Skinned and boned thighs of the chicken are the best material for making chicken pastrami. It is very easy to remove the bone from a chicken thigh. First, lay the thigh skin-side-down on a cutting board. Locate the bone with your fingers, and make a long slit through the flesh that is on top of the bone. Stroke along the bone with the tip of the knife. The flesh will gradually “peel” away from the bone. Remove the skin.
Next, rinse with cold water and drain. Put the meat on paper towels with newspaper underneath to absorb the water that is on the bottom surface. Blot the top surface with paper towels. Refrigerate until chilled.
PASTRAMI CURE MIX FOR 5 LBS. (2.5 KG) OF MEAT
- 3 Tbsp. (45 ml) Bradley Sugar Cure
(Do not use more than this amount.)
- 2 tsp. (10 ml) garlic powder
- 2 tsp. (10 ml) onion powder
- 1 tsp. (5 ml) red pepper
- 1 tsp. (5 ml) white pepper
- 1 tsp. (5 ml) oregano
- 1 tsp. (5 ml) paprika
- 1/2 tsp. (2.5 ml) allspice
- 1/2 tsp. (2.5 ml) powdered ginger
- (A small amount of light corn syrup and coarsely ground pepper are also required.)
Note: If the meat weighs either more or less than 5 pounds (2.25 kg), the amount of cure mix applied must be proportional to that weight. For example, if the weight of the meat is 2 1/2 pounds (1.15 kg), then each ingredient, including the Bradley Cure, needs to be cut in half.
- Weigh the skinned and boned thighs. If more than one curing container will be used, calculate separately the total weight of the meat that will be placed in each container. Prepare, calculate, and measure the required amount of curing mixture for each container
- Place the meat in the curing container(s). Rub the cure mix on all surfaces evenly. Cover, and refrigerate. The curing time should be one week. The refrigerator temperature should be set between 34° and 40° F (2.2° to 4.4° C).
- Overhaul the pieces of meat after about 12 hours of curing. (Overhaul means to rub the surfaces of the meat to redistribute the cure.) Be sure to wet the meat with any liquid that may have accumulated in the bottom of the curing container.
- Overhaul the thighs about every other day until the required curing time (one week) has elapsed.
- When the curing is finished, rinse each piece of meat very well in cool water. Drain in a colander, and blot with a paper towel.
- Use a basting brush to "paint" each thigh with light corn syrup, or honey diluted with a little water (this will help the pepper stick to the meat). Wait for a few minutes until the surface becomes tacky. Sprinkle and press on coarsely ground pepper.
- Place as many thighs as possible on a paper towel, which has been placed on several layers of newspaper. Cover this with another paper towel and more newspaper. On top of this, continue to layer the paper and thighs in the same way. Refrigerate overnight.
- Place the cured thighs on smoking racks or in smoking baskets. Dry at about 140° F (60° C) until the surface is dry (about an hour). Do not use smoke during the drying period.
- To avoid excessive drying and excessively dark coloration, smoke the chicken at less than 85° F (30° C), if possible. Smoke the chicken pastrami for 3 to 6 hours, depending on how smoky you want the meat. Raise the temperature to about 145° F (63° C) for an hour or two toward the end of the smoking time if darker coloration is desired.
Steaming or roasting
The smoked pastrami may be roasted in an oven, or steamed. In either case, the pastrami is done when the internal temperature is 180° F (82° C). An aluminum foil tent should be used if the pastrami is cooked in an oven. If it is steamed, wrap each piece of pastrami in plastic food wrap before steaming, and use an electronic meat thermometer with a cable probe to monitor the internal temperature. (A steamer may be improvised by using a large pan with an elevated rack inside; cover with a lid.)
Note: If the salt taste is too mild, add about 1 teaspoon of salt to the ingredients list the next time you make chicken pastrami. If the salt taste is too strong, reduce the amount of Bradley Cure by about 1 teaspoon.
Instructions prepared by Warren R. Anderson, author of Mastering the Craft of Smoking Food.
The dark meat of the chicken must be used for chicken pastrami. The Bradley Cure will fix the red color of the dark chicken meat in the same way that it fixes the red color of beef when beef is cured to make pastrami. Thighs are best for chicken pastrami.
Pastrami is thoroughly cooked. Depending on the processor, it is steamed, hot smoked, boiled, oven roasted, or possibly even grilled. (Hot smoking can cause excessive drying. Oven roasting, too, can cause excessive drying unless precautions are taken.)