Recipe: How to Make Elk Pastrami

I've shared a venison pastrami recipe with you in the past, but here's a little different process that works well with multiple cuts of meat. Instead of utilizing a dry curing process, this recipe is for a brine I adapted from Ruhlman and Polcyn's book Charcuterie. I dialed back the sweetness a little bit by omitting the white sugar and doubled the brown sugar. I also stuck with my original pastrami spice recipe which calls for garlic powder.

I had several smaller pieces of flap meat cut from the brisket area of my Utah bull. These were thinner cuts—no more than 1 ½ inches thick—so I was able to soak and smoke all of them at once. Because they were thin, my brine time was also fairly short. I let them soak for just three days. For any thicker cut of meat, such as the flat round roast or blade roast, I’d probably let them soak for five days.

While the process to create a delicious, moist pastrami from elk, deer, or other venison requires a few steps, it’s really not that difficult. The end result is well worth the time, transforming a tough cut that might otherwise get tossed in the grinder into something sublime. I’ve been eating hot pastrami on rye sandwiches for a week, and I don’t see me getting sick of them anytime soon.

Elk Pastrami

Ingredients
5 lbs. of elk or deer brisket or flat round roast

Brine
1 gallon water
1 ½ cups kosher salt
1 cup brown sugar
8 tsp. Instacure No. 1 (pink salt)
2 Tbsp. pickling spice
¼ cup honey

Rub
3 Tbsp. black pepper
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. garlic powder

Directions
1. In a large pot set over medium heat, whisk together the water and brine ingredients. Lightly simmer until the salt and sugar are fully dissolved. Remove the pot from the heat and, when cool, transfer to the refrigerator.
2. Once the brine has chilled, add the meat. Place a plate or other weight on top to ensure the meat stays fully submerged. Refrigerate for 3 to 5 days, depending on the thickness of the meat.
3. At the end of the curing period, remove the meat from the brine and rinse thoroughly. If you're worried about the finished product being too salty, soak the roast in a bowl of cold water for a few hours or overnight. Remove the roast from the soaking water, rinse and dry thoroughly.
4. Combine the rub ingredients and coat the meat well. On thinner cuts, consider rubbing only one side.
5. Preheat a smoker to 200-225 degrees. Once it reaches temp, add the meat and hot-smoke it until the internal temperature of the meat reaches 150 degrees.
6. Preheat your oven to 275 degrees.
7. Remove the meat from the smoker and place on a rack in a roasting pan. Add about an inch of game or beef stock to the pan, seal tightly with foil and place in the oven. Steam for 1 to 2 hours, or until the meat is tender.