Easy Smoked Pastrami

9 Min Read

If you love mile-high pastrami sandwiches, then this homemade Smoked Pastrami will rock your world! We’ll show you our shortcuts to making the best and easiest smoked and steamed pastrami in your backyard, just like iconic New York delis!

You pay big bucks for your favorite pastrami sandwich at a great local deli because pastrami takes FOREVER to make, but we’ve got some clever, tried-and-true shortcuts to help you make this easily at home in a fraction of the time.

And, with this pastrami recipe, you don’t need to inject the meat, brine it, or cook it forever and ever. It’s a simple, straightforward recipe and technique that’ll save you time and money because making pastrami yourself is SO much cheaper!


Pastrami vs corned beef – what’s the difference? They both start out the same way – with meat that’s been brined for days in a solution of salt and spices, the curing process.

Traditionally, smoked corned beef is made from beef brisket flat, point, or even whole brisket, while pastrami is made from the deckle, or beef navel, a cut of meat from below the ribs. These days, pastrami is also often made from brisket because it is more commonly available.

Pastrami is also coated in a bold spice rub and herb mixture that further flavors the beef, whereas corned beef is often simmered with some pickling spices.

Finally, they are finished differently. Corned beef is boiled low and slow to break down all the connective tissues, while pastrami is smoked at low temperatures and then steamed. This double process of smoking and steaming helps the connective tissue break down and infuse the meat with smoke, and then steaming further breaks down the connective tissues and infuses the meat with moisture.

Making either corned beef or pastrami from scratch is a days-long labor of love, but you’re in luck because we’ve got a genius hack for you that’ll have you chowing down on thinly sliced pastrami perfection in no time. Around March, corned beef tends to be on sale at the local grocery stores, and it is the perfect time of year to stock up on these. You can freeze the cuts of beef until you’re ready to make this.

Our hack for the cooking process of making beef pastrami from scratch is starting with a prepared store-bought corned beef. Making easy pastrami from this shortcut will shave DAYS off the process.
Remember how both corned beef and pastrami start out the same? Instead of boiling it and serving it like corned beef and cabbage with carrots, we’re going to smoke and then steam it for tender bites.


  • Corned beef – We’re taking a shortcut by using corned beef instead of brining our own.


  • Black pepper – Coarsely ground.
  • Coriander powder – or ground toasted coriander seeds
  • Mustard powder – or coarse-ground mustard seeds
  • Brown sugar – Use light brown sugar.
  • Smoked paprika – Smoked paprika has a smokier flavor than regular paprika.
  • Garlic powder – Powder, not garlic salt.
  • Onion powder – Powder, not onion salt.


  • Soak the corned beef in a large pot of cold water to draw out the excess salt from the highly seasoned brine for two days before smoking the pastrami. Keep this pot of soaking beef in the fridge.
  • The next morning, remove the beef from the water and pat it dry with paper towels.
  • Make the pastrami seasoning by combining the dry rub ingredients in a bowl.
  • Rub the beef with a thick layer of spices, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate it overnight.


  • Prep the smoker for 225F for indirect heat by building a 2-zone fire. Add water to the water pan and wood chunks or chips to the lit charcoal.
  • Rest the corned beef at room temperature for about 30 minutes before smoking.
  • Place the meat with the fat cap up on the smoker and cook until the internal temperature reaches 190F.
  • Remove the beef from the smoker, wrap it in foil, and cool completely.


Steaming pastrami is easy! Grab some foil, and here’s what you do:

  • Slice off as much meat as you’ll need – slice it thinly and against the grain.
  • Place the meat in the center of a large sheet of aluminum foil. Fold the edges up around it, but don’t pinch it shut.
  • Place the pastrami on a steamer or metal wire rack above simmering water. Don’t let the meat touch the water. Steam until tender and heated through.
  • Steaming whole pastrami? Place it in a large foil sheet and cover it tightly with foil. Steam it for 2 hours, adding water as needed, until the meat reaches 200F with an instant-read thermometer.


Everyone has their favorite kind of smoking wood chips, but if you are ready to get serious about your wood smoking (and we know you are), you want to pair the best smoke flavors with whatever you’re smoking.

When it comes to smoking pastrami, you want the flavors of the meat to pull through without a smoking wood that will overshadow that. You get a smoke flavor that carries all the brining flavors through with fruit or sweet wood. Going with a more savory, acrid wood smoke like mesquite tends to overshadow everything else.

With that in mind, we recommend using something sweeter and milder, like alder, maple, or cherry. Hickory wood is also suitable for a strong but not overwhelming flavor.

This recipe works whether grilling on a Traeger pellet grill, Pit Barrel drum-style grill, or charcoal smoker. For a pellet grill, we recommend Jack Daniel’s Charcoal pellets for added subtle smoke flavor.


If you’re not just shoveling thinly sliced pastrami in your mouth with a fork (like we do), you should serve this shaved pastrami on a fresh hoagie roll, pumpernickel, or marbled rye bread with a slice of melty Swiss cheese and coleslaw. Check out my deli classic corned beef sandwich for specifics!

Serve your hearty pastrami sandwich with a side of smoked cabbage, smoked potato salad, crispy beef tallow French fries, or even just potato chips, and dig in!

Leftovers & Reheating

We recommend storing the pastrami after smoking and only steaming as much as you’re going to serve for ultimate freshness!

Leftover smoked pastrami will last in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-5 days or in the freezer for 1-2 months.

To reheat, thaw it in the fridge if frozen, then use the steam method to reheat it. Adding a pot of bubbling water to the oven creates a moist environment that allows everything to warm back up while remaining juicy and flavorful. We usually heat it at 200F for about 2 hours, but this will depend on how much you’re reheating.

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