The Smoky Journey: Unveiling the Perfect Pastrami Short Ribs

Do you ever feel that overwhelming desire to improve upon your past creations? To achieve perfection through continuous learning and experimentation? Well, that’s exactly the journey I embarked on with my pastrami recipe. Join me as I share the ups and downs of recreating this iconic dish using a different cut of meat and a few twists along the way.

A Quest for Meaty Goodness

I faced a bit of a challenge right from the start. Unlike in New York, finding big, meaty short ribs in Durham proved to be quite the task. But, determined to forge ahead, I turned to a specialized butcher who exclusively dealt in grass-fed beef. While the thickness and size of the cut were satisfactory, I couldn’t ignore the fact that the meat lacked that intramuscular fat which gives short ribs their beefy goodness and keeps them succulent during hours of slow smoking.

Pastrami Short Ribs

Nevertheless, I had to work with what I had. So, armed with the same cure I used in my original pastrami recipe, I began the process. While the texture of my first attempt wasn’t perfect, the flavor was spot on.

A Flavorful Cure and a Well-Deserved Rest

Coating the ribs generously with a salt-heavy spice mixture, I employed the dry cure method that had never failed me before with beef pastrami, duck pastrami, and Montreal smoked meat. I then sealed the ribs in a large Ziploc bag, placed it within a container to avoid any potential leaks, and let the meat cure in the fridge for four days. To ensure even curing, I flipped the bag twice a day.

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Pastrami Short Ribs

On the fourth day, I removed the ribs from the cure and rinsed off the excess spices. To remove any excess salt, I soaked the rack in water for two hours, changing the water every 30 minutes.

A Rub That Makes the Difference

Following a similar path to my previous pastrami recipe, I coated the ribs with a classic pastrami rub—a blend of coarsely ground black pepper, coriander, and granulated garlic.

Pastrami Short Ribs

Smoking and Steaming: A Match Made in Flavor Heaven

Now, here’s where the truly delicious improvements come into play. In my initial attempt, I made the mistake of not smoking the beef long enough. To achieve that perfect tenderness and a delightful jiggle when first removed from the heat, the internal temperature needs to reach around 200-205°F. So this time, I let the ribs smoke until they reached 185°F in the thickest part of the meat.

Pastrami Short Ribs

But that wasn’t all. I had another trick up my sleeve—a reader had suggested steaming the ribs in the smoker by wrapping them in foil with a little liquid. Intrigued by the idea, I decided to give it a shot. After developing a tantalizingly thick, blackened bark, I wrapped the ribs tightly in foil and let them smoke for about another 1 1/2 hours until they reached the desired temperature of 203°F.

Pastrami Short Ribs

The Moment of Truth: Flawed but Flavorful

After patiently waiting, I unraveled the foil to reveal a glorious piece of pastrami. The meat felt tender, yet sliceable, and the exterior maintained its dark, crusty character despite being steamed.

Pastrami Short Ribs

However, as I made the first slice, disappointment set in. The cure hadn’t penetrated the exact middle of the meat. But fear not, for the rest of the meat was a beautiful earthy red from edge to edge. And, most importantly, I had achieved the juiciness and tenderness that my original pastrami attempt had lacked, proving that leaner grass-fed beef can still deliver fantastic results. With all the salty and peppery flavors that make pastrami remarkable, these mouthwatering short ribs deserve a prominent place in any sandwich or even enjoyed on their own.

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The Adventure Continues

Although satisfied with this improved version, I can’t help but feel that there’s still more work to be done. Another pastrami recipe may be on the horizon, geared towards correcting the slight mishap I encountered. But that’s all part of the adventure, isn’t it? With each twist and turn, I continue to learn and grow, and I am grateful to share this delicious journey with you.

Published on Thu Aug 4, 2016 by Joshua Bousel


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