How to make pastrami using store bought corned beef

I used to think making pastrami was really difficult and intimidating until I learned this little hack making the process so much easier. In this recipe I will teach you how to make pastrami using store bought corned beef.

You can skip the hassle of brining for days and get right to it. The corn beef is prepared with a pastrami rub and then smoked until tender and juicy. I will also show you how to make a reuben too. One of my favorite sandwiches!

Reuben sandwich
Photos for this recipe are from Erin Hungsberg (IG: erin_hungsberg)

What’s the difference between corned beef and pastrami? 

Corn beef and pastrami are both made from a brisket that has been soaking in a brine solution with ingredients like mustard seeds, juniper berries and bay leaves.

The difference in the two is that corn beef is steamed or braised while pastrami is usually smoked. Pastrami also has a very pepper-heavy seasoning while corn beef isn’t seasoned at all, just brined. 

Why this recipe works. 

This recipe works because it’s easy! You don’t need to make your own brine or wait a week like a lot of recipes call for. 

Simply take a store bought corn beef brisket, soak in cold water to remove some of the excess brine, then season and smoke! Use the pastrami for reubens and other sandwiches or just serve with some cabbage and potatoes on the side for a delicious meal. 

Sliced pastrami

What kind of corned beef should you buy? 

As mentioned before, corned beef is made from brisket. At many grocery stores pre brined corn beef briskets are readily available for purchase. They generally weigh 3-5 lbs each.   

You can choose either the brisket flat cut, which is more lean or the brisket point cut which has more fat. I’ve had  great results using both cuts of brisket but tend to use the point cut when I can find it. The extra fat allows the brisket to stay moist during the smoking process. 

Ingredients you need to make pastrami from corn beef. 

Store bought corn beef brisket 

Pastrami seasoning  (Black pepper, brown sugar, ground coriander, garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika). 

Guinness beer 

Beef stock

How to make pastrami using store bought corned beef.

Remove the corn beef from the package and rinse off any excess brine. Soak the corn beef in a pot of water overnight to remove any of the excess salt.

Soaking a corned beef brisket in water

The packaged stuff you find at the grocery store tends to be really salty and this step really helps eliminate some of that excess sodium.

After 24 hours you can remove the corn beef from the brine and rinse off with water one more time. Take some paper towels and pat off any excess moisture. Now it’s time to season. 

Make a homemade pastrami rub by combining black pepper, brown sugar, ground coriander, garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika.

Apply the dry rub generously to all sides of the corn beef and allow the seasonings to absorb for 30 minutes before placing it on the smoker. If your corn beef comes with a seasoning packet, you can go ahead and throw that away or save it for another time. 

Seasoning a corned beef brisket

Heat your smoker up to 250°F and smoke the pastrami fat side down until it reaches 165°F and has developed a nice bark on the outside.

I like to take a 50-50 mix of beef broth and Guinness beer to spritz the outside when it’s looking dried out.

After the bark has set and the internal temperature is at least 165 degrees, wrap the pastrami in butcher paper or aluminum foil with a little extra beef broth.

This will keep the brisket moist and speed up the cooking process a little bit. Aim to get the pastrami to about 200°F or when it is probe tender. You should be able to stick your thermometer into the meat with little resistance. 

Wrapped brisket in butcher paper

Once the pastrami is done cooking allow it to rest for at least an hour for best results. The longer the rest period, the more tender and juicy the pastrami will be. Cut thin slices across the grain and serve while it’s still warm.

How to make a reuben sandwich from pastrami. 

After you have made pastrami from smoked corned beef brisket, cut it into thin slices for sandwiches. Toast some rye bread, add a layer of thousand island dressing to the bottom and top pieces of bread, followed by layers of pastrami, sour kraut and swiss cheese.

I like to place my sandwich into the broiler to melt the cheese before adding the top piece of bread . That’s a pro move. Serve with a little mustard on the side too. 

Sides that go well with pastrami: 

Easy homemade pasta salad

Smoked bacon Mac and cheese 

The best loaded baked beans 

How to store pastrami.

Any leftover pastrami can be stored in an air tight container and in your refrigerator for up to a week. Reheat the pastrami in your microwave with a damp paper towel on top. This will keep the pastrami moist when warming up.

If you want to learn how to make a full brisket from start to finish check out this recipe here. This is my guide to all things brisket and will give you times, temps, how to slice and how to rest. 

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How to make pastrami using store bought corned beef

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  • Total Time: 30 hours


  • 1 store bought brined corned beef brisket (Flat or point cut) 
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons ground coriander 
  • 2 tablespoons smoked paprika 
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder 
  • 1/2 cup beef stock
  • 1 Guinness beer 


  1. Remove corned beef from package, add to large container and cover with water. Store in fridge for at least 12 hours or up to 24 hours changing out the water half way through. 
  2. Remove the corned beef from the water, rinse and pat dry with paper towels. 
  3. Combine seasonings in a bowl and stir to combine. Then season the corned beef with the dry rub mixture being sure to cover all sides. 
  4. Smoke the corned beef at 250°F until it reaches an internal temperature of at least 165°F and it has a nice bark on the outside. Also spritz with a 50-50 mix of Guinness beer and beef stock if and when the corned beef looks dried out. 
  5. Wrap the corned beef in butcher paper or foil with 1/4 cup of beef stock once you are happy with the bark. Continue cooking the corned beef until it reaches an internal temperature of 200°F and is probe tender. 
  6. Remove from the smoker and allow the corned beef to rest for at least an hour before slicing thinly to serve. 
  7. You now have smoked pastrami made from corned beef! Enjoy. 
  • Author: Jordan Hanger
  • Prep Time: 24 hours
  • Cook Time: 6 hours

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