Pastrami vs Corned Beef: What’s the Difference?

Pastrami and corned beef are similar in that they're both delicious cured meats. However, the two are slightly different. Read on to learn more about pastrami vs corned beef.

When you think of pastrami or corned beef, you likely envision colossal deli sandwiches, savory brunch dishes and heirloom family meals. Both of these juicy, flavorful cured meats are beloved around the world. They may look similar, but there are some subtle differences between pastrami and corned beef that make each one ideal for certain menu items.

Pastrami vs Corned Beef

Let’s start with the basics: pastrami and corned beef are different cuts of meat. In other words, they come from different parts of the cow. But both pastrami and corned beef are cured with spices and salts, giving them a hearty texture and rich flavor.

Here are some of the major differences between the two:

What Is Pastrami?

Pastrami traditionally comes from the navel, closer to the cow’s belly. It’s typically a bit fatty, which adds loads of flavor. When being prepared at the deli, pastrami is seasoned with spices (most often black pepper and coriander), then smoked in order to create its iconic texture and flavor.

Pastrami is typically sliced thick and piled high on sandwiches, like those at New York staple Katz’s Deli.

You’ve got to try these pastrami recipes.

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What Is Corned Beef?

Corned beef is a type of brisket, meaning it comes from the area between the cow’s front legs, or close to its chest. Unlike pastrami, which is smoked, corned beef is boiled or steamed.

Corned beef is most commonly thinly sliced and served between marbled rye bread and topped with Thousand Island Dressing and sauerkraut to make a Reuben sandwich.

It’s also an overwhelmingly popular St. Paddy’s Day fare, served alongside cabbage and carrots. Find out how Grandma brines corned beef at home to make THE perfect corned beef and cabbage.

Here’s what to do with your corned beef.

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Ceara Milligan
Ceara “Kiwi” Milligan is a professional marketing strategist and copywriter who is proud to call Milwaukee home. She loves baking, cooking, writing, listening to music, dancing, playing and hosting trivia, watching college basketball (Go Marquette!), telling lame jokes, and petting every dog that crosses her path.