When it comes to making the perfect Reuben sandwich, it all starts with the key ingredient. You need a great pastrami to get the results that you're after. If you've always loved Reuben sandwiches but never felt confident making pastrami on your own, you're in luck.Here's a look at what you need to know to turn out a flavorful pastrami that will bring the whole sandwich together.
It Starts With The Spices
One of the key components of pastrami is the seasoning rub that's applied before it's smoked. The spices are a unique combination that give the meat that traditional flavor that pastrami is so well known for. Create a mixture of your own by using equal parts Kosher salt and paprika in about quarter-cup measurements combined with a couple of tablespoons each of coriander seed, brown sugar, yellow mustard seed, peppercorns and minced garlic. Put the mixture into a coffee grinder or spice grinder and grind it to a coarse texture.
Meat Preparation Is Important
Once your rub is ready, it's time to prepare the meat. You'll want a corned beef cut that's uniform in thickness so that it smokes evenly. Remove any excess fat as well as the membrane layer. Then, place the corned beef in a large pot and cover it with cold water. You need to soak it for several hours to draw some of the salt out of the meat before you smoke it. Otherwise, the pastrami will be far too salty to eat. Aim for a couple of hours of soaking time per pound, and change the water out every couple of hours.
After soaking, you'll want to rub the meat with the spice mixture you made. Cover the whole thing in a thick, even layer of spices. This will help to add flavor to the meat and produce that flavorful smoked crust around the outside of the corned beef.
Proper Smoking Is Key
Heat smoking your pastrami will not only allow it to absorb lots of that smoky flavor, but will also ensure that it is thoroughly cooked and safe to eat. You'll want a mild wood like maple, apple or oak. That way, you get a light wood smoke flavor without overpowering the meat. Most heat smoking happens at temperatures around 170 degrees Fahrenheit or so. Get the wood chips smoking well so that you have lots of smoke to envelop the meat when you put it in. You can oven-smoke it if you have a smoking pan, or you can smoke it using a stand-alone smoker. Since corned beef is cured, you don't have to be too picky about how long it smokes. By the time you have a dark crust on the outside it should be ready.
Once smoked, slice the pastrami thin and pile it on a marble rye or similar bread with Swiss, sauerkraut and a sauce similar to Thousand Island dressing. If you're still not confident enough to tackle the pastrami-making process, check out a local deli where you can get it pre-cooked and sliced to the thickness you'd like.