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!

Mile End – A Deli Done Different

BY: Joan Ginsberg, United Meat & Deli marketing specialist

Imagine what it was like eating from a pushcart at the early part of the last century. The food wasn’t fancy or trendy, but it was all fresh and made by the vendor with local ingredients.

It was that type of food delivery system that Noah Bernamoff envisioned when he opened his Mile End Deli in Brooklyn, New York. Indeed, the pushcart analogy is his own.

Today’s foodie would say that Mile End is an artisanal deli, a word that by itself is so trendy and overused it doesn’t quite capture the eating experience that Noah and his partner Max Levine are aiming for.

Whatever you call it, Mile End delivers excellent deli food, focusing on Canadian specialties like smoked meat and poutine. Noah is a Montreal native.

Sy and I paid a visit to Mile End last week, to get a taste of the differences between smoked meat and the American alternative of pastrami.

Their menu is deliberately simple, to avoid those trendy things like special salads. Even though it’s New York, they don’t have grouchy deli men shouting at each other and the customers. They have smart and attentive waitstaff that couldn’t have been more pleasant.

It’s still a Jewish deli, so chicken matzo ball soup is in evidence.

Their signature item is a smoked meat sandwich, with red cabbage slaw and pickles as a perfect accompaniment.  Mile End has their own commissary where they cure their own meats, and make all of their breads and baked goods.

The sandwich was split between me and Sy, so there would be room for poutine.

Their hot dog was delicious! Sy had to be physically stopped in the middle of eating it long enough to get a picture.

It’s a shame that there are no pictures of their house-made mandelbrot (Jewish almond cookie) or rugelach, which were equally delicious, and are the type of Jewish deli item that is hard to find made in-house. Sy and I agreed that the mandelbrot was the best we had eaten. Ever.

We support delis like Mile End, even when they don’t buy or use our corned beef, salami, or pastrami, because they keep the Jewish food culture alive and well. Est gezunterhayt!


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