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Slow Cooked Pastrami

For Saint Patrick's Day in 2013, I brined my own corned beef brisket and made the best Corned Beef and Cabbage of my life (so far). In spite of my having prepared fifteen pound of corned beef, it was devoured completely and there were no leftovers at all, alas. However, a couple of days afterward, I found the supermarket was still selling corned beef at their sale price ($2 a pound), and I succumbed to the urge to pick up a brisket. Having discovered how superior home-brined corned beef is to the store-bought stuff, I wondered how this hunk of meat from the market could be improved. Fortunately, the answer was obvious: make pastrami!

Pans needed: Large bowl or dish to soak the corned beef brisket, and to refrigerate it afterwards. Cast Iron dutch oven for cooking. Steaming basket for final preparation before serving. If you are going to smoke the beef, you will also need a raised wire rack, such as a roasting rack or a wire cooling rack.

Note that after brining the corned beef, it will take nearly two days to prepare the pastrami for serving!

First, rinse off the corned beef brisket, place it in a large bowl or pot, and cover it completely in cold water. Soak it in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours. This will remove the excess salt from the brining process.

After eight hours, prepare a rub for the brisket:

Rinse the brisket and pat it dry. Apply the rub to all sides of the brisket, pressing it on so that it adheres to the meat. Place the brisket back into the container (without water this time), and cover it with plastic wrap. Let it marinate, dry, in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours or more.

After marinating, preheat your oven to 225 degrees F. Place the brisket in a cast iron dutch oven and cover it with a heavy iron lid. Slow-cook at 225 F for at least six hours, until a meat thermometer reads 190 degrees F. At this point, you can wrap the brisket in foil and refrigerate it again for at least 12 hours.

Smoking the beef: Here's how to use your oven to smoke the brisket as it cooks. Before adding the beef brisket to the dutch oven, cover the bottom of the pot with wood chips. (The pot should be dry, no oil added.) Place the wire roasting rack over the chips, so that it is at least 1 inch or more above the chips. Place the brisket on the rack, fat side up, and cover the pot with a heavy iron lid. Heat the dutch oven on your stovetop burner for 5 to 10 minutes on medium-high heat, until smoke is beginning to seep out from underneath the lid. At this point, you can take the dutch oven off of the stovetop (leave the lid on!) and place it in the preheated oven, cooking for six hours until the meat is at 190 degrees F.

Finally, the pastrami is ready for cooking! The best way to prepare pastrami is to steam it for at least 1 hour, until the meat reads 200 degrees F on a thermometer. Slice into thin strips for serving.