Pastrami Vs Corned Beef

Are you a fan of deli meats? If so, you’ve probably come across pastrami and corned beef on the menu. These two popular choices offer unique flavor profiles and are staples in delis and sandwich shops. Let’s dive deeper into the world of pastrami and corned beef to understand the differences and discover their delicious qualities.

Key Takeaways:

  • Pastrami and corned beef are both beloved deli meats with distinct tastes and textures.
  • Pastrami has its roots in Romania and Turkey, while corned beef hails from Ireland.
  • The cuts of meat used for pastrami and corned beef differ, with pastrami often made from the deckle or navel and corned beef from the brisket.
  • Both meats undergo a brining process, but pastrami has a unique spice mix that sets it apart.
  • Pastrami is traditionally smoked, while corned beef is boiled, resulting in different flavors and textures.

Now that we’ve set the stage for our comparison, let’s explore the origins, cuts of meat, brine and spice mixes, cooking methods, serving styles, and even nutrition aspects of these delectable deli meats. Whether you’re a pastrami enthusiast or a corned beef connoisseur, this article will help you appreciate the nuances and make informed choices when savoring these classic deli meats.

Stay tuned for upcoming sections to discover the intriguing details about pastrami and corned beef, from their countries of origin to the ways they’re prepared and served. Let’s embark on this delightful deli meat journey together!

Countries of Origin

Understanding the origins of pastrami and corned beef adds an intriguing layer to these beloved deli meats. Let’s uncover their fascinating histories.


Pastrami’s origin has two possible ancestries: Romanian or Turkish. In Romania, its predecessor, pastrama, was traditionally made with pork or mutton. Turkish pastrami, known as pastirma, is made with beef.

Corned Beef:

Corned beef, on the other hand, hails from the green landscapes of Ireland. With St. Patrick’s Day celebrations often featuring this flavorful meat, corned beef has become synonymous with Irish cuisine.

To help you visualize the countries of origin, here’s an image of ingredients commonly associated with pastrami and corned beef:

Pastrami and Corned Beef Ingredients

Cuts of Meat

When it comes to pastrami and corned beef, the cuts of meat used are different, resulting in distinct flavors and textures. Corned beef is typically made from the brisket, which is a cut that comes from the lower chest of the cow. It is a flavorful and tender cut, perfect for slow cooking and brining to achieve that signature corned beef taste.

Pastrami, on the other hand, can be made from two different cuts of beef. One option is the deckle, which is a lean shoulder cut known for its rich marbling and tenderness. The other option is the navel, a smaller and juicier section found below the ribs. Both cuts bring their unique characteristics to pastrami, adding depth of flavor and succulence to this beloved deli meat.

It’s worth noting that while brisket is commonly used for corned beef, it can also be used for making pastrami. The choice of cut can influence the overall taste and texture of the final product, giving each variety its own special appeal.

Pastrami cuts and Corned Beef cuts

In the image above, you can see a visual representation of the different cuts of meat used for pastrami and corned beef.

Brine and Spice Mixes

Both pastrami and corned beef undergo a brining process before cooking, enhancing their flavors and ensuring tenderness. During this step, the meats are submerged or rubbed with a mixture of salt, sugar, black pepper, cloves, coriander, bay leaves, juniper berries, dill, and preserving agents like sodium nitrate or sodium nitrite.

However, the brining process for pastrami includes a specific spice mix that sets it apart from corned beef. Pastrami is seasoned with a combination of black pepper, coriander, mustard seeds, fennel seeds, and sometimes fresh garlic. This spice mix adds a distinctive flavor profile to pastrami, complementing the smokiness and richness of the meat.

Pastrami brine and spice mix

Cooking Methods

The cooking methods for pastrami and corned beef differ significantly, resulting in distinct flavors and textures for each meat.

Pastrami Cooking Method

Pastrami is traditionally prepared by smoking the meat over hardwood, such as hickory or oak. This smoking process infuses the meat with a rich smoky flavor and helps to tenderize it. To create a moist cooking environment, a pan of water is often placed near the meat to produce steam. The combination of smoke and steam results in a juicy and flavorful pastrami.

Corned Beef Cooking Method

On the other hand, corned beef is typically boiled to perfection. The meat is submerged in water or broth and cooked slowly over low heat. Sometimes, additional ingredients like cabbage, potatoes, and carrots are added to the cooking liquid to enhance the flavors. Boiling corned beef allows it to become tender and juicy while preserving its traditional taste.

Both pastrami and corned beef cooking methods require patience and attention to detail to achieve the desired results. Whether you prefer the smoky goodness of pastrami or the boiled tenderness of corned beef, these cooking methods play a critical role in creating the unique characteristics of each deli meat.

Pastrami and Corned Beef Cooking Methods

Similarities and Montreal Smoked Meat

Despite their distinct differences, there are some notable similarities between pastrami and corned beef. Both meats undergo a similar curing process, which involves brining the meat to enhance its flavor and preserve it without refrigeration. This technique has been used for centuries and has played a significant role in the culinary traditions of various cultures.

One noteworthy creation that draws inspiration from both these deli meats is Montreal smoked meat. This Canadian specialty takes the best elements of pastrami and corned beef and adds its own unique twist. Made with brisket, Montreal smoked meat undergoes a brining process similar to corned beef. However, it is then seasoned with a distinctive blend of black pepper, coriander, garlic, and mustard seeds. Afterward, it is smoked to perfection, resulting in a rich, flavorful meat that is beloved by many.

Montreal smoked meat can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. It is commonly served on rye bread as a sandwich, with a generous amount of thinly sliced meat layered between the slices. This delectable and savory sandwich is often accompanied by mustard and pickles, adding an extra burst of flavor to each bite.

To give you a better idea of the similarities between pastrami, corned beef, and Montreal smoked meat, here’s a table that compares their key attributes:

Attribute Pastrami Corned Beef Montreal Smoked Meat
Curing Process Brining Brining Brining
Main Spice Ingredients Black pepper, coriander, mustard seeds, fennel seeds, garlic (optional) Salt, sugar, black pepper, cloves, coriander, bay leaves, juniper berries, dill Black pepper, coriander, garlic, mustard seeds
Meat Used Beef (deckle, navel, or brisket) Beef (brisket) Beef (brisket)
Cooking Method Smoking and steaming Boiling Smoking
Origin United States Ireland Canada

As you can see, pastrami, corned beef, and Montreal smoked meat share some commonalities, but each has its own distinct characteristics that contribute to their unique flavors and textures.

Similarities between Pastrami and Corned Beef

Nutrition Count

Understanding the nutrition content of pastrami and corned beef can help you make informed dietary choices. While both meats offer a flavorful experience, it is important to consider their nutritional profiles.

Pastrami Nutrition

Pastrami typically contains approximately 40-41 calories, 1.5g of fat, and 5-6g of protein per ounce. However, it is worth noting that pastrami has a high sodium content due to the brining process, which can contribute to increased sodium intake in your diet.

Corned Beef Nutrition

On the other hand, corned beef has a slightly higher calorie count compared to pastrami, with around 56 calories per ounce. Corned beef also contains approximately 4g of fat and 4g of protein per ounce. Similar to pastrami, corned beef has a higher sodium content due to the brining process.

It is essential to consume both pastrami and corned beef in moderation due to their sodium content. When enjoying these deli meats, consider balancing your overall sodium intake with other low-sodium food choices throughout the day.

Calories Fat (g) Protein (g) Sodium (mg)
Pastrami (per ounce) 40-41 1.5 5-6 High
Corned Beef (per ounce) 56 4 4 Higher

Serving Styles

When it comes to serving styles, pastrami and corned beef offer a variety of delicious options to satisfy your cravings. Let’s take a closer look at how these two deli meats can be enjoyed:


Pastrami is most commonly served as a sandwich on traditional rye bread, with the star of the show being the layers of thinly sliced pastrami. One popular choice is the Black Pastrami Reuben, which combines the rich flavors of pastrami with tangy sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, and Russian dressing. This iconic sandwich is a favorite among deli enthusiasts and food lovers alike.

Corned Beef

Corned beef is also a beloved deli meat and is frequently enjoyed as a sandwich. The Hot Corned Beef sandwich is a classic option that features tender corned beef piled high on bread, often accompanied by a tangy Russian dressing and the creaminess of Swiss cheese. Another delectable choice is the Corned Beef Reuben, which combines corned beef with sauerkraut and Thousand Island dressing on rye bread.

Aside from sandwiches, corned beef can also be served as a whole roast, making it a centerpiece for a hearty and flavorful meal. It pairs perfectly with cabbage and potatoes, creating a traditional dish that is often enjoyed on St. Patrick’s Day.

Whether you prefer the bold and smoky flavors of pastrami or the savory and tender taste of corned beef, these serving styles provide a range of options to satisfy your palate.

Pastrami Serving Styles Corned Beef Serving Styles
Pastrami Sandwich Hot Corned Beef Sandwich
Black Pastrami Reuben Corned Beef Reuben
Served on Rye Bread Served on Rye Bread
Roast with Cabbage and Potatoes

Health Comparison

When it comes to deli meats, considering their health benefits is essential. Both pastrami and corned beef offer similar essential nutrients such as protein and fat. However, there are some key differences in nutritional content that make pastrami a healthier option compared to corned beef.

One significant factor to consider is the sodium content. While both pastrami and corned beef may contain sodium due to the brining process, pastrami tends to have a lower sodium content compared to corned beef. Consuming excessive amounts of sodium can increase the risk of high blood pressure and other health issues, so it’s important to moderate intake.

To better understand the health benefits, take a look at the following comparison:

Pastrami Corned Beef
Calories (per ounce) 40-41 56
Total Fat (per ounce) 1.5g 4g
Protein (per ounce) 5-6g 4g
Sodium (per ounce) Lower Higher

While pastrami may be a healthier option in terms of sodium content, it’s important to remember that moderation is key when consuming deli meats, as they can still contribute to sodium intake. Balancing your diet with a variety of other nutritious foods is essential for overall health.


After exploring the differences between pastrami and corned beef, it is clear that these deli meats have their own unique characteristics and flavors.

Pastrami, with its origins in Romania and Turkey, is made from cuts like deckle or navel, and is characterized by its specific spice mix and smoking process. It is commonly enjoyed in sandwiches like the Black Pastrami Reuben.

In contrast, corned beef, originating from Ireland, is made from brisket and does not have a specific spice mix. It is traditionally boiled and often served in sandwiches like the Hot Corned Beef or Corned Beef Reuben.

Whether you prefer the peppery and smoky flavors of pastrami or the hearty and savory taste of corned beef, understanding these differences will help you appreciate the distinct qualities of each deli meat and make informed choices based on your own personal preferences.

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