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 It was originally made with goose breasts but has transitioned to primarily beef.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
9990.7 g
9 kg
Brown Sugar
580 g
300 g
Insta Cure #1 (6.25% NaNO2)
60 g
Coriander, Whole
13 g
Mustard Seed
10 g
Black Peppercorns
10 g
Pink Peppercorns
8 g
Fennel Seeds, Whole
4.5 g
Cinnamon Stick, Whole
3 g
Chili Flakes
1 g
Clove, Whole
0.7 g
Bay Leaf
0.5 g

Pastrami Seasoning – Topical

Pastrami Seasoning
Weight (g/kg)
% Formula
304.4 g
Brown Sugar
75 kg
75 g
Black Pepper, Ground
72 g
Coriander, Ground
55 g
Garlic, Granulated
10 g
Juniper Berry, Ground
10 g
Chili Flake
7.4 g

The Proteins

certified angus beef


most common cuts: brisket, short rib, navel

Carolina style pulled pork


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

brining perfect 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.


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!

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.

Bourbon Barrel Beef Short Ribs

Short Ribs - plated

Beef short ribs are, by definition, any section of beef ribs. After all, whole beef ribs are quite long. Consequently, it’s customary to cut them into smaller sections.

We chose two different short rib types; back ribs, and chuck ribs. Further, we used some of the fine products from our friends at Bourbon Barrel Foods to make Bourbon Barrel Beef Short Ribs.

Because we wanted to experiment with sous vide, we cooked some ribs sealed in bags, and others without bags.

The Marinade

Trim extraneous fat from the ribs. Naturally, you’ll notice that chuck ribs are much more substantial than back ribs. After all, they feature lots of nice marbling. In contrast, the short ribs, though smaller, are what many folks think of when considering ribs.

Place ribs in the pan, and pour prepared marinade over them. Next, turn ribs in sauce, coating all areas. Afterward, cover and refrigerate overnight.

The Settings

The Process

First, preheat the oven. Subsequently, allow about 45 minutes for the oven to fully preheat.

We divided the ribs in half, placing half in vacuum bags, and the rest directly on sheet pans. Just for kicks and grins, we also smoked a few ribs in our smoker box. (To see how the smoker box works, click here).

Finally, we pulled the ribs after about 4.5 hours.

If desired, ribs can be cooked at a lower temperature and longer time to create medium-rare, tender ribs. For example, here’s a great program from Chef Barry Yates:

  • 135°F Vapor Temp
  • 140°F Air Temp
  • Cook time: 18 hours
  • Convection: On
  • High Yield: Off

Critically, use caution removing ribs from the oven. Undoubtedly, the fat will have rendered out. Indeed, it will be hot and sloshing in the pan.

Finally, all the ribs were fall-off-the-bone tender. If using bags, decrease cook time by about an hour. In fact, the ribs were so tender that we could literally cut them with a plastic spoon. Additionally, the smell and flavor were outstanding.

More About Ribs

Want to read more about ribs? Check out our other ribs blogs!

Need more information on adding righteous ribs to your menu? Fill out our contact form, and we’ll be in touch!

Beef Short Ribs Recipe Recap

  • Soy Sauce – 5 Tbs
  • Worcestershire Sauce – 5 Tbs
  • Brown Sugar – 5 Tbs
  • Kosher Salt – 1 Tbs

Whisk marinade ingredients together. Next, trim extraneous fat from ribs. Then place ribs in the pan and pour prepared marinade over them. Turn ribs in sauce, coating all areas. Finally, cover and refrigerate overnight.

Program CVap Retherm Oven as follows:

  • 200°F Vapor Cook Temp
  • 250°F Air Cook Temp
  • Cook time: 5 hours
  • Convection: On
  • High Yield: Off
  • Hold Time: Infinite
  • 150°F Vapor Hold
  • 160°F Air Hold Temp

Preheat the oven. Next, allow 45 minutes to preheat. Immediately place ribs in the oven and start the cook cycle.

Check doneness around 4.5 hours. Indeed, ribs are done when at least 145°F and satisfactorily tender.

Kentucky Lamb Hams – Not B-a-a-a-a-d!

Kentucky Lamb Hams

Ham. The very word brings to mind the many variations of the savory pork product. In the vast majority of cases, when folks say “ham,” they mean pork. However, I was talking with my friend Valerie Samutin about her lambs on Freedom Run Farm. She told me about the history of lamb ham in Kentucky. Apparently lamb was the protein of choice for Kentucky settlers in colonial times. In order to preserve lamb for winter consumption, they would cure hind quarters, just like we do with pork.

I love to fuse historical traditions with new technologies. Our commonwealth was formerly well-known as a core market for sheep and lamb production. Remnants of that heritage can still be found in central Kentucky, where dishes such as the mutton-based burgoo remain very popular. I decided to use Freedom Run Farm’s wonderful lamb to test the hot smoking abilities of our Winston Smoker Box in a CVap® Holding Cabinet. Hot smoked lamb ham!

Chef Barry Hams it Up

One big salty ham poses next to another big salty ham. The ham on the left is pork. The ham on the right is our late friend Chef Barry.


  • 50g Prague powder (cure) No. 2
  • 80g KY Spice Berries (substitute fresh ground peppercorns if spice berries aren’t available)
  • 500g light brown sugar or turbinado sugar
  • 700g pure sea salt (iodine free)
  • 4-6kg fresh lamb leg, bone in and hoof on
  • Sugna:1kg olive oil mixed with flour to make a thick paste ***optional
  • (You need 80g cure for each 1kg of lamb leg) Approximately 300- 500 grams of cure per leg
lamb hams begins curing


  1. Very important! Weigh lamb leg and record weight! Record day and time of curing start as well and keep for your records! You will certainly need this information later, to determine when the hams are ready.
  2. Make curing mixture with the first four ingredients above. Mix thoroughly.
  3. Rinse lamb leg thoroughly and pat dry with a paper towel. Then rub the lamb with the cure mixture. Don’t worry about using too much. Rub firmly, pushing the leg bone with your thumbs. Notably, there is a main artery there that may not have been thoroughly mind, this process helps work out any remaining blood. Once this is complete, rub more cure around the aitch (hip) bone. This is the exposed bone/joint where the leg was severed from the lamb’s torso (VERY important step).
raw lamb hind quarter
lamb legs
bony end of the lamb legs
  1. Place lamb leg on a bed of salt in a nonreactive container. Plastic is preferable, but an old school wooden rack works too. In this case I used nonreactive plastic seeding trays. Place lamb in a refrigerated environment for a minimum of ten days. Turn daily, and make sure that cure is redistributed daily. If necessary, add more cure. The general rule of thumb for curing is one day per kilogram, but no less than ten days.
salted lamb
very salty lamb ham
lamb ham
lamb closeup
lamb in cvap

Smoking the Lamb

  1. After the curing period is complete, rinse lamb and refrigerate for 24 hours. This allows for good pellicle formation. Pellicle is a skin or coating of proteins on the meat surface that allows smoke to adhere during the smoking process.
  2. After the 24 hour refrigeration, place lamb hams in a CVap Holding Cabinet at 165°F vapor temp and 170°F air temp. Place hickory chunks in Winston smoker box and set timer for three hours. Once cabinet is preheated, place lamb into CVap and hot smoke until internal temperature reaches 155°F. [Note: Although CVap equipment doesn’t usually require vent hoods, the addition of a smoker box will usually require utilization of a vent hood. Always check local codes.]
  3. After lamb reaches 155°F, remove from CVap cabinet, weigh, and record weight. At this time, some folks like to add a sugna (a mixture of fat and flour) on the cut surface of the ham. This is classically done with prosciutto, iberico, or Appalachian mountain hams to keep the cut surface from excessively drying. In this case, I don’t believe that it is necessary, as lamb takes less time to cure and reach maturity than a traditional leg of pork. Keep in a refrigerated environment until the lamb leg has lost 25-30 % of its original weight. Once this weight loss has been achieved, your lamb ham should be ready.
smoking lamb hams

Lamb preserved this way should be shelf stable for up to six months. There is no need to age longer, because hot smoking kills the enzymes that would generate any further flavor complexities. Once the ham has been cut, wrap cut surface with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Another option is to bone the ham and vacuum seal individual piece that can be cut later.

smoked lamb hams
finished lamb ham
slicing the lamb ham

In this case we sampled to a lot of chef friends, and also shared with Bob Perry at his 3rd annual Kentucky Neurogastronomy Symposium held at the University of Kentucky.

barry yates

About the Author

Chef Barry Yates was a seasoned pro. A certified chef, he owned and operated his share of restaurants. With over two decades at Winston, he was definitely the Yoda of the team. Chef Barry was part culinary guru, part food scientist, part blogger, part pig farmer, part biker, and full-time fanatic about all things foodservice!

Winston Smoker Box

smoker box
Power Box Front

Convert your CVap® oven into the smoker of your dreams with a Winston Smoker Box! It allows up to six hours of continuous smoking to create tender meats with that smoky flavor your customers love. Consequently, smoke without the expense of another piece of equipment! Add delicious smoke flavor to any grilled meal. You can use wood chips or pellets. Infuse your food with a hint of hickory, apple, oak, or cherry wood.

Great for more than just protein! Add veggies or herbs to your smoker to create amazing flavor throughout your menu.

The Winston Smoker Box is a must-have with easy installation onto the CVap Cook and Hold Oven or Retherm Oven.

There are a couple of things to keep in mind if you’re considering adding the smoker box. It does require an independent 120V power supply. Critically, utilizing the Winston smoker will require placing the oven under a vent hood.

Purchase yours here: PS3145 Winston Smoker Box.

Smoker Box
smoker box meat