Short Rib sandwich blog

Photos by Donna
It began with pickles. I'd bought a quart of small cukes to pickle with tarragon but I wasn't thinking as I made the brine.  I wanted some spice in there so I added black peppercorns.  Then, here is the not thinking part, I put in a load of coriander seed, then the tarragon, but as I smelled the brine coming up to heat, it was clear that pepper and coriander would completely overpower the tarragon, and simply don't belong together.  So I removed the tarragon.  Donna arrived just then and said, "Mmm, smells good in here. Like corned beef."

Having ruined the brine for the pickles (using the standard 5% brine ratio from Ratio, bien sur), I thought let's put it to use with what pepper and coriander were made for.  I'd bought some short ribs intending to cure them with a dry rub to see how that worked, but now that I had a brine with corned beef seasonings, it would be a pickle instead.  I'd bought them specifically to make corned beef/pastrami, normally made with brisket.  But briskets are big and expensive and I wanted small portions. Also the brisket nowadays is so lean it can become dry. I wanted to use a well marbled cut, and short rib seemed perfect. (I thought I was being particularly clever, here, making corned beef out of short ribs, but apparently Asianjewishdeli has been doing it for months! Rats!)

Short ribs on board blog The fact is, you can corn any cut of beef if you want, doesn't have to be brisket. The key ingredient is the pink salt, sodium nitrite, which keeps the meat vivid red even after cooking, and gives the beef its distinctive corned-beef flavor. So I simply added a half teaspoon of that to the brine, chilled it and submerged several boneless beef shortribs in the brine and left them for a few days.

I love the smoky spicy flavor of pastrami (corned beef coated in black pepper and coriander and smoked). To get this effect at home, without relying on a smoker, I grilled them over a hot fire. After grilling, they needed to be tenderized which we do by slow cooking. Corned beef is typically cooked in court bouillon, but I wanted to keep all the flavor in the abundantly seasoned meat.  So I wrapped them in foil with a little water to make sure the environment was moist and cooked them for a few hours in a 200 degree oven.

The result: exquisitely juicy, flavorful pastrami that's easy to do at home.  Several steps, yes, but all of them easy.

How did I prepare the pastrami? Neo-Reubens.  Pastrami, sauerkraut, gruyere, with a mayo spiked with sriracha sauce, sandwiched between English muffin halves and cooked in a skillet.  English muffin makes the perfect portion size for such a rich sandwich, we had with chips and beer.  The hardest part of this preparation was waiting for Donna to finish taking the picture so we could eat.

There's a complete corned beef recipe in Charcuterie, which includes mustard seeds, allspice, mace, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, all of which are fantastic, but all I used for this brine was peppercorn, coriander, garlic, pinch of ground cinnamon, and chilli flakes, and importantly 1/2 teaspoon of pink salt for about two cups of water (if you don't know about pink salt, there's more info at the bottom of this post). Pickle your beef for a few days in the fridge, coat with a mixture of equal parts peppercorns and coriander seed roughly cracked or chopped, grill them, then slow cook in foil as described above.  After tasting these, I can't imagine ever using brisket again. Corned beef short ribs are fabulous.


40 Wonderful responses to “Homemade Short Rib Pastrami”

  • steph

    Yummm. I use the corning recipe from Charcuterie all the time for tongue but now have something new to try. Just have to figure out where I’m going to find boneless short ribs (or did you debone them yourself?)

  • ruhlman

    they came boneless but you can order boneless, take out the bone yourself, or use bone-in, they’ll all work.

  • DJK

    “The hardest part of this preparation was waiting for Donna to finish taking the picture so we could eat.”

    I would imagine so.

    That looks…amazing.

    You & Slyman’s might need to have a Battle of the Corned Beef if that thing tastes half as good as it looks.

  • Colloquial Cook

    Oh my oh my. I would have made this in a heartbeat had I not left the US two days ago. I don’t think French butchers provide such a cut as short ribs – never seen them anyways.

  • noah

    If you were to sous vide the shortribs do you think you could omit using the pink salt? When you sous vide shorties normally they turn out looking just like yours.

  • Susan

    I agree that the briskets today are not like the ones of my childhood but I never considered that shortribs could be substituted. That idea is brillant! Pastrami is one of my favorites, too!

  • Madison Foodie

    Can’t remember when we’ve seen a more over-the-top, incredible looking sandwich. Amazing food photography.

    Do you deliver to Wisconsin?

  • craigkite

    Donna delivered a couple of nice “money-shots.” Maybe you started writing about food to give Donna a forum with text for her great food shots. It isn’t just the images, but they are staged so well. She knows how to compose a good food picture!

  • Mark S.

    This looks great. Chef Rob Leavitt at Mado in Chicago made an amazing corned beef tongue in late May this year. The texture was out of this world.

  • Tags

    America’s Test Kitchen made spareribs smoked in the oven with lapsang souchong tea in a makeshift smoker. If their oohs and aahs were legitimate, it must’ve been really good.

  • chef gui

    Now, to this day (i’m 38), i’ve never tried corned beef. Coming from France (and by the way, colloquialcook, French butchers do have shortibs: just ask for plat de cotes), this is not a traditional preparation there and i have yet to taste it.

    This post could be a good pretext to do so. Thanks.

  • Erin

    I’ve got a nose for Reubens and swear I can smell it. I must make short rib pastrami.

    I hate waiting for my hub to take the photo. I roasted a chicken with cider, apples and chanterelles a while back, and I swear I almost went primal waiting for him to finish.

  • Kate in the NW

    Well I’m glad I read this on the 4th, when I have lots of other yummy food to distract me…otherwise, the drool would short out my computer.

    I always wondered what happened to brisket – how and why does this happen to our food? Is it a result of the mania for leaner meat (as we all get fatter and fatter…)? Of monolithic agribusiness breeding Franken-cows?

    Would you please write a book or blog entry or manifesto or something on all this, and how it relates to the actual FLAVOR (texture, etc) of our food, and the satisfaction we find in it?

    This post provides the perfect argument – a tiny, English-muffin-sized sandwich with REAL, rich, marbled, flavorful meat is a zillion times more satisfying than a 4,000-calorie mountain of processed sawdust. I think if our food were BETTER, we’d eat LESS.

    Of course, my personal consumption of Gorgonzola Dolce is the exception that proves the rule… 😉

  • Laurence

    I have bookmarked this one. Sous viding was coming to mind as I read the piece. My jowls are aching with salivation!

  • chad

    Short ribs cooked sous-vide will retain their redness (without pink salt) only if they are cooked to a nice medium rare (around 55º or a bit lower). It’s the temperature, not the act of sous-vide cooking itself. The cure salt contributes to texture and flavor as well as color. If I were preparing shortrib pastrami, I would definitely use cure salt and cook it sous-vide as well (if you have the equipment or patience to do so).

  • Tyler

    Looks great. I imagine you could slow cook on the grill as well, like bbq, in lieu of the oven.

    Hope the beer was a Great Lakes Dortmunder Gold. I think the pairing would be great.

  • ruhlman

    noah, chad is right. meat loses red color at can’t remember what temp, check mcgee, so if you cook sous vide below that meat stays red. using pink salt, you can cook it to any temp and it will remain pink. also the pink salt is the reason for the distinctive corned beef flavor.

  • minnie

    my husband made pastrami 2 weeks ago using a commercially prepared corned beef. it was very good (we actually have a smoker, which we’d be lost without. we smoke something at least once a month, if notmoreoften), and we used the leftovers to make pastrami hash. oh boy!

  • Hal in Seattle

    Have you made pastrami with beef plate, as suggested in Charcuterie? I’m trying to order a short plate from a local artisan farmer.

  • Richard

    Michael, you might be better off getting packer trimmed briskets. They are typically much bigger, but they still have all of the cap fat on them that will help keep them moist. I’d take the flat half and make pastrami, and take the point half and grind it for the best hamburger you’ve ever had.

  • Jesse

    I’ve been making the corned beef from your book, and it’s great– but, time to move on to pastrami! The trouble is the smoking. I have a Weber grill, and unless I win the lottery it’s pretty much what I’m stuck with. Any advice for getting decent results this way? I will be curing short ribs, looks way too good to not try!

  • MIchael

    Jesse,you can smoke on a weber with relative ease, and a bit more attention. To start, add half a chimney starter full of unlit coals to one side of the grill(banked as far to one side as possible). Light a dozen or so coals till they ash grey, put them on top of the unlit coals; top coals with soaked wood chunks; close the lid and vents except a sliver on top vent for the air n thermometer. When the temp comes up to 215, put your meat on the grill grate as far as possible from the coals. voila.

    You’ll likely have to add more wood, or open vents to maintain smoke and the proper temp range(200-225).

    And yes, this method produces a fine pastrami with a unforgiving brisket – can’t wait to try it with short rib

    I do use a slight variation – a thick piece of sheet metal surrounding the coals -directing the heat, protecting the meat. But with proper attention and finesse, the smoking results on a weber can be as good as any smoker

  • Wilma de Soto

    It boggles the mind how Donna consistently produces such tantalizing food photography without the aid of a food stylist.

    Looks as if one could reach right in and grab that Reuben.

    What talent and what a great team you are!

  • Maura

    The sandwich looks awesome. But mayonnaise on pastrami? I don’t care that it’s homemade, Michael. Stop it! 🙂

  • Jesse

    Thanks, Michael! I checked again and also found the improvised smoker recommendations in “Charcouterie”. The results of my hideous experiments will be recorded. 😉

  • Kelly

    Can’t wait to try it with my homemade sauerkraut — and the beer in the backgound is fabulous!

  • ny pearl

    This looks amazing, and I’m looking forward to making it when i go visit family next month and have both several free days and access to fire. Question regarding the smoking: what wood would you use? Is there a traditional flavor for pastrami in general? I’ll be in Missouri and have access to lots of good hardwoods. Thanks!

  • helena

    Michael, looks amazing! May i ask you how big were the ribs pieces? I don’t think i can get boneless ribs cut bigger than 3/4lb so wonder if several days of brining would be too long.
    Thanks much!

  • Lorri

    While on vacation in Idaho (I live in California) I got your blurb on the short rib pastrami. I now have mine in the brine. However, in one day most of it seems to have been sucked up into the meat. Should I add more or just be patient?

  • rob sama

    Speaking of tongue, I wonder if you couldn’t make tongue pastrami. I would imagine that you would need to blanch the tongue briefly first, to get the skin off…

  • HankShaw

    Wow. I believe I’d need to be chopping wood in winter, building a log home, or, ahem, “hiking the Appalachian Trail” to acquire the monstrous appetite needed to finish that sammy. Wow.

  • Jeff F

    I gave this a try and it was a hit. I used bone-in short ribs. I smoked the ribs over mesquite for about 4 hours then finished them on the grill. Awesome!

  • Jesse

    Hi, folks! I’m very pleased to report that my pastrami turned out beautifully using the grill method suggested above! The restaurant supply didn’t have short ribs that day, but brisket was on sale for about a buck a pound– I got two! These taste amazing, I don’t think I’ll be able to go back to commercial pastrami. Thanks, Micheal!!

  • john_v_phipps

    Oh my! I cooked off the short rib corned beef Saturday.

    Thank you! It was A-freaking-mazing.

    The only problem is that is disappeared so quickly. Will start another BIGGER batch this week.