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How To Smoke Pastrami Using A Corned Beef Packer

Making pastrami from corned beef is incredibly simple. You know why? They’re almost identical from each other with a few minor steps. Lets learn how to make it!

If you’re looking to make your own pastrami, using a brine might be something you’re just not ready to do yet. You can easily make smoked pastrami using a corned beef packer, and definitely is worth doing at least once in your life!

Save a few days of waiting and skip brining your brisket for Smoked Pastrami and use a corned beef packer. Slow smoked, then steamed, making an amazing home-made pastrami!

What’s the Difference between pastrami and corned beef?

Cuts are very close to identical: Both Pastrami and Corned beef are traditionally made from two different cuts of the beef.

Corned beef is traditionally brisket, while pastrami is a little further down from a cut called the deckle that is toward the navel.

But, lot of times pastrami will also be made from brisket as well.

The Brine is the same: Pastrami and corned beef have the same sugar and salt brine that consists of pepper, cloves, coriander juniper berries and bay leaves.

Once difference is that corned beef is often braised, while brisket is smoked then steamed at the end.

For this reason, you want to desalinate your cut prior to smoking your pastrami so it’s not overly salty.

Pastrami and corned beef are spiced differently: This is where things really differ – the spices.

Pastrami is given a rub with pepper, coriander mustard seeds, and various spices. Corned beef on the other hand skips the rub

The cook is completely different: Traditionally you will braise or boil corned beef low and slow.

Pastrami gets a more elegant treatment. It’s smoked until it reaches around 160F, then left to cool overnight. Then is steamed, and sliced up to eat

Smoked Pastrami using a corned beef is a great use of those corned beef packers on sale. Perfect for deli style Pastrami sandwiches!

How to pick out your corned beef packer for pastrami

Like smoked brisket, there are two types of pastrami fans: Team Lean. And Team Fatty.

Both can be found in the corned beef aisle you just need to know what to look for.

  • Team Fatty: If you’re a pastrami aficionado and want your pastrami done like you just got back from Kat’s there’s only one team for you. This is closer to the traditional cut of pastrami and is closer to the navel, called the deckle. Often sold as the point or fatty end.
  • Team Lean: There is nothing wrong with not wanting to have to chew the fat while enjoying a pastrami sando. If this is is your preference keep an eye out for the flat or lean labeling on the corned beef package.

How to make pastrami from corned beef

The steps to make pastrami can be intimidating. But by using a corned beef packer we’re getting about a week head start and will make the process a lot simpler. Here’s what we’ll be doing.

  1. Soak the corned beef: THIS IS SO IMPORTANT. Corned beef must be soaked overnight in a bucket of water. This removes the salt from the brine that would otherwise be pulled out during boiling. Since we’re smoking a pastrami, the desalination does not happen in the cook, so we need to do it before cooking
  2. Turned your corned beef into pastrami: Apply a rub with black pepper, coriander paprika, ground mustard, granulated onion (optional) and granulated garlic (optional)
  3. Smoke pastrami at 225: Toss your pastrami in the smoker at 225: I use a 50/50 blend of cherry wood and pecan wood.
  4. Let it rest: Wrap and let it rest overnight. Do not rush this process if you want amazing pastrami
  5. Steam it for two hours: Place in a large steaming pot with some water and let it steam for 2 hours. Let it rest until its cool enough to handle, then slice and serve

Smoked Pastrami using a corned beef is a great use of those corned beef packers on sale. Perfect for deli style Pastrami sandwiches!

Wood options for smoking Pastrami

If you want to experiment with other blends of wood for smoking pastrami here is what will pair best (AVOID HICKORY OR MESQUITE):

  • Maple
  • Apple
  • Cherry
  • Oak
  • Pecan
Smoked Pastrami using a corned beef is a great use of those corned beef packers on sale. Perfect for deli style Pastrami sandwiches!

Alternate Pastrami cooking method

An alternate way to cook your pastrami is cooking it the whole way in your smoker.

  • Wrap in foil or butcher paper
  • Crank the temperature up to 325 in your smoker (can be done in the oven)
  • Cook until the internal temperature reaches around 205.

I usually say until “probe tender” but you’re note going to feel too much resistance. And since this cut was brined the meat will hold together a little more firm.

Your safest bet here is to just cook to temperature over feel.

Smoked Pastrami using a corned beef is a great use of those corned beef packers on sale. Perfect for deli style Pastrami sandwiches!

Best ways to enjoy pastrami

Now I know that you’re going to make a sandwich first thing. I mean, Why wouldn’t you?

But, what are you going to do with the rest of all that beautifully smoked pastrami?

Here’s some ideas:

  • chop and put in mac and cheese
  • put it on top tots or fries with some cheese
  • make a pastrami and potato hash and add some egg
  • make jalapeno poppers but with pastrami
  • cook up some pastrami and provolone sliders

The list can go on and on, but I think I just gave myself a list of recipes to create!

How To Smoke Pastrami Using A Corned Beef Packer

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 6 hours
Total Time: 14 hours 20 minutes
Servings: 4 lbs
Smoked Pastrami using a corned beef is a great use of those corned beef packers on sale. Perfect for deli style Pastrami sandwiches!
Print Recipe


  • 4 lbs corned beef packer look for the lean or flat
  • 3 tbsp mustard this to allow the rub to bind


  • 4 tbsp coarse ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp ground coriander
  • 2 tbsp paprika
  • 2 tsp granulated onion
  • 2 tsp granulated garlic
  • 1 tsp ground mustard


  • Soak your corned beef in water and let it sit in the fridge overnight. Once done, pat dry with a paper towel, then apply a thin coat of mustard on both sides of your corned beef
  • In a spice shaker, add pepper, coriander, paprika, granulated onion, granulated garlic and ground mustard, shake until evenly blended. Apply a liberal coat to your corned beef, now converted to pastrami.
  • Smoke at 225 for about 6 hours, or until the internal temperature is 160. Wrap loosely in aluminum foil, and let rest in the refrigerator overnight. When ready to serve, steam for 2 hours. Let it rest for about 20-30 minutes, then slice thin and serve. Enjoy!


You can skip the refrigeration after smoking and put straight into the steamer, if you want to serve same day.
Derek Campanile
Derek Campanile
I'm an IT professional by day. Home cook for the family by night. Follow my blog for easy to make recipes, how-to's and ideas to gather the family at the dinner table!

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