Before Ordering Your Next Sandwich, Know the Difference Between Pastrami and Corned Beef


know, there's hardly a better meal out there than a classic . Layered with tender meat, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and tangy dressing, it's downright irresistible. But are Reubens better with corned beef or pastrami, and is there even a difference? When it comes to placing your order at the deli counter, you're going to want to know the answer.

It turns out, corned beef and pastrami are two totally different meats. For one, their flavors aren't the same. (Both will taste salty, but pastrami has a little extra spice and flavor while corned beef is plainer.) They also have their own unique origins and preparations, along with different ways to serve them. Read on to find out everything you need to know about corned beef and pastrami and which one of these delicious meats you should be making for



Ralph Smith

What is pastrami?

Pastrami is a classic Jewish-American deli meat that's made from a couple of different cuts of beef called the navel and the deckle. It's less often made with brisket (but can sometimes be made from or , too). Pastrami is brined in a very similar solution to the brine used for corned beef: lots of salt, some sugar, and spices like black peppercorns, cloves, dill, juniper berries, and bay leaves. The main difference here is that after curing in the brine, pastrami is rubbed with a flavorful spice mix made from fennel and mustard seeds, coriander, black peppercorns, brown sugar, and garlic. This rub gives the meat a dark, flavorful crust. Once the pastrami is seasoned, it is slowly smoked. When you get ready to serve it, steam the pastrami to reheat it and make it meltingly tender.


How do you eat pastrami?

Traditionally, pastrami is thinly sliced and piled high (and we do mean high!) onto a sandwich. To keep with tradition, stick with rye bread, and don't forget a squirt of mustard! Pastrami has a deeply savory, salty, and smoky flavor, and a little mustard provides some balancing tang. This deli meat is best served warm, so be sure to steam it before you pile it onto bread.

What is corned beef?

Corned beef is a that's made from that's been cured in a solution of salt and spices like coriander, mustard seeds, bay leaves, juniper berries, and black peppercorns. Pink salt (sodium nitrite) is also used in the curing process and is what gives corned beef its pinkish hue. (Curing meat in salt used to be a way to preserve it before refrigeration.) Corned beef briskets you buy at the supermarket have already been cured, so all that's left to do is cook it! Corned beef can be boiled on the stovetop or slowly baked in the oven. Both methods take several hours, depending on the size of the brisket. You'll notice that most corned beef briskets come with a spice packet attached. We recommend sprinkling and rubbing it onto the meat for baking, or adding it to the water for boiling for a boost of flavor.

How do you eat corned beef?

Corned beef is the star of a Reuben sandwich where it's sliced and piled onto marble or regular rye bread with sauerkraut, Swiss, and Russian or Thousand Island dressing. And while a is delicious, that's not the only way to eat it. For a , try it served as a whole roast with and . can be repurposed for a or for breakfast.

Is a Reuben better with corned beef or pastrami?


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