What Is Pastrami?

Pastrami is a type of deli meat that typically consists of beef brisket that has been brined, seasoned with a coating of spices, and smoked. 

What Is Pastrami

History And Origins

Pastrami originated in the 19th century in Romania as a way to preserve meat. Romanian Jews brought the dish to North America, where it became a staple of Jewish delis.

The name “pastrami” comes from the Romanian word “pastramă,” which refers to the salty brine that is used to preserve the meat.

In modern times, pastrami is a popular deli meat that is most associated with New York City. This delicious cured meat is a staple in NYC delis and can be found in many forms.

It is usually served as a sandwich on rye bread with mustard, but can also be served as an appetizer, in a wrap, or on a salad. 

Its popularity has spread across the United States and can now be found in delis all over the country. Aside from NYC, pastrami can be found in Chicago, Los Angeles, and other major cities, as well as other places around the world.


To make pastrami, beef brisket is brined in a solution of salt, sodium nitrite, and spices such as black peppercorns, coriander seeds, and fennel seed. 

The brining process typically lasts for several days to allow the meat to absorb the flavors of the spices. 

After brining, the meat is dried and coated with a mixture of black pepper, coriander seeds, and other spices before it is smoked. Let’s take a closer look at the process. 

Preparing The Meat For Smoking And Curing

Preparing the meat for smoking and curing is a lengthy process, but it’s essential to ensure that the final product is flavorful, tender, and delicious.

The first step in the process is to select the right cut of meat. While some people use beef plate, which is a fattier cut, others prefer using beef brisket, which is leaner and has a more distinct flavor.

Once the meat has been selected, it needs to be trimmed of any excess fat and silver skin. This not only makes the meat easier to work with, but also ensures that the seasonings penetrate the meat evenly. 

After trimming the meat, it’s time to prepare the brine, which is a solution of salt, water, and sodium nitrite. The brine is what gives the meat its salty flavor and helps to preserve it during the curing process.

After the meat has been brined for several days, it’s time to apply the seasoning rub. The rub typically includes a mixture of black pepper, coriander seeds, fennel seed, and other spices. The rub should be applied liberally to the meat and then left to rest for a few hours.

Once the meat has been seasoned, it’s time to smoke it. The smoking process imparts a smoky flavor into the meat and helps to further tenderize it. The meat should be smoked at a low temperature for several hours until it reaches an internal temperature of around 205 °F.

Finally, the meat is ready to be sliced and served. Pastrami is typically served on slices of rye bread with mustard seed and spicy mustard. It’s also commonly used in sandwiches like the Reuben, which includes pastrami, sauerkraut, and Swiss cheese.

Nutritional Information

One serving of pastrami (60 grams) typically contains about 13 grams of protein and 10 grams of fat.

The fat content can vary depending on the cut of meat and the cooking process, so while it does contain some nutrients, it is not considered a healthy food choice due to its high fat and sodium content. 

Pastrami is often high in saturated fat and cholesterol, which can increase your risk of heart disease. Additionally, it is high in sodium, which can lead to high blood pressure. While it may be enjoyed as an occasional treat, it should not be a regular part of your diet.

Serving Suggestions

Pastrami is a versatile ingredient that can be used in a variety of dishes. As well as sandwiches, it can also be used in salads or as a topping for pizza.

Pastrami hash and pastrami sandwiches with spicy mustard are popular dishes that use pastrami.

Another popular way to enjoy pastrami is in a Reuben sandwich, which is a grilled version of the classic deli sandwich. It includes pastrami, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and Russian dressing on rye bread.

Pastrami can also be used in a variety of other dishes, such as stews, soups, and pasta dishes. It can be diced and added to a potato salad for a savory flavor, or it can be used to top a pizza.

It also pairs well with eggs, making it a great addition to any breakfast dish.

Where To Buy Pastrami 

If you’re looking to buy pastrami, there are a few places you can look. Your local grocery store is a great place to start.

Many stores carry pastrami in the deli section, so you can pick up a few slices for a sandwich.

You can also find pastrami pre-sliced in packages in the refrigerated section, usually near the lunch meats. If you’re looking for a larger amount, most stores sell pastrami in the deli in bulk.

Another great place to buy pastrami is a specialty deli. These places often carry a variety of pastrami cuts, from thick-cut to thin-sliced.

Delis are a great place to buy pastrami if you’re looking for a higher-quality product. Many delis also offer pastrami sandwiches, so it’s a great place to go for a quick meal.


In conclusion, pastrami is a delicious deli meat that has been enjoyed for generations. Its lengthy process of brining, drying, and smoking creates a unique flavor and texture that makes it stand out from other types of beef dishes.

Whether enjoyed as a sandwich or used to elevate other recipes, pastrami is a deli staple that is sure to satisfy.

Mark Williams
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