Sous Vide Pastrami Experiment

So, following on from the butchery of my brisket 4 days ago, I placed two pieces in a wet brine – one a nice lump of meat, and the other a little more ragged.

2015-07-01 15.24.33Today, after 4 days, I took them out, rinsed off the brine and gave them a wipe down. I then gave them a light dusting of paprika, and placed them on a very low heat on my Davy Jones pellet smoker.

They have just hit 145℉, which is when I was going to move them to sous vide. However, I decided not to cook both pieces the same way – the nicer piece is going sous vide, and the smaller piece is staying on the smoker, increasing the grill temperature to 180℉. I’ll see how that does, and may foil wrap it later and kick the grill temperature up even more to finish it off.

2015-07-01 15.30.13Meanwhile the sous-vide piece is now vacuum packed, and in the sous vide bath at 65℃ (149℉). Yes, I know it’s confusing, but my grill being American is set to ℉ (this also suits me, as my BBQ recipe books also use ℉), whereas my Codlo Sous Vide controller is British, and so works in ℃.

That is now set to run for the next 48 hours.

2015-07-01 15.30.48

4 comments for “Sous Vide Pastrami Experiment

  1. July 1, 2015 at 7:45 pm

    Discovered (by reading the instruction book, no less!) that the Codlo can be switched to Fahrenheit. That makes sense when I am doing this sort of thing, where all the temperatures I know are in that scale.

    Also, the switch is easy – just pressing two buttons simultaneously – and can be done in the middle of a cook. So switching back to Celcius when using English recipes is no problem either.

  2. July 1, 2015 at 10:18 pm

    It’s not often I have a food disaster, but today is one. The piece of brined brisket that I cooked entirely in the smoker came out looking good, falling apart in a good way, and was inedibly salty. Nothing redeemable, in my opinion. I could try to rehash the meat by cooking it again – perhaps in an unsalted stew, but I don’t believe in using up crap food just for the sake of it.

    I am certain that the pastrami in the sous vide will be the same, but I am going to carry on cooking it, so I can at least examine it for texture and appearance; but no way am I going to try tasting it.

    No idea what I did wrong. Followed a published recipe for the brine, and rinsed and dried the meat well when it came out of the brine. Tried cutting a piece from inside the meat, and it was equally salty, so it is not a case of residue on the outside.

    This has been a somewhat expensive mistake, and not the first time I have come unstuck with brisket. But I do need another string to my bow, other than pulled pork.

  3. July 2, 2015 at 4:44 pm

    When things go wrong, it is easy to become despondent. However, looking at the positives:

    1) The first bit of brisket I had off this joint, which I smoked without brining, was brilliant, and provided 3 meals and infinite (or so it seemed) snacking.

    2) I have 2 x 400g packs of lean trimmed brisket in the freezer (I had forgotten this!)

    3) Although the brining went all tits-up, I’ve now got the vacuum sealing and sous-vide techniques sorted. So next time that bit’s easy.

    4) I now know my way a little better around a brisket, and how the muscles lie.

    So at the end of the day, I have wasted 2kg of brisket, costing £8.00/kg. Make that 2.5kg, to include the fat trimmed from this piece. So that’s 20 quid. But I’ve gained a bit in knowledge.

    A cheap lesson, I guess.

  4. July 3, 2015 at 10:32 pm

    OK, that’s a big surprise.

    Two pieces of brisket went into brine. One was part smoked when it came out, then put into sous vide; the other was finished on the smoker.

    The fully smoked piece I have already posted about – it was gag-worthy salty, really disgusting; after tasting just a couple of pieces (the second piece because I didn’t believe the first), I wish I hadn’t. I then tried a third piece, cut from the centre of the meat, and it was just as bad.

    Today, the Sous Vide was ready. It certainly looked ok.

    To my surprise, while salty, it is nothing like the other piece. I tasted it, and thought “oh, that’s a little salty” – I didn’t make a rush for the tap. I can quite believe that this piece of meat can be redeemed; in fact, before I do anything, I am going to let it cool, and see what it tastes like, chilled from the fridge.

    However, it doesn’t look like any pastrami I have ever seen – it doesn’t have the colour, nor the texture (and, yes, I did use pink cure). What it most resembles is very tender brisket.

    So, forgetting brining completely for the moment, I have stumbled onto something decent. Hot smoking for 4 hours, followed by 48 hours sous vide produces as tender a piece of brisket you could find. Something I could achieve totally on the smoker alone, but I think this might be less prone to variability.

    But why the difference between the two? Two things might make a difference – the salty piece was thinner, and had little fat, whereas the sous vide brisket was from the middle of the joint, and had a good fat cap.

    Yep, I dunno, either

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