The Difference Between Corned Beef & Pastrami

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Corned beef and pastrami are similar meats that arose out of the days before refrigeration, when meat needed to be preserved so it wouldn’t spoil. Learn the differences between pastrami and corned beef.

Corned Beef

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Corned beef is made from beef brisket, which is the upper front leg of a cow. The term “corned” gets its name because briskets were soaked in salt brine with chunks of salt that looked like corn kernels.


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Pastrami is made from the forequarter called the deckle or plate, or from the brisket. The brisket is either soaked in a salt brine like corned beef, or it is dry-cured with a salt rub for several weeks.

Salt Brine Mixture

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The salt brine is prepared with saltpeter dissolved in warm water, sugar, garlic, paprika, pickling spices, salt and 2 qt. of water. The meat is refrigerated in the brine for three weeks.

Cooking Corned Beef

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After the soaking process, the brisket is boiled for about three hours with onions and bay leaves, then combined with vegetables like carrots, cabbage and potatoes, and finally served.

Cooking Pastrami

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After the brining process, pastrami needs to be soaked in water for 24 hours to remove the excess salt. Then a multitude of spices is rubbed onto the meat, and then it is smoked for 45 to 60 minutes per pound.

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