Pressure Cooker Pastrami Recipe
Did you know that pastrami is corned beef that’s been smoked? Unfortunately, most people don’t live near Katz’s Delicatessen, good pastrami can be really expensive, its time and labor consuming to make from scratch, and many don’t own a smoker. I developed this as a mixed method recipe, taking advantage of the best qualities of both the pressure cooker and your oven. Best of all, you save a lot of work (and money) by starting with a commercially prepared corned beef instead of pricier brisket. This recipe won’t win any awards at a BBQ competition (no smoke), but its definitely budget friendly and its pretty good!
This recipe came from my craving for a pastrami sandwich and my unwillingness to pay $10.99/pound. I checked out dozens of oven pastrami recipes, picked the most promising, followed the instructions, cooked the corned beef low and slow in the oven, and six hours later, could barely restrain my eagerness to start slicing. When I did, well, I’m strong, and I had a good sharp knife, and the meat was tough. Really tough. Even with meat sliced against the grain as thinly as I could manage, the pastrami was no less tough to our jaws and teeth than it had been to my knife. I also discovered that my initial impulse that cayenne powder doesn’t belong in a pastrami rub recipe – was absolutely correct. I knew I could do a lot better, and that I wouldn’t run my oven for six hours any more in a quixotic quest for decent pastrami. Now you don’t have to, either.
3 – 4 lb. (1360 – 1815 grams) corned beef
2 cups cold water
3 tbs. coarsely ground pepper
2 tbs. ground coriander
1 tbs. coarse kosher salt
1 tbs. garlic powder
1 tbs. onion powder
1 tbs. dark brown sugar
2 tsp. paprika
¼ tsp. ground allspice
¼ tsp. ground cloves
RECOMMENDED EQUIPMENT / SUPPLIES:
Electric Pressure Cooker
12″ Silicone Tipped Tongs (possibly two pairs)
Stainless steel trivet
Small container to mix the spices in
Plastic wrap or gallon size ziploc bag
Small casserole dish or roasting pan
SHOPPING TIP: The prices of commercially prepared corned beef are pretty stable year round (and oddly enough, are generally less than the price of plain brisket), with the exception of the weeks surrounding St. Patrick’s Day. You can get very good deals on corned beef before St. Paddy’s, but you can get even better deals afterward, when demand for corned beef drops, and many supermarkets have excess supplies. Because corned beef has a longer shelf life than most refrigerated meats, it may not happen right after the holiday, but a few weeks afterward. For example, in mid April, a full month later, one of the local grocery chains offered frozen corned beef briskets for 99 cents a pound.
This recipe does require some advance planning/work, but its totally worth it. Basically, you cook a commercially prepared corn beef in the pressure cooker long enough to soften the meat fibers somewhat, but not enough that the brisket falls apart like fully cooked corned beef. You then cover the beef in a spicy, peppery crust, and refrigerate it overnight (or up to several days). When you’re ready to serve, you cook it in a low oven (to heat the meat and set the crust) at 250 degrees for an hour, then thinly slice. Serve on rye or sourdough sandwich bread with mustard, and pickles if you like. Its delicious!
- Remove corned beef from package. Discard brine and seasoning packet. Rinse under cold water. If not familiar with the brand, you may want to soak the corned beef in cold water in the refrigerator to remove excess salt.
- Add 1 cup of water, your trivet and the corned beef (fat side up) to your electric pressure cooker. Cook at HIGH PRESSURE (10 PSI) for 45 minutes using NATURAL RELEASE. DO NOT force pressure release. Once pressure is released naturally, shut off the unit, remove the lid, and allow the meat to cool in the liquid for 20 minutes or more.
- Remove cooled meat from cooking liquid. Trim fat cap, if desired. Pat beef dry with a paper towel. Lightly coat meat with vegetable oil.
- Combine spices. Press into oiled surface of the meat to create spice crust. Wrap crusted meat in plastic wrap, placing excess spices on all sides of the meat, and wrapping cling film tightly around the meat to hold spices in place. Refrigerate overnight to several days. Most of the loose spices surrounding the corned beef will adhere to the meat during the refrigeration process.
- Several hours before service, place plastic wrapped meat on kitchen counter for 1 hour to bring up to room temperature. Remove plastic wrap. Place beef on top of tin foil, fold top and bottom sides of foil over meat, fold sides up. Flip foil packet over, place on another piece of aluminum foil, and repeat. Flip packet over again so fat side of meat faces up, seam faces down. Place in shallow casserole or baking dish.
- Cook the brisket in the oven at 250° F / 120° C (200° F / 90° C for convection ovens) for 1 hour. Allow meat to rest for 10 – 15 minutes before slicing against the grain (or on the diagonal if you are unsure about the grain).
PRESSURE COOKING TIP: When meat is exposed to heat, fat melts and the meat fibers release moisture. The higher the temperatures, the more the meat fibers contract, and the more moisture is released. During roasting, a good portion of this moisture evaporates, whereas in pressure cooking most of the juices are retained in the cooker. I noticed that my corned beef briskets seemed to shrink a lot during the pressure cooking process, more than I expected, but after consulting several resources, I found this in Pressure Perfect: “…brisket shrinks to about 50 percent of its original size during cooking. As a result, the cooked meat is very dense and portions tend to be smaller than with other cuts of beef.”
- 3 – 4 lb. (1360 – 1815 grams) corned beef
- 2 cups cold water
- Vegetable oil
- 3 tbs. coarsely ground pepper
- 2 tbs. ground coriander
- 1 tbs. coarse kosher salt
- 1 tbs. garlic powder
- 1 tbs. onion powder
- 1 tbs. dark brown sugar
- 2 tsp. paprika
- ¼ tsp. ground allspice
- ¼ tsp. ground cloves
- Remove the commercially prepared corned beef from its package. Discard the seasoning pack and any juices in the bag. Rinse off the meat under cold running water to remove any brine and seasonings on the surface. You can trim some of the fat on top of the beef, if you wish. If you are unfamiliar with the brand, you may want to soak the meat in plain, cold water in the refrigerator for a few hours to remove excess salt. I've used the Safeway Farms brand before, so I know soaking is not needed.
- Place 1 cup of cold water and trivet inside the electric pressure cooker. Place the rinsed corned beef, fat side up, on top of the trivet. Pressure cook at HIGH PRESSURE (10 PSI) for 45 minutes using NATURAL RELEASE. DO NOT force pressure release. Once pressure has released naturally, turn off the "keep warm" function, remove the lid, and allow the corned beef to cool in the liquid for at least 20 minutes.
- Once the meat is cool enough for you to handle, remove it from the juices, and discard the liquid. (The meat fibers will have been broken down somewhat, so they are much softer, but the corned beef should still If you have not already done so, you can trim the fat on top. Pat any excess moisture on the corned beef surface away with a paper towel, lightly coat the outside of the meat with vegetable oil.
- Mix the spices together and sprinkle and press spice around the meat, trying to adhere as much as possible to the meat surface. There will be extra spices, but I sprinkle them across a piece of cling film, place the meat on top, then sprinkle the remainder on top of the beef, then finish wrapping up the meat tightly with the plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight, or up to several days. During refrigeration, loose spices will stick to the meat and form a nice spice crust.
- Several hours before service, remove the wrapped meat from the refrigerator, place on counter and allow meat to sit (wrapped) at room temperature for an hour. Remove beef from plastic wrap, place on top of sheet of tin foil. Fold front and back sides of foil over meat, then fold sides up. Lay down second sheet of foil, place foil wrapped meat seam side down, then fold front and back of foil over meat, fold sides up. Flip foil wrapped package over (meat fat cap will now be on top, seam on bottom) and place in small casserole dish.
- Cook meat in oven at 250° F (120° C) oven (for those with convection ovens, 200° F / 90° C) for 1 hour. Remove meat from oven and allow to rest for 10 or 15 minutes before slicing. Slice thinly against the grain. If you can't tell the grain of the beef, slice on the diagonal.