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Cooking with Fire

Cooking With Fire: Pastrami


Depending on where you were born, or perhaps where you currently live, your experience with pastrami is likely to be a mixed one.

If you grew up or have spent time in an area of the country, say New York City, that has deep Jewish heritage, you probably have a very strong opinion about this particular deli meat… opinions not everyone will understand.

Having been born and raised in Kansas, pastrami wasn’t something that I thought too much about. Sure, I enjoyed a good pastrami sandwich now and then, but I really didn’t understand what I was missing until I moved to Nashville. 

Yes, Nashville.

It was there that I first learned just how good pastrami could be while sitting in a small chair at Goldie’s Deli in Sylvan Park. Goldie’s was the only Jewish deli in all of Nashville, and their pastrami was perfectly tender, and had just the right punch of black pepper and coriander, which made it impossible to buy pastrami at the grocery store any longer. I’d stop in at least three times a month to get my fix until we moved back to Kansas in 2009.

It was probably a couple years before I really started craving a great pastrami sandwich, but what was I to do? The answer was to buy some beef brisket, and get cooking.

On this week's episode of Cooking with Fire, my co-host Chef Tom and I will cover a brief history of this fantastic deli meat and give you a recipe to make authentic pastrami at home.

And if you’re ever in Nashville, I’m afraid you won’t be able to stop for a bite at Goldie's, because the deli closed just a few months after I returned home to Kansas.



  • 1 beef brisket flat

For the brine:

  • 1 gallon water
  • ¾ cup kosher salt
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoon pink salt (sodium nitrite)
  • 5 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 tablespoons pickling spice (recipe below)

Note: Depending on the size of your brisket, and the container in which you are brining, you may need to multiply this recipe. You will need enough brine to cover the brisket in the brining container. 
For the rub:

  • ¼ cup black peppercorns, toasted, coarsely ground
  • ¼ cup coriander seeds, toasted, coarsely ground


  1. Combine all brine ingredients in a large pot. Bring to a boil and stir until salt and sugar are dissolved. Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until chilled.
  2. Place brisket in the brining liquid. Weigh it down with plates to make sure it is fully submerged. Refrigerate for 3 days.
  3. Remove brisket from brine, and rinse thoroughly under cold water. Pat dry with paper towels. Apply a thin layer of mustard or oil to the surface of the meat to help the rub adhere. Coat the brisket with the rub. Preheat Your cooker to 250ºF. 
  4. Smoke at 250ºF until internal temperature reaches 150ºF. Double wrap the brisket in foil, and continue smoking until pastrami is tender when probed with a thermometer (190ºF-205ºF). Allow meat to rest half an hour. Slice thinly and serve.

Pickling Spice

  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon mustard seeds
  • 1 tablespoon red chile flakes
  • 1 tablespoon allspice berries
  • 1 tablespoon whole cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground mace
  • 1 small cinnamon stick, crushed
  • 2 bay leaves, broken into pieces


  1. In a dry hot skillet, toast the coriander, peppercorns and mustard seeds just until fragrant. Be careful not to burn them. Crack the spices on a cutting board, under a heavy pan. 
  2. Combine the toasted spices with the remaining spices. Store in a sealed container.