What Meat Is Pastrami? (Is It Different From Corned Beef)

Iva Carter
Published by Iva Carter
Last Updated On: December 4, 2023

I’ve been a meat lifestyle devotee for a decade, and deli meat is a regular part of my dietary routine, especially pastrami.

I talked with a local butcher to find out everything there’s to know about this meat.

In this article, I’ll share my findings and the ultimate breakdown of all things pastrami.

Quick Summary

  • Pastrami is a type of deli meat. It’s coated in spices and smoked, which results in a long cooking process.
  • Pastrami is commonly served in sandwiches on rye bread.
  • There are several differences between corned beef and pastrami.

What Is Pastrami?

An image of pastrami meat placed on top of a wooden board

Pastrami is smoked and cured deli meat. It can be made from the navel cut of beef deckle, which are different cuts of brisket. Beef round and plate cut can also be used.

The cut, called pastrami, is cured and then coated in a thick coat of spices, such as garlic, black pepper, paprika, mustard seeds, bay leaves, coriander seeds, and others, that give it flavor. The rub is left on the pastrami while it’s smoked.

It is usually smoked over hardwood with a pan of water in the smoker. This creates a smoked environment, so the meat doesn’t develop bark. The result is a highly-seasoned cut of beef that’s served in slices.

Pastrami is thought to come from Turkey or Romania, where meats were brined and treated with spices. Smoking was added to preserve the brined cuts during the time people didn’t have fridges.

“Pastrami is smoked meat that’s been seasoned and smoked. This is the cured smoked meat legend of every deli in the world. It’s eaten with bread, Russian dressing, and sauerkraut.”
- Joshua Weissman, YouTube Channel

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The Best Way to Serve and Eat Pastrami

Pastrami is commonly served and eaten over rye bread with mustard.

Pastrami is commonly eaten in a pastrami sandwich.

A pastrami sandwich can be eaten hot or cold, but it’s more commonly heated.

A typical pastrami sandwich consists of rye bread, shaved pastrami, and brown mustard or spicy mustard. Sometimes Swiss cheese is added and served with a dill pickle on the side.

You can eat different types of pastrami:

  • Turkey pastrami — It’s made of turkey breast and is a good option if you want to avoid eating red meat. Turkey pastrami has the same number of calories as beef pastrami (40 calories per 1 oz) [1]. However, it has less protein (4.6 g compared to 5g in beef pastrami). Another difference is the saturated fat content, which is higher in beef pastrami. Overall, turkey pastrami is a healthier option, especially if you’re controlling cholesterol.
  • Red pastrami — Also called New England-style pastrami. It’s rubbed with pepper, paprika, coriander, and mustard seed. The spices keep the meat moist and give it a bright red color together with a short cooking time.
  • Black pastrami — Also called New York-style pastrami. It’s rubbed with black pepper and molasses and fully cooked, which gives it a darker color.

How is Pastrami Different from Corned Beef?

An image of pastrami slices and a knife on a cutting board

Pastrami is different from corned beef in regards to origin, cut type, processing method, nutritional profile, and serving style.

  • Origin — Pastrami is Romanian or Turkish, while corned beef is Irish.
  • Type of cut — Beef is commonly used for both pastrami and corned beef. Beef brisket is used for corned beef. This is the lower area of a cow’s chest. Pastrami comes from the beef plate, shoulder, or naval area.
  • Meat processing — Corned beef is boiled with salt, juniper berries, and fennel seeds, while pastrami uses more spices and is smoked.
  • Nutrition — 1 oz of brisket has 40 calories, 1.5 g of fat, and about 5g of protein. Pastrami doesn’t have enough minerals or vitamins and a lot of sodium (over 300 mg per oz). Corned beef has 71 calories, 5 g of fat, and over 300 mg of sodium per 1 oz [2].
  • Serving style — Both corned beef and pastrami are deli meats but are served differently. Pastrami is mostly used for sandwiches, especially on rye bread. Corned beef is served as Hot Corned beef, Corned Beef Reuben with Russian dressing, and Swiss Cheese, but you can also get a corned beef sandwich.

Overall, these are two different cuts of meat that are seasoned and processed. The similarity is that both pastrami and corned beef use a similar brine that has curing salt.

Read More: Is Corned Beef Healthy?


What Cut of Meat is Pastrami?

Pastrami is the cut of meat that comes from brisket. It can either be the deckle, which is a shoulder cut, or the navel, which is the part below the ribs.

Is the Pastrami Just Corned Beef?

No, the pastrami isn’t just corned beef. These are two different cuts of meat, and the raw meat is processed differently. Corned beef is boiled, while pastrami is smoked and steamed.

Can Pastrami Be Eaten Raw?

Pastrami can’t be eaten raw because this is cooked meat. It only needs to be heated, although it can also be eaten cold.

Why Is It Called Pastrami?

It’s called pastrami because it comes from Romanian pastrama, which is connected to Turkish pastirma and means “to press” or preserve.

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About the author

Iva Carter
Associate Editor
Iva Carter is a FBP certified foodie and influencer who loves to share delicious yet quick dinner recipes. When she's not in the kitchen concocting meaty delights, you'll find her playing with her dog, Sylvie.
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