If you love mile-high pastrami sandwiches, then this homemade Smoked Pastrami will rock your world! I’ll show you my shortcuts to making the best and easiest smoked and steamed pastrami right in your backyard!!

Delicious sliced homemade pastrami made with corned beef

There’s a reason why you pay big bucks for your favorite pastrami sandwich at the local deli – it’s because pastrami takes FOREVER to make, but I’ve got some clever tried-and-true shortcuts to help you make this easily at home in a fraction of the time.

And, with this pastrami recipe, you don’t need to inject the meat, brine it, or cook it forever and ever. It’s a simple, straightforward recipe and technique that’ll save you time, and money, because making pastrami yourself is SO much cheaper!

Stacked pastrami sandwich sliced in half

What Is Pastrami?

Pastrami vs corned beef – what’s the difference? They both start out the same way – with meat that’s been brined for days in a solution of salt and spices. Traditionally, corned beef is made from beef brisket, while pastrami is made from the deckle, or beef navel, a cut of meat from below the ribs. These days, pastrami is also often made from brisket because it is more commonly available.

Pastrami is also coated in a bold spice rub and herb mixture that further flavors the beef, whereas corned beef is simmered with some pickling spices.

Finally, they are finished differently. Corned beef is boiled low and slow to break down all the connective tissues, while pastrami is smoked and then steamed. This double process of smoking and steaming helps the connective tissue break down and infuse the meat with smoke, and then steaming further breaks down the connective tissues and infuses the meat with moisture.

Making either corned beef or pastrami from scratch is a days-long labor of love, but you’re in luck because I’ve got a genius hack for you that’ll have you chowing down on thinly sliced pastrami perfection in no time.

The Best Pastrami

My hack shortcuts the process of making beef pastrami from scratch by starting with a prepared store bought corned beef. Making easy pastrami from this shortcut is going to shave DAYS off the process.

Remember how both corned beef and pastrami start out the same? Instead of boiling the it and serving it with carrots and cabbage, we’re going to smoke and then steam it for tender bites.

Corned Beef to make Smoked & Steamed Homemade Pastrami

What You’ll Need To Make This Easy Smoked Pastrami Recipe

  • Corned beef – We’re taking a shortcut by using corned beef instead of brining our own.

For The Pastrami Rub

  • Black pepper – Coarsely ground.
  • Coriander powder
  • Mustard powder
  • Brown sugar – Use light brown sugar.
  • Smoked paprika – Smoked paprika has a smokier flavor than regular paprika.
  • Garlic powder – Powder, not garlic salt.
  • Onion powder – Powder, not onion salt.
brine curing corned beef and smoking to make the Smoked Pastrami

How To Make Homemade Pastrami From Corned Beef

Soak the corned beef in a large pot of cold water to draw out the excess salt, 2 days before smoking the pastrami. Keep this pot of soaking beef in the fridge.

Remove the beef from the water and pat it dry with paper towels. 

Make the dry rub by combining the pastrami seasoning spices in a bowl. 

Rub the beef with a thick layer of the spices, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate it overnight.

Soak wood chips in water for 2 hours, then prep the smoker for 225-F and add water to the water pan.

Rest the corned beef at room temperature for about 30 minutes before smoking.

Place the meat fat side up on the smoker and cook until the internal temperature reaches 190-F. 

Remove the beef from the smoker, wrap it in foil, and cool completely.

How To Steam Pastrami

Steaming pastrami is easy! Grab some foil, and here’s what you do:

Slice off as much meat as you’ll need – slice it thinly and against the grain.

Place the meat in the center of a large sheet of aluminum foil. Fold the edges up around it but don’t pinch it shut.

showing how to steam slices of pastrami to heat and serve in a pot using foil to elevate and protect the meat

Place the pastrami on a steamer or metal wire rack above simmering water. Don’t let the meat touch the water. Steam until tender and heated through.

Steaming whole pastrami? Place it in a large foil sheet and cover tightly with foil. Steam it for 2 hours, adding water as needed until the meat reaches 200-F.

When ready to serve, slice it thin for a classic sandwich, try these mini sliders or jazz up a hot dog with a Reuben version if you’re feeling wild and crazy.

steamed pastrami in foil on cutting board ready to be served

What Wood Do You Use To Smoke Pastrami

Everyone has their favorite kind of wood chips, but if you are ready to get serious about your wood smoking (and I know you are), you want to pair the best smoke flavors with whatever you’re smoking.

When it comes to smoking pastrami, you want the flavors of the meat to pull through without wood that will overshadow that. You get a smoke flavor that carries all the brining flavors through with fruit or sweet wood. Going with a more savory, acrid wood smoke like mesquite tends to overshadow everything else. 

With that in mind, I recommend using something sweeter and milder like alder, maple, or cherry. Hickory is also suitable for a strong but not overwhelming flavor.

What Goes With Smoked and Steamed Pastrami?

If you’re not just shoveling thinly sliced pastrami in your mouth with a fork (like I do), you should serve this shaved pastrami on a fresh hoagie roll, pumpernickel, or marbled rye with a slice of melty Swiss and coleslaw. Check out my deli classic corned beef sandwich for specifics!

Serve your hearty pastrami sandwich with a side of smoked potato salad, French fries, or even just potato chips, and dig in! 

Storage Instructions

I recommend storing the pastrami after smoking and only steaming as much as you’re going to serve for ultimate freshness!

Leftover smoked pastrami will last in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-5 days or in the freezer for 1-2 months.

To reheat, thaw in the fridge if frozen, then use the steam method to reheat it. Adding a pot of bubbling water to the oven creates a moist environment that allows everything to warm back up while remaining juicy and flavorful. I usually heat it at 200ºF for about 2 hours, but this will depend on how much you’re reheating.

Smoked and Steamed pastrami sandwich sliced in half and stacked to expose thick cuts of meat

More smoker recipes to try

If you’ve tried my Easy Homemade Pastrami Recipe or any other recipe on GirlCarnivore.com please don’t forget to rate the recipe and let me know where you found it in the comments below. I get inspired by your feedback and comments! You can also follow me on Instagram @girlcarnivore as well as on  Twitter and Facebook.

Smoked & Steamed Pastrami

5 from 36 votes
Prep: 2 d
Cook: 6 hrs
Resting time: 10 mins
Total: 2 d 6 hrs 10 mins
Servings: 12
Smoked & Steamed Homemade Pastrami | Kita Roberts GirlCarnivore
Homemade Smoked Pastrami will rock your world, and with my shortcuts and suggestions, you’ll be eating in no time!

Recommended Equipment

  • Smoker


For the Beef

  • 4 lbs corned beef

For the Rub

  • 4 tbs fresh coarsely ground black pepper
  • 2 tbs coriander powder
  • 1 tspn ground mustard
  • 1 tbs light brown sugar
  • 1 tbs smoked paprika
  • 2 tspn garlic powder
  • 2 tspn onion powder


Soak the Corned Beef

  • Two nights before ready to smoke: place the corned beef in a large pot of cold water and place in the fridge to draw out excess salt.
    corned beef soaking in water

Rub the Corned Beef

  • Combine the black pepper, coriander, mustard, brown sugar, paprika, garlic powder, and onion powder in a bowl.
  • Remove the corned beef from the water and pat dry.
  • Rub the corned beef with a thick layer of rub, wrap tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
    corned beef rubbed with spices to make pastrami

Smoke the Meat

  • When ready to cook: prep wood chips by soaking in water at least 2 hours. Prep smoker for 225 degrees F.
  • Add water to the water pan and let the corned beef sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  • Place corned beef, fat side up in smoker and smoke until internal temperature reaches 190 degrees F.
  • Remove from smoker, wrap in aluminum foil and cool completely (I placed in the fridge overnight).

Steam the Meat

  • When ready to serve: Slice off just enough of the meat in thin strips against the grain.
    showing how to steam slices of pastrami to heat and serve in a pot using foil to elevate and protect the meat
  • Place the meat in the center of a sheet of aluminum foil and fold the edges up around it, but do not pinch shut.
  • Steam the pastrami by placing the meat on a steamer rack, or metal wire rack above simmering water in a large pan on the stove top, making sure the meat does not touch the water.
  • Steam until the slices are tender and heated through, about 15 minutes.
  • If steaming the whole pastrami, wrap in foil as above and cover with lid or aluminium foil and steam for 2 hours, adding water as needed, or until the meat reaches 200 degrees F.
    steamed pastrami in foil on cutting board ready to be served
  • Slice and serve.



I smoked with hickory wood due to what I had on had but would smoke with a post oak or pecan next time for a more subtle flavor. 
If you’re up for the challenge, toast your own mustard seeds and crush them in a spice grinder for a bolder flavor. 


Serving: 1g | Calories: 317kcal | Carbohydrates: 4g | Protein: 23g | Fat: 23g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Cholesterol: 82mg | Sodium: 1842mg | Potassium: 517mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 306IU | Vitamin C: 41mg | Calcium: 33mg | Iron: 3mg
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Author: Kita Roberts
Keyword: homemade pastrami

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  1. This made the best pastrami ever. Followed your directions and we had the best tasting pastrami ever.
    Thanks for sharing.

  2. About how long of a smoke does this take to get to 190? Would it be worthwhile to wrap in butcher paper or foil partway through the smoke? I’m trying to determine if I want to try and smoke this the weekend before I need the pastrami or the night before (which would be a weeknight, so some of the smoking would be while I’m asleep).

  3. As kid from the Bronx and a veteran of many a pastrami I can’t help but add my 2¢! The recipe is a good one and should produce a delicious pastrami, although I would increase the ground coriander by a T or so. However, to really appreciate your pastrami you should start with a raw brisket and corn it yourself as a first step. Yes, it adds days to the process but it is well worth the effort. Sure, I have made pastrami using a commercial corned beef; it is REALLY good, but it cannot compare to doing it from scratch. My only other suggestion is that before rubbing your corned beef with the dry rub, coat your meat with a layer of yellow mustard. Trust me, it helps both in flavor and in adhering the rub to the meat. Don’t worry, your pastrami will not taste like mustard – but even if it did, what could be bad!

  4. Just made this. It is quite a process but the result is moist, tender pastrami. I did find it very spicy from all of the cracked black pepper so ended up trimming a lot of the outer surface off. Looking forward to sandwiches tomorrow night!

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