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Corned Beef vs. Pastrami: so close, yet so far

We at Hacharcuterie take our cured meats very seriously. Although it's ok to use leaner cuts for corned beef and pastrami, we are more particular about making sure it is a fattier cut . We want a well marbled brisket that belonged to the cow who didn't really stress out too much, and got along with her neighbors, she's our cow. The initial curing process for pastrami and corned beef are identical. We place the brisket in a large container with water, kosher salt, spices as well as pink salt cures to prevent bacteria from making itself at home. These get stored in a fridge and flipped every two days. Just make sure before you close the lid that the brisket is completely submerged. This is necessary because the meat being exposed to air and out of our curing solution can lead to bacterial growth. Here is where Mr. Pastrami and Mr. Corned beef differ. Corned beef can be taken out of its bath as little as 10 days- up to two and a half weeks. It is then rinsed off in a sink and then returned to the container for an overnight freshwater bath. It isn't losing any real flavors, just the excessive saltiness that we needed to keep bacteria away. The next day the corned beef is boiled for hours at a low simmer. Once it's boiled let it cool completely before slicing. Pastrami on the other hand stays in his bath anywhere from 3-4 weeks depending on how long it takes to cure. By feeling the firmness of the meat you will develop a feel to understand when it is ready for the next stage. We rinse the pastrami and on to a freshwater bath for a few days until it is ready to be taken out and dried off. Once completely dry then you slather mustard all over the meat and then coat with a coarse spice rub; everyone has their own unique rub which gives the pastrami their signature flavors. We preheat the smoker using charcoal to 200 F and once heated we place the pastrami on a grate and shut the lid. I like to add wood about two minutes before the meat just to get that pre-smokiness in there. It's important to add wood when necessary to keep the flames healthy but at the same time " if you lookin you ain't cookin" applies to smoking. Every hour or so I like to spray the pastrami with a mix of apple juice & apple cider to keep it moist throughout the 8 to 18 hours long cooking process. I keep a tray with flavor liquids (eg. cola, beer, fruit juice) at the bottom of the smoker to keep steam present at all times. At some point your pastramis cooking will stall even with increased heat. This generally happens in the 150-160F range. When this happens you will need to wrap the meat in tinfoil or butchers paper and place it back in the smoker. When trying to get past a cooking stall it's important to not let the smoker get past 255 F because it really can make the meat tough. Once on the counter it must cool down before slicing into it. Waiting now is the difference of all those juices running away or letting them develop into flavor molecules that are actively bonding to the meat. Low and slow comes with patience, "L'fum tzara agra" according to the effort is the reward -Pirkei Avot 5:26 Thank You Hashem

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