Corned Beef or Pastrami? Three Differences

BY: Joan Ginsberg, United Meat & Deli social marketing

UMD Gold Label Pastrami

 

Today is National Hot Pastrami Sandwich Day according to some, so we would like to celebrate by answering a frequently asked question:

What’s the difference between corned beef and pastrami?

I can hear some of you snorting sarcastically, because you are a fan of Jewish deli sandwiches, and the difference between the two classic fillers is like the difference between mustard and ketchup. But read on . . .

 

1. Different cuts of meat. Traditionally, corned beef is made from beef brisket, which comes from the lower chest of the steer. Pastrami traditionally is made from beef navel, which is a small piece cut from the muscle known as the plate. I emphasize the word “traditionally” because pastrami in the 21st century is also made from other cuts of beef and poultry, including the ubiquitous turkey pastrami. United Meat & Deli, although widely known for Sy Ginsberg’s Corned Beef, also makes Gold Label pastrami. While navel pastrami is our best-seller, we also make and sell brisket and 1st cut brisket pastrami. The word “pastrami” was originally borrowed from the Turkish word “pastirma” by the Romanians (“pastrama”), who made their dish from pork and mutton.

 

 

 

 

 

Courtesy of Chicago Meat Authority, one of UMD’s raw beef suppliers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Different cooking methods. Both pastrami and corned beef are cured meats, meaning that they have been injected or otherwise infused with a solution of salted water (brine). But then they travel different paths. Corned beef is ready for cooking and is generally cooked by boiling. Traditional pastrami has additional flavors added (see #3), and is then smoked. A smokehouse or smoking oven is used by most manufacturers (including us), but some may add artificial smoke and then water process their pastrami.

The room at UMD where navels and briskets are injected.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Different flavor profiles. Corned beef gets its flavor from whatever spices or flavors the maker puts into the brine. At UMD, our uniquely flavored brine is a guarded trade secret. Pastrami may have similar flavors in the brine, but then the maker of traditional US pastrami goes a step further by rubbing the outside of the meat with various seasonings – a “cocktail of spices”, according to Sy Ginsberg – before it is smoked. There may be regional differences to the flavor profile as well. New York City/east coast pastrami and corned beef often tastes very different than the type made in the midwest.

Compare this pastrami with the corned beef at the top of the page.

 

 

So what’s YOUR preference – corned beef or pastrami? Enjoy either today!