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What's the Difference Between Corned Beef and Pastrami?

Posted By Susannah Chen on Mar 5, 2010 at 4:00AM

After I made corned beef this past week, I realized that I knew absolutely nothing about it, other than the fact that it's absolutely delicious. What, exactly, makes it different from that other deli favorite, pastrami? Corned beef and pastrami are both beef cuts that have been cured and cooked. But that's where the similarity ends. Although brisket is commonly used for both, corned beef can also be made from lean round, while pastrami can also come from navel (plate) and round. Corned beef is first soaked in a salt water brine with pickling spices, then boiled.

The process for pastrami varies widely, but in general, the meat is first cured with a spice rub or soaked in brine. From that point, it's encrusted in peppercorns, then smoked. The beef may be hot-smoked all the way through; if not, it is then steamed or simmered. Were you aware of the difference between the two? Which do you ask for on a reuben?

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Source: Flickr User Marshall Astor

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