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Thread: Pastrami - Why 165 degrees?

  1. #1
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    I've been making pastrami using the dry rub recipe here, and it comes out great. But I am wondering why it has to go to 165, which would be past well done for beef?
    I don't think a rare pastrami with a cold, pink middle would be terribly appetizing, but I would guess (and it would be just that, a guess) that 150 or so would certainly cook it past any hint of rareness.
    And, given that I rest it in a cooler for two hours, I would think that that, too, would help insure the meat was cooked all the way through.
    Am I missing something obvious?
    Dan

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    I would imagine it's because you're typically working with brisket so taking it to 165 allows you to render out some of the tougher fat and connective tissue.

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    allows you to render out some of the tougher fat and connective tissue.
    Think butt... Safe to eat at 140... but I wouldn't want to.

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    But(t) I thought you had to go well past 170 to tenderized the connective tissue, and turn it into gelatin?

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    I mean you're not trying to fully render it here, if you read Chris' cooking topics post he addresses this:

    "If you compare the tenderness of this pastrami to that of barbecued brisket, you'll notice that it's not as tender—the slices do not pull apart easily. This isn't a problem. Remember, this is not barbecued brisket. It has an entirely different texture as a result of the curing process. This is why you want to slice the pastrami across the grain as thinly as possible."

    Anyway I finish my pastrami by steaming it for service after smoking to 155-165 internal and although I haven't taken the internal temperature after steaming it I can be pretty confident that 2 hours in steam is long enough to take it to 180++ internal and render some of those tissues into gelatine. YMMV.

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    I don't steam mine, as I don't have a steamer, and, frankly, I'm very satisified with the results I'm getting. My question was more one of curiousity, and wondering if maybe cooking it a bit less might yield a moister result...
    I might try 160 next time, and see if I can tell a difference, but I suspect the variation from one brisket to another would be much greater difference than a small temp change...
    Dan

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    Let us know what you discover Dan I'm interested to see if cooking it to a lower internal produces a moister result or if it will be tougher.

    You can always jury-rig a steamer, I've done it before. Invert a small pot inside a larger pot, put the pastrami on top of the small pot, fill the bottom of the large pot with water, and cover the whole thing (with foil if necessary) it works fine.

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    ...wondering if maybe cooking it a bit less might yield a moister result...
    I would venture to say no and certainly not very tender. As Dave points out, steaming is a solution and method of choice for many delis to produce a moist and tender pastrami. I wouldn't necessarily go by the 165 mark; rather I would shoot for tender. Just as in an ordinary smoked brisket; if you under cook it, it will be dry and tough. For a steamer you can use an ordinary baking pan (think turkey or ceramic/glass for lasagna), a metal rack on bottom, and foil to seal it up. Add water as necessary.

    Paul

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    Paul and Dave,
    Let's set aside steaming for a moment, although I do want to try that, too!

    I understand how a pork butt would get *moister* by cooking longer, as you are breaking down the connective tissues.
    But to my uneducated eye, brisket looks fairly lean, with just some slight marbling. At 165, I would think that the fat has already liquified, and I don't see what other source of moisture there would be?

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    The flat as opposed to the point looks lean but both sections contain a fair amount of fat. The point obviously contains more. There's more than collagen in the muscle; there's elastin and reticulin, etc. All break down at different temps. Most require either prolonged exposure to lower (250ish) temps of briefer periods at higher (350ish) temps to break down. The brisket is a thick, dense muscle and doesn't give up its juices right away. I remember my 1st brisket attempt (before discovering this site ). It was in and out in an hour or 2. Good bark, sliced up looking well cooked but it was as tough as leather and dry as cardboard. Animal fats render down at different temps. Note how fast fat from a chicken starts to render. Up the scale is pork and then beef. Virtually most pork fat on a butt will appear to be invisable if cooked thoroughly (not overcooked and I prefer low and slow for this reason on butts). The fat cap on a brisket will still be there even on an overcooked brisket. Beef fat doesn't render as fast as pork or chicken.

    Paul

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