Homemade Chuck Roast Pastrami Recipe + Video

Last updated April 21, 2019

Skip the brisket and make homemade chuck roast pastrami. It’s more tender and juicy. Recipe includes brine, rub and smoking instructions.

The term corned beef and pastrami are often used interchangeably. There is no shame in not knowing the difference. I was in that camp not too long ago. This website is all about teaching you the things I learn, and what I’ve learned is that corned beef is basically pickled or brined beef. While pastrami is when you take that beef and smoke it.

Probably, the most famous pastrami in the U.S. comes from Katz’s Delicatessen in New York — If you’ve seen When Harry Met Sally and the “booth scene,” you know Katz’s.

They not only corn (pickle) their beef, they smoke it, boil it and steam it. The process takes weeks.


Choosing the Right Cut

At Katz’s, they use beef navel. This is a cut of beef near the brisket, but closer to the plate ribs. You know…those dinosaur bones I’m always sharing on Instagram. Beef navel is not an easy cut to get at the grocer, and trimming the bones off of dino bones is pretty expensive, so I opted for a different cut.

Recently, I flew to San Antonio, Texas, for Chef Jason Dady’s Titans of the Tailgate. Amazing chefs from around the country come out and show off their one dish and try to woo the crowd. My favorite by far was the pastrami sandwich by Chef Jeff Bekavac.

After one bite, I stalked his tent to try to understand what made this pastrami so different from others I’ve had in the past.

I eventually learned that they corned and smoked a chuck roll. If you haven’t heard of a chuck roll, you’re not alone. It’s not a cut you find in the meat case. The chuck roll is the entire subrimal cut of beef that is broken down into things like chuck steaks, country-style beef ribs and the ever-popular chuck roast.

When I got home from Texas, I called up my butcher and asked for a chuck roll. Mind you, I didn’t really know what that meant, but sure enough I had a nearly 20 lb. slab of meat to play with. After watching multiple YouTube videos, I figured out how to break it down.

In the end, I had a lot of cuts and a few 3-pound chuck roasts, which were much more familiar.


Trimming the Chuck Roast

To mimic what Chef Jeff did in Texas, I broke down the chuck roast even further. Meat gives you a road map on how to butcher it. Generally, you just follow the fat lines.

For the chuck roast, I sliced it right down the line – like pictured above – and removed any fat that I knew wouldn’t be tasty after it was cooked.

I ended up with two narrow cuts of beef. You should be able to tell from the picture above that the grain of the meat runs in different directions. This is another reason to separate it. In the end, you want to cut the slices against the grain. By separating it, that makes this process much easier.

Separating it also gives you more surface area for maximum bark coverage.

I want you to take another look at the picture above. Do you notice anything else? You should see the marbling. Chuck is what we use for pot roast and hamburgers. It’s a flavorful cut that doesn’t get the credit it deserves.

You can also use this recipe with brisket, but let’s be honest, brisket is a little daunting. You have to commit to more than a few pounds, it requires a lot more trimming, and after all the work, it can still end up dry.

This is why, from here on out, I’ll make my pastrami with chuck roast.


Making Corned Beef

To make corned beef, you basically just need to make a brine with water, salt, sugar, pink curing salt and pickling spices.

Pink curing salt or sodium nitrite is the magic ingredient that turns the beef that rosy red color. It’s been used for years to cure meats, so they can be preserved. It helps stop the reproduction of bacteria, which is important since this process takes a few days.

As for the pickling spice, feel free to buy a bottle of the pre-made stuff. I on the other hand like to mix up my own blend. I make a pretty big batch, so when I’m not corning beef, I can use it for homemade pickles and pickled red onions.

All of the brine ingredients will get cozy in a gallon of water for a while. You want the salt and sugar to dissolve and the spices to steep. Then, let it cool.

Place that beautifully trimmed up beef in a zip-top bag, and pour in the cooled brine.

As an extra precaution, I always put the bag in a large bowl, because inevitably that darn bag is going to leak. You don’t want beef juice and brine all over your fridge.

Let the beef get acquainted in the brine for 5-7 days. Most people tell you to toss the meat around every now and then for even coverage, but if you don’t, it’s not the end of the world.


Pastrami Rub

After the week of brining, you’ll rinse the beef off and get it ready for the rub.

This rub has similar flavors to the brine, but you don’t need to add any more salt. It starts with a base of black pepper, coriander seeds and mustard seeds. I like to toast them in a skillet to release their essential oils.

Then, add some sugar, smoked paprika and fresh garlic, and pulse them in food chopper for a quick grind. For the sugar, I use coconut palm sugar in my rubs because I like the texture and its slower melt factor, but you can also use granulated, brown, raw or turbinado sugar.

Take those spices and rub them all over the corned chuck roast. Place the beef on a baking rack on a sheet pan and let them rest in the refrigerator overnight, uncovered. This is essentially a dry brine.


Turning Corned Beef Into Pastrami

At this point, you could boil the chuck roast and make corned beef, but instead we’re going for pastrami.

Fire up your smoker to 250F degrees. Place the rubbed beef on the grates and smoke for 2 hours.

As I mentioned earlier, the pastrami at Katz’s Deli is smoked, boiled and steamed. We’re skipping the boiling, but we will add a bit of steam. After the second hour, add small pans of water to the grill grates. The water will let off steam that will fill the smoker, helping the meat become even more tender and juicy.

I wait until after the second hour for this step, because I want the smoke to be the star at first.

Smoke for another 30 to 90 minutes, until the internal temperature registers between 205-210F degrees. The smaller pieces will be done first.

Once they hit the mark, remove them from the smoker, cover them with foil, and let them rest for at least 30 minutes before slicing.

As with all beef cuts, it’s important to slice the beef against the grain. I slice the larger piece in half and then slice it lengthwise.

For a true deli slice, try to aim for an 1/8-inch thickness or less.

I was so pleasantly surprised by how juicy the chuck roast pastrami was. Usually, I hide my pastrami brisket in mustard, cabbage or Russian dressing, because it can be a little dry, but all this needed was some rye bread and a slice of Swiss cheese.

I honestly doubt I’ll ever make pastrami with brisket again.

Want to know my melty cheese trick? Go ahead and make a grilled cheese sandwich with rye bread and Swiss cheese (without the meat). Once it’s nice and melted, remove it from the griddle. Wait a few seconds, and then separate the slices of bread and pile on the pastrami. It results in perfectly melted cheese and toasted bread every time.

Homemade Chuck Roast Pastrami Recipe

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: chuck roast, corned beef, pastrami
Prep Time: 7 days
Cook Time: 3 hours 30 minutes
Total Time: 7 days 3 hours 30 minutes
Servings: 24
Calories: 241 kcal
Author: Christie Vanover

Skip the brisket and make homemade chuck roast pastrami. It's more tender and juicy. Recipe includes brine, rub and smoking instructions.



  • 2 3-pound chuck roasts
  • corned beef brine
  • pastrami rub

Corned Beef Brine

  • 1 gallon water
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup pickling spice
  • 1 tbsp pink curing salt

Pickling Spice

  • 2 tbsp whole allspice
  • 2 tbsp cardamom pods
  • 2 tbsp whole cloves
  • 2 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 2 tbsp whole peppercorns
  • 2 tbsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tbsp red chili flakes
  • 2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 2 cinnamon sticks broken
  • 3 bay leaves crumbled
  • 1 tsp ground orange peel

Pastrami Rub

  • 1/4 cup course ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tbsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tbsp coconut palm sugar
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 3 cloves garlic


  1. Slice each chuck roast in half along the fat seam. Remove any silverskin. 

  2. Place the chuck roast in a plastic bag. Fill with cooled brine. Close the bag, and place it in a large bowl. Refrigerate for 5-7 days. 

  3. Remove the beef from the brine and rinse under cold water. 

  4. Rub thoroughly with pastrami rub. Place on a baking rack on a sheet pan. Refrigerate uncovered overnight. 

  5. Heat smoker to 250F degrees. Place the brined and seasoned beef on the smoker. Smoke for 2 hours. The beef will develop a mahogany bark.

  6. Place a disposable pan of water on the smoker. Continue smoking for about 30-90 minutes, until the internal temperature reaches 205-210F degrees. The smaller pieces will likely be ready in 30 minutes, while the larger ones may take 90. 

  7. Let rest 30 minutes. Slice and serve on toasted rye bread.  

Corned Beef Brine

  1. Heat the water in a large pot. Add the remaining ingredients. Cook for 5-10 minutes, until the sugar and salts are dissolved. Cool.

Pickling Spice

  1. Combine all of the ingredients. Store in a sealed container. 

Pastrami Rub

  1. Place the black pepper, coriander and mustard seeds in a skillet over medium heat. Toast for a few minutes to release the essential oils. 

  2. Place in a food chopper with the remaining ingredients. Pulse to roughly chop the seeds and garlic.

Nutrition Facts
Homemade Chuck Roast Pastrami Recipe
Amount Per Serving
Calories 241 Calories from Fat 117
% Daily Value*
Fat 13g20%
Saturated Fat 5g31%
Cholesterol 78mg26%
Sodium 5116mg222%
Potassium 450mg13%
Carbohydrates 8g3%
Fiber 1g4%
Sugar 4g4%
Protein 22g44%
Vitamin A 210IU4%
Vitamin C 1.2mg1%
Calcium 64mg6%
Iron 3.1mg17%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.



By |2019-04-21T11:11:55-07:00February 25, 2019|


  1. Jeanette Armstrong March 17, 2019 at 5:24 pm - Reply

    I am six hours into smoking the chuck roast and I wasn’t sure how you were able to get the pieces up to 203 degrees in 3 or even 4 hours at 250 smoker temp. I have cranked my grill up to 300 degrees in hopes of reaching the 203 finish point in the next two hours. Obviously, like brisket, chuck roast will go through the “stall” at 150-160 degrees internal. That is where I am now.. I’ve used chuck roast before to make “Poor Man’s Burnt Ends” and it has always taken 6 or more hours. I love the recipe and I hope the taste is all you said it will be, I’m just disappointed in the fact that your time just doesn’t seem possible to reach in a three hour or slightly more time.

    • Christie Vanover March 17, 2019 at 8:39 pm - Reply

      I’m sorry to hear yours is taking longer. I can understand your frustration. Mine definitely only took a few hours. The smaller pieces were actually done sooner. Perhaps your roasts were larger or you’re at a higher elevation. I hope you enjoy it once it’s ready.

    • John G July 6, 2019 at 10:20 am - Reply

      It could very well be due to a larger number of factors – namely the size of the meat (especially if they’re all one piece or different chunks as in the pictures above). I usually end up more than a few hours. Be sure that you are not using your grill temperature gauge but instead, use a meat thermometer placed centimeters above the grate. That’s where you want to measure your grill temp – at grate level. The thermometer on the hood will differ about 20 degrees C.

  2. AL May 12, 2019 at 1:31 pm - Reply

    Great recipe! However, At 250 degrees I had to cook this for at least 6 hours to get the meattemperature even close to to 200 degree mark. Both roast were just under 3lbs each.
    Still a great recipe!…tasty as all get out.

    • Christie Vanover May 12, 2019 at 2:15 pm - Reply

      Thanks for the feedback. It seems others are having a similar experience. I’ll make it again in the near future and test out my times again. I’m glad you enjoyed the flavors.

  3. ALFRED..Tyler Texas July 8, 2019 at 6:21 pm - Reply

    A buddy gave me some venison loin, and I used your method to make venison pastrami. The only thing I did different was soak it in water for 8 hours after brining it to get a bit of the salt out. After smoking it in applewood, it was utterly amazing. Do you have any recipes for Prociutto?

    • Christie Vanover July 10, 2019 at 9:29 pm - Reply

      That’s awesome! I haven’t tried prosciutto yet, but it’s on my bucket list.

  4. Brad July 21, 2019 at 11:35 pm - Reply

    Goooood Gaaaaawd! This was some killer chuck roast! I started with a prime chuck roast from Costco. I think it was a little under 6 pounds. I didn’t cut or trim mine. Cured it for 7 days and there were a few spots that didn’t get cured but, that is fine. Smoked it for 3 hours at about 150 and turned up the heat to 250. I smoke with a trawler. Using a mix of pecan and hickory. Smoked at 250 for 6 hours. Was in the smoker for a total of 9 hours.

    Let it rest for about 10 minutes then sliced about 1/8 inch. Griddled some rye with melted Swiss. Kraut, and Russian dressing. Might have been one of the best sandwiches I have ever had. Meat was tender and juicy. Fat had rendered very well. What was left was simply melt in your mouth delicious! The crust on this was dark, full of flavor, and I couldn’t get enough.

    You could seriously smell this on the smoker all over my neighborhood. Even had one of my neighbors come over and see what I was coming because he could smell it three houses down. Haha!

    Thank you for the recipe Christie!

    • Brad July 21, 2019 at 11:36 pm - Reply

      Meant to say that I smoked this on a Traeger

  5. Nate August 12, 2019 at 7:21 pm - Reply


    After brine can I add rub and freeze then thaw when I want to smoke? Or should I smoke then freeze. It is really good but I would like to do smaller amounts more often and think I cools just throw one on when doing other things.

    • Christie Vanover August 14, 2019 at 7:41 am - Reply

      I recommend going through the whole process of smoking it. Then freeze slices and pull them out when you want them.

  6. Chad August 25, 2019 at 12:19 pm - Reply

    I always kick myself for not reading the comments first. Its at 158 now and is taking about 20 minutes to move up 1 degree. It’s gonna be a while for sure. But it sounds like it will be worth it.

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