Venison Pastrami – Smoked Venison Deliciousness

Venison pastrami hanging out with some old friends: sauerkraut, swiss, 1000 Island dressing, and rye bread.
Venison pastrami hanging out with some old friends: sauerkraut, swiss, 1000 Island dressing, and rye bread.

Venison roasts. Venison steaks. Ground venison. I just want a sandwich already! Now, while I’ve made some damn delicious venison steak sandwiches, I like options. If you are ready to try a new recipe, make some smoked venison pastrami!

I think a lot of hunters are intimidated when they get into to realm of cured meats, but in the end, the process isn’t complicated. It just takes some time. And a little practice. Start with smaller roasts till you learn to get the flavor you like – 2 lbs of lunch meat that came out too salty goes WAY faster than 6 lbs..

Pastrami starts with a brining process, commonly called corning, which I’ve covered here. Once you’ve corned the roast, you have the option to braise/boil it, or smoke it into a pastrami.

If you smoke the brined result directly, it’s too salty for my tastes. To determine if it’s to your preferred salt level, slice off a thin piece and fry it up. If it’s too salty, soak it in water. I find that if you soak it for two hours, changing the water once about halfway through, it’s just about perfect. Again, if in doubt, slice and fry another piece for a taste test.

The next thing to do is to apply a rub. Here’s the rub I use:

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup paprika
  • 3 tablespoons of coriander seed
  • 4 tablespoons of brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of peppercorns
  • 2 tablespoons of mustard seed
  • 1 tablespoon of white peppercorns
  • 2 heads of garlic, minced

Process:

Put the peppercorns, coriander and mustard seeds in a spice grinder, and do a coarse grind. Then mix everything thoroughly together in a bowl.

Rub it thoroughly over the roast, getting a nice coating.

Throw the roast in a smoker and smoke it until the internal temperature reaches 160°. If your smoker doesn’t have a food temperature probe built in, I strongly recommend getting a one for it. It saves you from having to open the smoker to check the temperature.

When it’s up to temp, let it cool, then slice up for sandwiches. While it is quite tasty cold, it is AMAZING heated up a little. Throw it in a pan with some swiss cheese on top, just till the cheese get’s melty. OR, use a panini press. It heats the meat/filling up while grilling the bread at the same time.

How to Cure Corned Venison

With just a few ingredients and a little time, you can easily corn any meat.
With just a few ingredients and a little time, you can easily corn any meat.

One day, I was doing some random searching on wild game meals. I came across a recipe for corned venison. Venison corned beef? Mind. Blown. You can CORN venison?! I LOVE corned beef, so I had to try it out.

I’ve corned a good half dozen or so venison roasts, and learned a few things along the way. Once you corn it (soak it in a brine solution for a few days to a few weeks), there are two main ways to can prepare it. Boil/braise it and you have your classic corned “beef”. Coat it with various seasonings and throw it in a smoker, and you have pastrami. Yup, they are the same thing up till you get to the cooking part.

Here I’ll cover the basic brining, and I’ll cover the magical transformation to the end pastrami/corned beast in other posts. This may seem like a lot of work to some people, but in the end, there’s about 15 minutes of prep time, then a lot of letting time do it’s thing.

Corned Venison Sirloin Tip
The Sirloin Tip is a great choice for corning your venison.

The Cut
You can corn ANY cut of venison, however, it may be considered a crime if your corn the loins/tenderloins. Corning is brining. Brining is taking a tough cut of meat, chemically assaulting it, and turning it into something tasty that you can actually chew. You’ve heard of corned beef brisket. You have NOT heard of beef brisket steak. Hopefully. Now, the final cooking method will have just as much to do with the tenderness, this is the starting point. Venison brisket is just too small. Same for shoulder roasts – I want to be able to slice the end product thin and make a sandwich. So, hind quarters it is.

I like to use the sirloin tip or the combination of the rump roast muscles: top round, bottom round, eye of round  (all 3 kept together). The sirloin tip is a nice small football shape, and will not have any connective tissue in it – great for clean looking sandwich slicing. The rump roast is bigger in comparison, so even bigger slices of meat can be had. It also has a bit of grizzle in it, but nothing that is a deal breaker. It does NOT taste gamy – the fibers are just chewy. I’ll usually just pull out any obnoxious chunks when I actually make my sandwich.

Ingredients:

  • An up to 5 lb venison roast. Double the recipe for larger cuts.
  • 1/2 gallon distilled water
  • 2/3 cup kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 5 tablespoons pickling spice
  • 3 teaspoons Instacure #1
  • 1 head of garlic chopped. If it’s small, go with 2

Process:
Put everything except the venison in a pot. Bring it to a boil to get the sugar and salt to dissolve.

Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. I like to stick it in the fridge because I’m impatient.

Once it’s cool, find a container that can hold the roast and enough brine to keep it submerged. I like to use the Briner Jr. You want something plastic or enameled, not metallic.

Put the roast in with the brine, make sure it’s covered, and put it in the fridge. Now the tricky part: timing.

Small roasts will need less time, large roasts more time. In my experience, you can’t go too long. A 5 lb roast will take about a week. A 2 lb roast may only need a few days. I kept a 7 lb roast in for 2 weeks. You need to keep it in the brine long enough for the salt/sodium nitrite to permeate the whole roast. If you take it out too soon, it’s not a problem – the flavor just may not be as strong, and you may end up with some brown sections in the middle when you cook it. The sodium nitrate keeps the meat a nice pink color. Where it doesn’t get to will just be the natural brown of cooked venison.

Swirl or stir the container everyday it’s in the fridge to ensure good spice/salt concentrations. Take it out and rinse it thoroughly after the appropriate number of days. Don’t leave any spices on. Discard the brine – do not reuse it.

That’s all there is to it! From here, you can follow your normal corned beef or pastrami recipe.