ¼ cup turbinado sugar
  • 2 tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 tbsp onion powder
  • 1 tbsp chili powder

Instructions

  • Using a food processor, grinder, or a pestle and mortar, grind the whole seeds to a granulated powder.
  • Pour all the spices into a small bowl and mix evenly.
  • Your dry rub is ready.

Hot And Spicy Pastrami Rub Recipe

Prep time 5 - 10 minutes | Total time 5 - 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 4 tbsp whole black peppercorns
  • 2 tbsp ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp whole coriander seeds
  • 2 tbsp coriander powder
  • 2 tbsp brown or turbinado sugar 
  • 2 tbsp paprika
  • 4 tbsp garlic powder
  • 4 tbsp onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon white or yellow mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 1 tbsp ancho chili powder

Instructions

  • Put all the ingredients in a Ziploc bag and crush with a meat tenderizer, a skillet, or a rolling pin to crack the whole seeds into coarsely broken granules. A grinder will also work perfectly.
  • Pour the fresh coarsely ground spices into a bowl and mix thoroughly and evenly.
  • You have a hot and spicy dry rub.
  • You can use less black pepper or make this rub without the chili powder since this recipe will pack quite the punch.

Related Reading

Enhancing The Flavor Of Your Pastrami

The Brining Process

The most effective way to enhance the flavor of smoked pastrami is to make a great brine. Ensure your brine recipe is up to the task. The larger your beef brisket, the stronger the flavor your brine needs to have. 

Too little spice and you will not successfully flavor the beef brisket. Ensure you do not use too much salt so as not to overpower the brine and make the result inedible. 

Let the curing process last a minimum of 5 days. Any less and the result will fall short.

The Smoking Process

The smoking process is the holy grail of making smoked pastrami and using flavorful wood chips should enhance the flavor. For lovers of powerful flavors, you can use hickory or mesquite.

For more subtle smoke flavor profiles, grape, maple, and cherry wood chips are the best. Smoking the beef brisket for longer also produces a more succulent, richer, and heavily infused flavor to the pastrami. Don't increase the heat to rush the process.

Great Equipment

Your smoker is the most important piece of equipment for this process and to produce perfect pastrami go for the best. A portable smoker is definitely something you should consider buying for your family.

A reliable top-of-the-range thermometer should also be part of your culinary toolkit if making pastrami is going to be a consistent part of your cooking schedule.

Seasoned Pastrami Slices

Explaining Pastrami 

Smoked pastrami is a dish originating from Romania. It is made from beef brisket but can also be made from pork, lamb, or turkey. Smoked pastrami was invented as a way to preserve meat before refrigeration came along.

Preservation involved coating chunks of meat with copious amounts of salt to rid it of moisture. Spices and herbs were also included in the curing process to instill flavor into the meat.

Today smoked pastrami is made as a dish on its own and is immensely popular in BBQ culture. One of the best ways to enjoy hot smoked pastrami is to make the iconic pastrami on rye sandwich topped with mustard, sauerkraut, Russian dressing, pickles, Swiss cheese, leaves of cabbage, or iceberg lettuce.

What Is Pastrami Seasoning Made Of?

Coriander seeds, black peppercorns, and paprika are the basic building blocks of simple but satisfactory pastrami rub recipes.

You can make your dry rub more flavorful and richer by adding brown sugar, turbinado sugar, garlic powder, onion powder ancho chili powder, white and yellow mustard seeds, and mustard powder.

You can tweak your rub based on the flavor profile that appeals to you the most. For instance, when I make my pastrami rub, I often double down on the coriander and mustard seed powders because my family and I love those flavors in just about everything.

Coriander and mustard are strong flavors when used together and may be more of an acquired taste than an obvious favorite.

Why Is There No Salt In The Pastrami Rub Recipe?

Great question! The meat used to make corned beef and pastrami is already cured or brined in a heavily salted brine which means the meat is sufficiently salted. 

By adding salt to the pastrami rub, you may end up oversalting the meal and ruining the overall flavor. Steer clear of the salt in this rub.

What Cut of Meat Is Used For Pastrami?

The best cuts for pastrami are the deckle, which is a shoulder cut that's wide and lean, or the navel, which is a smaller and juicier cut of beef. 

More people today will simply opt for beef brisket or storebought corned beef and make smoked pastrami. Deckle and navel cuts tend to be fattier and slightly more tender than beef brisket which makes them ideal for smoked pastrami but the brisket will do just fine. 

Interestingly, I have encountered recipes made using wagyu beef but obviously, this is a decadence you can indulge only a few times. 

Is Smoked Corned Beef Pastrami?

Yes. Smoked corned beef is pastrami. The same curing process is used to make both corned beef and pastrami. After curing the beef brisket, you have corned beef and you turn corned beef into smoked pastrami by seasoning, smoking, and steaming.

Smoking the corned beef makes it pastrami.

How Is Pastrami Made?

You can make smoked pastrami from scratch or you can bypass the curing process by buying corned beef which you then season, smoke and steam to make smoked pastrami. For a novice, try the latter. If you are up for a challenge though, here’s what you need to make pastrami from scratch.

Smoked Pastrami on a Wooden Tray

Homemade Pastrami Recipe From Scratch

The first part of the process is curing your meat. You will need to make the brine.

Brining Recipe 

Preparation time: 15 mins | Total time: 7 days

Ingredients

  • 4 - 6 pounds of brisket
  • 1 gallon of water
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • 8 oz kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tbsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp yellow mustard powder
  • 2 tsp cloves
  • 2 tsp curing salt or Prague powder
  • 2 tbsp peppercorns
  • Bay leaves
  • 2 sticks of rosemary
  • 5 crushed cloves of garlic

Instructions

  • Simply put all the ingredients above in a large container and mix. Use an airtight container.
  • Add the water to the mixture and mix thoroughly.
  • Cut as much of the fat from the brisket as you can but leave about a half inch of fat.
  • Place the beef brisket on a cutting board and cut it into two large equal pieces. Fit the beef into the container of brine and ensure the meat is completely submerged so that it cures evenly through and through.
  • Cover the container and let it refrigerate for a minimum of 5 - 7 days but no more than 10 days.
  • After curing for approximately a week, remove the meat from the brining fluid and discard the brine.
  • Rinse the cured meat thoroughly in running water.
  • This process makes corned beef similar to what you buy from the grocery store.

Making The Smoked Pastrami

This is where a corned beef recipe departs from a smoked pastrami recipe. While corned beef should be seasoned in a boil, pastrami is seasoned using the dry spice blend you made above then it is smoked and steamed.

Alternatively, you can buy corned beef and follow the instructions below.

Instructions

Cook time: 6-7 hrs

  • Pat down the rinsed corned beef with paper towels and try to get as much moisture as possible dried out.
  • Sprinkle and coat the corned beef all around generously with the dry rub. Make a thick coat.
  • Prep your propane smoker and bring the temperature to 225 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Place your seasoned meat in the propane smoker and cover.
  • Let the brisket smoke for 6 - 7 hours.
  • At the 3-hr mark, measure your thermometer to ensure the meat has reached an internal temperature of between 160 - 190 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • After cooking for 7 hours, remove the brisket. Place it on a baking rack and a baking sheet.
  • Pour 2 cups of boiling water on the baking sheet under the rack.
  • Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Cover the entire ensemble with foil paper and place it in the oven for a cook time of 2 hours.
  • Remove the pastrami and let it cool for 15 mins. 
  • Your cooking is done. Slice up the juicy smoked pastrami and enjoy a delicious pastrami sandwich.
By Kristy J. Norton
I'm Kristy – a chef and connoisseur of all things BBQ! You can find me either in my kitchen (or someone else's) or at a big outdoor barbecue surrounded by friends and family. In both my professional and personal life I’ve picked up more than a few tips and tricks for turning out delicious food. I consider it a privilege to share it with others!
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