If given the choice of having a slab of corned beef for dinner, I’ll choose any day to have a Reuben Sandwich instead. Just as wonderful are simple Home Cured Pastrami on Rye Sandwiches with Swiss Cheese. Smoking the brisket is what makes the difference!
While I admit that I have an undying love for Reuben Sandwiches, a girl cannot live for them alone so sometimes I switch it up and make my own pastrami instead. And there is really just one basic difference…corned beef is braised in a pot with liquid and pastrami is smoked until tender and done.
A true aficionado would try to find a cut from the navel end of the beef brisket, known as the plate cut. This is a popular cut for pastrami-making as it is considered kosher, since it comes from the front quarters of the cow. The problem for home charcuterie is that this cut is simply not made available to butchers so I’ve always used the same brisket I would if making corned beef. Just don’t cut off all of the fat so it stays moist during the long smoke.
Ideally when smoking a brisket I use a wood without the flavor of hickory or mesquite; preferring an apple wood. There is plenty of flavor from the curing brine and the spice cap so a nice smoke flavor is good but additional flavor from a stronger wood is not necessary. And this sandwich is all about the meat; New York City’s Katz Deli has one of the most famous deli sandwiches using pastrami; it’s as simple as piling the meat on rye bread with yellow mustard.
For my Home Cured Pastrami on Rye Sandwiches with Swiss Cheese I do love a bit of melting Swiss cheese and I use whole grain mustard. I’ve never been a huge fan of rye bread but I absolutely adore this bread from Pepperidge Farm that is a swirled combination of rye and pumpernickel. Chips and a big Kosher pickle to finish it off are all that is required!
This sandwich is not grilled like a Reuben either, just warmed. Top and bottom slices of bread are slathered with whole grain mustard and I simply put the bottom slice of bread in a cast iron skillet on medium heat and top it with slices of warm pastrami and Swiss cheese and cover it for a minute or two with a skillet lid just long enough to have the cheese melt. Remove it, top it with the 2nd slice of bread and voila…you might almost think you’re in New York!
Just a quick FYI…sure you can use the packaged meat that is ready to be cooked for corned beef. I’ve had mixed results though as you can’t really inspect the beef; one year it was so fatty it was almost inedible. For that reason alone it’s worth starting from scratch. But if that’s not good for you; then certainly try it using a package of already cured meat; that’s what’s been done when you buy corned beef in a package and it’s ready for smoking right away. You’ll still have to make the spice rub as those packages only give you spices to put into the water the corned beef is prepared in.
I know it’s Irish food time but I’ve already shared my method for making fantastic Reuben Sandwiches from Pressure Cooker Corned Beef as my homage to St. Patrick’s Day. Luckily neither recipe is limited to just a short period in March…corned beef and pastrami are tasty all year long!
You know what I would drink with this? Sure a glass of Guinness is great but this Guinness Vanilla Malt Milkshake with Irish Cream Whipped Cream is even greater!
Homemade Pastrami on Rye Bread with Swiss Cheese
3 hr 15 min
3 hrs 35 mins
For the Curing Brine:
- 3 quarts water
- 1 cup Morton's coarse kosher salt
- 1/4 cup pink curing salt (Also known as Prague Powder - NOT Himalayan pink salt. See notes below).
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup firmly packed light or dark brown sugar
- 1/4 cup honey
- 2 Tbsp pickling spice
- 1 Tbsp whole coriander seeds
- 1 Tbsp whole yellow mustard seeds
- 4 cloves garlic (minced)
- 3-4 lbs beef brisket
For the Rub:
4 1/2 tsp coriander seeds
1 Tbsp black peppercorns
1 Tbsp yellow mustard seeds
2 Tbsp paprika
4 1/2 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp white pepper
4 cloves garlic, minced
To Cure the Beef:
- Fill a large stockpot with 3 quarts water. Add the salts, sugars, honey, pickling spice, coriander, mustard seeds, and garlic. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring often to fully dissolve the salt and sugar in the water. Immediately remove the pot from the heat once the brine boils. Let cool.
- Combine the brine with 3 quarts ice cold water in the stockpot or any large pot that will fit in your refrigerator. Use two pots if necessary with the mixture evenly divided. Cool completely.
- Trim the fat from the brisket until the fat layer just covers it and is no more than 1/4 inch thick.
- Put the brisket in the brine and submerge it completely (I put cans of food into a ziploc bag to sit on top of them). If necessary, cut the brisket in half to submerge in two containers.
- Allow the brisket to brine in the refrigerator for 5 days. Remove from the fridge once a day; stir the brine and flip the meat over making sure that all of the meat gets exposed to the brine.
To Make the Rub:
- Combine coriander seeds, peppercorns and mustard seeds in a spice grinder. Grind coarsely.
- Add the mixture to the remaining ingredients and mix well. This should be about enough for a 4-lb brisket.
To Cook the Brisket:
- Remove the meat from the brine and rinse it well; gently blot with a paper towel but leave the surface moist.
- Cover all sides of the beef with the rub mixture and allow the meat to come to room temperature.
- Place the brisket fatty side up in a smoker set at 225 degrees and smoke for approximately 3 hours or until an internal thermometer registers 165 degrees.
- Allow to cool to the touch and slice thinly; no more than a quarter inch thick slices.
To Make the Sandwich:
- Warm a large skillet on medium heat. Slather both sides of bread with mustard; I use whole grain but use your favorite.
- Put one slice of bread with the mustard side up in a skillet or on a griddle and pile with meat and a slice or two of Swiss Cheese.
- Top the skillet with a lid just long enough for the cheese to start melting. Remove the sandwich to a plate and top with the 2nd slice of bread. Serve with pickles and potato chips.
FOR YOUR SAFETY: The pink salt called for in this recipe is not the same as Himalayan Pink Salt; it is used in corned beef, pastrami and other cured meats to kill bacteria, prevent botulism and add flavor.
It is extremely toxic if ingested directly however and is colored pink to prevent it from being mistaken for regular salt. When used correctly in recipes like this, it is necessary for proper flavor and food safety.
Be sure to keep the curing salt properly labeled and out of the reach of children.