Perfect Pastrami in CVap

Ever had really good pastrami? Many folks have only experienced the lunchmeat version. But that stuff doesn’t hold a candle to the real thing. We wanted to put our CVap® Retherm Oven and Winston Smoker Box through the paces to make this savory, smokey meat.

Pastrami’s Past

Food nerd time. Pastrami originated in Romania. The name comes from the Romanian pastramă, a conjugation of the verb a păstra. It means “to preserve food, to keep something for a long duration.” Pastrami likely also has roots throughout the Aegean region. Like so many cured meats, it originated as a way to preserve meats in the absence of refrigeration.

Pastrami came to the United States with Jewish Romanian immigrants in the 1880s. It was originally made with goose breasts but has transitioned to primarily beef. Although originally a staple of ethnic New York delis, it’s now a favorite of folks just about everywhere. The consensus is that pastramă became pastrami because it rhymed with salami.

Give It Time

One thing to remember about Pastrami – it’s a time investment. You’re looking at a week or more to properly brine (or cure) the proteins. It’s not something you’ll make at the spur of the moment. To obtain the best results you have to plan ahead and give it time.

The Brine

Pastrami Brine
Weight (g/kg)
% Formula
Total
9990.7 g
100.000
Water
9 kg
90.084
Brown Sugar
580 g
5.805
Salt
300 g
3.003
Insta Cure #1 (6.25% NaNO2)
60 g
0.601
Coriander, Whole
13 g
0.130
Mustard Seed
10 g
0.100
Black Peppercorns
10 g
0.100
Pink Peppercorns
8 g
0.080
Fennel Seeds, Whole
4.5 g
0.045
Cinnamon Stick, Whole
3 g
0.030
Chili Flakes
1 g
0.010
Clove, Whole
0.7 g
0.007
Bay Leaf
0.5 g
0.005
pastrami

Pastrami Seasoning – Topical

Pastrami Seasoning
Weight (g/kg)
% Formula
Total
304.4 g
100.000
Brown Sugar
75 kg
24.64
Salt
75 g
24.64
Black Pepper, Ground
72 g
2.65
Coriander, Ground
55 g
18.07
Garlic, Granulated
10 g
3.29
Juniper Berry, Ground
10 g
3.29
Chili Flake
7.4 g
2.43

The Proteins

certified angus beef

Beef

most common cuts: brisket, short rib, navel

Carolina style pulled pork

Pork

most common cuts: shoulder, belly, loin, ham, leg (obviously not kosher)

brining perfect turkey

Turkey

most common cut: breast

The Pastrami Process

  1. Prepare the brine by mixing everything together in a large container. Allow plenty of capacity to add the protein (accounting for displacement). This amount of brine can easily cure four full briskets. Adjust the amount accordingly to accommodate larger or smaller quantities.
  2. Trim excess fat from protein.
  3. Add protein to the brine. Allow red meat (beef or pork) to static (or passively) cure in the refrigerator. Brine for at least five days. Seven days is preferred. The maximum cure time for red meat is 14 days. If you are preparing turkey pastrami the cure time can be reduced to between two to five days.
  4. Remove proteins from the brine. Pat dry.
  5. Combine the topical seasoning ingredients. Apply dry rub to brined proteins. Ensure every surface has a light coating of the dry rub.

Cooking Process

We utilized a CVap RTV7-14UV Retherm Oven. The setting will be similar in whatever CVap oven you use. Since it involves smoking, we recommend full-size CVap ovens. Although you can smoke in smaller models, it can overconcentrate the smoke, resulting in a smoky flavor that’s a bit overpowering.

Cook Time: 9 hours OR until the internal temp reaches at least 185°F

Temperature: Vapor: 190°F/Air: 220°F

Place proteins on the open oven racks.

Engaging the Winston Smoker Kit

  1. Plug the timer into the wall and ensure the smoker box is connected to the timer. We like to use a mixed wood pellet as the smoke medium, but sawdust or smaller type chips (no bigger than a fingernail) can be used.
  2. Adjust the timer to start the box heating. Add your smoke medium onto the heating element inside the smoker box. Place the smoker box on a sheet pan inside the oven, on a bottom rack just above the evaporator. The box will take about 15 to 20 minutes to start smoldering.
  3. Press ENTER once the product is placed inside, and the smoker is filled and in place.

We smoked the pastrami for about five hours. The results were outstanding.

pastrami

Chef’s Reflections

We had a few thoughts after completing our pastrami testing:

  • Add a solid sheet pan just above the smoker to catch the drippings. You’ll save yourself a lot of cleanup time.
  • Allow PLENTY of time to make this recipe. If fact, it would be prudent to prepare a month out from serving.
  • Vacuum pack the pastrami once it has cooled. Refrigerate for at least a week before slicing. The longer pastrami sits, the better it gets!
pastrami
pastrami

Serving Ideas

Now that you’ve got all this awesome pastrami, what are you going to do with it? Pastrami is great all by itself, but it’s best enjoyed as part of an ensemble. Here are a few ideas…

Old School

The classic pastrami on rye bread, with a bit of mustard and a pickle on the side. Add a little sauerkraut, cheese, and dressing to make it a reuben.

Deli Burgers

Pump up the decadence by combining a hamburger patty, horseradish sauce, and mustard on rye.

Pastrami Carbonara

Pastrami is good. Pasta is good. Together, they’re great! Lumache pasta, parsley, parmesan cheese – it’s good stuff.

Potato Rösti with Pastrami

Potatoes, crème fraiche, mustard, yum. Damn the carbs, full speed ahead!

Pastrami Hash

Peppers, potatoes, pastrami – it’s a satisfying combination of delicious flavors.

Pastrami Roll Ups

Watching carbs or going keto? Skip the bread and used the pastrami itself to form these tasty treats. Dip in mustard or Russian dressing. Mm mm.

Retherming Brisket in CVap®

retherming brisket

Brisket. Is there a better product to cook to celebrate May’s National BBQ Month? Brisket is incredibly popular, with a 23% increase in menus over the last decade. Whether you’re preparing these babies in-house, or are opting for commercially produced products, CVap ovens are great for retherming brisket without sacrificing quality.

retherming brisket
retherming brisket

To test the full range of products, we rethermed two brisket types. The first was a fully cooked, house-smoked, whole unsliced brisket. The other was commercially produced Hormel sliced brisket. Notably, both briskets were whole, smoked, and fully cooked. But the commercial product was smaller, roughly seven pounds. Additionally, it came presliced. On the other hand, the homemade product is unsliced and was about 14 pounds. We set them up in the same CHV7-05UV oven, with the same program: Vapor 170°F/Air 200°F. We wrapped both briskets in foil and placed them into the preheated oven.

Retherming Brisket - The Same, But Different

Although these were both whole briskets, they fell under different Food Code 3-403.11(C) requirements. The code requires that rethermed proteins hit their required safe temperature in two hours or less

Because the Hormel brisket was a commercially produced product, the code requires it to reach the minimally safe temperature of 135°F. Our CVap oven easily hit the mark. The Hormel brisket reached safe temp in a little under two hours. Clearly, the lower retherming temperature requirement, coupled with CVap’s high humidity retherming program, and the added ingredients (like phosphate) helped keep this pre-sliced brisket perfectly moist.

However, the food code requirements for previously cooked homemade brisket are more stringent. Code dictates that it must reach a minimum safe temperature of 165°F for 15 seconds. Our initial test reveal that this much larger brisket missed the mark on cook time. Unsurprisingly, this brisket, being twice as large as the Hormel product, took nearly twice as long to hit 165°F in the thickest part of the roast, between the point and flat. But no test is a failure, even if the results are not what we wanted. We headed back to the drawing board.

The solution was simple. We separated the whole brisket into the point and flat and wrapped them separately. Consequently, the two smaller cuts reached the required temperature within the two-hour limit. Although we didn’t test it, you could probably optimize the program by either decreasing the vapor and air temperatures or minimizing the temperature differential between the two (for example, Vapor 180°F/Air 190°F, or Vapor 190°F/Air 200°F).

Why Retherm?

What’s the practicality of retherming briskets instead of serving scratch cooked? Time. Briskets are a classic example of a protein you must cook low and slow to achieve the best results. Unless you can perfectly predict how much your operation needs on a given day (and plan accordingly), it is impractical to cook on-demand. But cooking ahead of time and properly refrigerating reduces the time it takes to retherm and serve. Think of it as a form of staging. Ultimately, anything that helps you serve faster and turn tables is beneficial.

Barbecue in a CVap® Oven – Smoking & Holding

barbecue platter

CVap® ovens are well-known for their versatility and precision. These qualities make them particularly well-suited for barbecue operations. Barbecue is the realm of low and slow cooking. And nothing does low and slow better than CVap.

We wanted to test the most popular proteins for most BBQ joints, pork ribs, beef brisket, and chicken. First, we needed the perfect rub.

The Seasoning Blend

Prepare the seasoning blend and set it aside.

The Proteins

  • Pork Back Ribs – 3 to 4 Lbs.
  • Whole Chickens – 3 Lbs.
  • Whole Brisket – 17 Lbs.

The Barbecue Process

Pork Back Ribs – RTV5-14UV with the Winston Smoker Box

Cook Time approximately 5 hours
Cook Vapor 190°F / Air 220°F

Hold Infinite
Hold Vapor 135°F / Air 145°F

Holding ribs for an extended time in CVap ovens is beneficial to food quality. The long, slow heat dissolves the connective tissue within the meat. For pull-off-the-bone tenderness, we recommend a five-hour hold. To get fall-off-the-bone tender, extend the hold to six hours.

barbecue

It’s important to remember that the cooking time depends on the size of the product and the orientation of the product in the pan. Here are a few helpful tips:

  • Get similar-sized ribs for a similar time cook. We used 2.75-3.25 Lbs.
  • If you get larger or smaller ribs, just adjust the time accordingly:
    • Increase time for larger ribs; >3.5 Lbs. +.
    • Decrease time for smaller ribs; <2.5 Lbs.
  • Increase time if preparing more than 5-6 ribs
    • Increasing the thermal load increases the time it takes to reach the desired temperature and texture.
  • If you shingle the ribs to get more per shelf, you’ll need to increase the cooking time.
  1. Remove back ribs from packaging.

  2. Score backside (bone side) with a paring knife.

  3. Liberally season both sides of each rib. Allow the seasoned ribs to rest for 10 to 15 minutes.

  4. Place ribs onto a rack in the preheated oven. Keep placement in a single layer, bone-side down.

**Chef’s Tips – We recommend placing a foil-lined sheet pan on the bottom shelf, just above the smoker. This will catch the product’s drippings and make cleanup easier.

Engaging Barbecue with the Winston Smoker Box

  1. Plug the timer into the wall and ensure the smoker box is connected to the timer. We like to use mixed wood pellets as the smoke medium. However, sawdust or smaller chips (no bigger than a fingernail) can be used.

  2. Adjust the timer to start the heating element, and add your smoke medium onto the heating element inside the smoker box.

  3. Place the smoker box on a sheet pan inside the oven on a bottom rack, just above the evaporator. The box takes about 15-20 minutes to preheat and start smoldering. We smoked the ribs for about 3-4 hours.

  4. Press ENTER once the product is placed inside, and the smoker is filled and in place.

Whole Brisket – RTV5-14UV with the Winston Smoker Kit

Cook Time – 9 Hours
Cook Vapor – 190°F / Air – 220°F

Hold – Infinite
Hold Vapor – 135°F / Air – 145°F

  1. Use the same barbecue seasoning blend as the pork ribs.
  2. Trim the brisket’s top and side fat, and between the point and flat.
  3. Season liberally on all sides, and in between the two muscles.
  4. Place brisket onto a rack in the preheated oven.
  5. Engage the Winston Smoker Box. We used mixed wood pellets for about 6 hours.
barbecue

Whole Chicken – RTV5-14UV with the Winston Smoker Box

Cook Time – 3 Hours
Cook Vapor – 170°F / Air – 300°F

Use the same seasoning blend as the pork rib and brisket…yes, it’s that universal AND that good!

  1. Pat the chicken dry and season liberally on all sides, under the wings, legs, and inside the cavity.
  2. Place chickens on a rack in the preheated oven.
    Be careful not to crowd.
  3. Engage the Winston Smoker Box. We used mixed wood pellets for about two hours. Check internal temperature. As with any poultry, it’s important to cook to at least 165°F.

Beautiful Beef Brisket: Smoky, Juicy, and Tasty!

brisket is particularly good for overnight cooking

Every pitmaster worth his or her salt knows that producing a proper beef brisket is something to be proud of. Between the fatty and the lean parts, there are special challenges. Smoke or cook it too long and the lean portion will dry out, but not long enough and the fat will be undercooked and not rendered enough. Allow the temperature to get too high and the brisket will be bone dry. That’s why low and slow does the trick, and CVap makes a perfect partner for brisket. You want a robust bark, a consistent smoke ring, and tender, juicy meat. No problem, right?

CVap Beef Brisket

Marinate a 3.5 lb. beef brisket in a mixture of Bourbon Barrel Soy Sauce and Worcestershire, and then liberally apply a seasoning rub.

Smoke the beef brisket at 200°F for about 2.5 hours, and then it went into a CVap Cook and Hold Oven set at Constant Cook ON /135°F/Browning Level 2 (new CVap 135°F Vapor Temp/145°F Air Temp) for ten hours.

As you can see, the bark is set, the smoke ring is consistent, and the meat is definitely juicy! Our final yield was about 85%.

Brisket

As an alternative, you could omit the smoking step and cook the brisket in the CVap overnight at the same setting to come up with this result. Again, it is juicy, tender, and very evenly done.

Please note this setting produces a brisket ideally suited for slicing. If you want a shreddable brisket, set your CVap Cook/Hold Oven to 170°F + 2 (new CVap 170°F Vapor Temp/180°F Air Temp) and cook it overnight. Your yield will be slightly less, but it will shred beautifully.

For the perfect BBQ feast, serve your classic smoked brisket, slice it, slather it with your favorite sauce, and serve it with cole slaw, potato salad, baked beans, sweet onions, dill pickles, and sliced white bread. Oh – and plenty of napkins or paper towels!

Brisket

Looking for some alternative serving ideas for brisket? Whether you smoke your brisket or not, any of these suggestions will showcase this inexpensive cut of beef very nicely:

Creative Brisket Serving Suggestions

  • Chop your brisket and use it as a topping on BBQ pizza
  • Make brisket tacos with cabbage, crema, and fresh avocado
  • Serve brisket hash as a breakfast or brunch item
  • Fill ravioli with a brisket mixture and serve with a sauce made with dark beer and caramelized onions
  • Create a smoky BBQ-style brisket cottage pie topped with mashed potatoes
  • Add chopped brisket to your chili for a delicious departure from ground beef
  • Give your vegetable beef soup a different dimension by using sliced or chopped brisket