Venison Pastrami (Smoked, not Steamed)

Venison is often harder to cook than beef due to its low-fat content.

However, one dish that is just as easy to cook as beef if not easier is venison pastrami.

This is an easy venison dish that makes great sandwiches or other snack food such as on crackers or cold meat platters.

What is Venison Pastrami

Venison Pastrami

When thinking of pastrami people often think of juicy beef briskets on the smoker, and they wouldn’t be wrong.

However, this is not the case for venison pastrami. Typically a pastrami is made from brisket, but given how thin venison brisket is this would be a challenging task at best.

Venison pastrami is made from other lean muscle groups that are typically deemed as roasts.

Most of these cuts are from the hind leg, such as top round, bottom round, or my favorite pastrami cut, eye of round.

Brining Venison Pastrami

Venison Pastrami

The first step in making venison pastrami is brining it. 

Brining meat is the process of soaking it in water typically with herbs and spices.

However, in the case of pastrami, you also need to cure the meat, this is done by adding curing salt to your brine.

For a 1lb venison roast, you would need approximately 1.5 grams of curing salt.

The most common curing salt used in the USA today is prague powder, but for this recipe, I used salpeter as it’s what I had on hand, both will work.

Along with the curing salt, you will need to add kosher salt and any other herbs and spices.

Mix all of this in cold water, enough to submerge the meat. Place the meat and the brine in a vacuum bag and place in the refrigerator.

The brining process can take days, 3-5 days usually, the larger the cut of meat the longer you should leave it to cure.

I had a one-pound eye of round and cured it for 3 days.

Venison Pastrami Dry Rub

Venison Pastrami

After the roast is brined it is seasoned with a dry rub. This is one of the key differences between pastrami and corned beef.

Pastrami is flavored with a dry rub and smoked, whereas corned beef has no dry rub and is typically steamed or boiled.

However, some people steam pastrami also, which I will explain in the cooking process below.

For the dry rub, most people use a similar mix as the ingredients used for brining, minus the salt.

A dry rub should be simple and add flavor but not so much that it’s overpowering.

To apply the rub first remove the venison from the brine and rinse in cold water.

Then set in a pot of cold water for 3-4 minutes, this helps extract some salt.

Lay the venison out on a wooden block and pat dry. Drying the meat is essential.

Once patted dry, allow the meat to rest on a wooden block for 15-20 minutes and dry further.

Venison Pastrami

I usually use this time to go and start the grill. Some people will rest the venison in the fridge until the next day, this is also fine to do.

Once the venison is dry it’s time to apply the rub. First, add the spices to a mortar and grind them.

I only lightly grind the spices to make a better texture for the rub.

Next, coat the venison with a thin layer of olive oil.

Sprinkle the rub over the venison and press in firmly with your hands.

Once the cut of venison is easily coated you are ready to move on to smoking.

Methods of Cooking Pastrami

Venison Pastrami

For a meat to be called pastrami it needs to be smoked, otherwise, it would be corned beef as I mentioned above.

But, while all pastramis are smoked, not all pastramis are steamed.

Some people like to smoke and then steam pastrami, and this is the traditional way of doing it.

However, an alternative option is to simply smoke the pastrami to your desired temperature, which is 145F for venison then rest and serve.

Both options are fine, steaming is an extra step to make the meat extra tender, but most often than not the meat will be tender if you smoke to 145F and rest.

Smoking Venison Pastrami

Venison Pastrami

To smoke venison pastrami you need to set up your grill with a heat deflector and a water tray.

Get the temperature to between 150 and 200F. I aim for 185F and try to hold it there.

You will see many recipes for pastrami that say to set the temperature to 225F, but this is not for venison.

It’s been my experience that 225F is too high for venison and drys it out.

The wood choice is entirely personal and all options are good. For pastrami, I prefer cherry as I don’t want it too strong.

Other people prefer an intense smokey flavor for venison pastrami and use hickory. Oak is a good middle-of-the-road option.

Once the pastrami is smoking you will need to spritz it every hour. I use an apple cider spritz, but another good option for pastrami is venison stock.

The smoking time will vary according to size, but you want to pull the pastrami at 145F internal temp.

Again, you will see different temperatures for beef, but this is not beef.

Serving Venison Pastrami

Venison Pastrami

Once the pastrami is cooked and rested, slice it thinly.

You can use a meat slicer or a very sharp knife to slice it as thinly as possible.

Typically venison pastrami is used for sandwiches or served on crackers. I find it’s great meat for a cold meat platter.

Venison Pastrami

Venison Pastrami (smoked, not steamed)

This is an easy venison pastrami recipe that skips the steaming and still leaves you with tender delicate meat, with robust smokey flavor.
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Course: Snack
Cuisine: Wild Game
Keyword: Venison
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Servings: 2


  • 1 lb venison roast see note 1

Venison Pastrami Brine

  • 12 grams kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1.5 grams curing salt see note 2

Venison Pastrami Rub

  • 1 tbsp black pepper
  • 1 tbsp coriander
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tbsp paprika sweet


  • Add all of the brine ingredients, minus the salts, to a mortar and gently crack
  • Add the cracked spices along with the salts to a container and pour over about 2 liters of cold water
  • Add the venison to a vaccum bag and pour over the brine
  • Seal the bag and set in a refigerator. Allow about 4 days for 1 lb of venison
  • Remove the venison from the brine and rinse under running cold water. Set in a container of cold water for 2-3 minutes
  • Remove the venison from the water and pat dry. Set on wooden block and allow to air dry and come to room temperature for 20-30 minutes
  • Set the smoker to about 185. Anywhere from 160-200 is good for smoking venison, I keep around 180-185.
  • Pat the venison again to ensure it's fully dry.
  • Add all of the pastrami rub seasonings to a mortar and crush. I like to stop before it becomes a powder for a better textured rub.
  • Lightly coat the venison is olive oil and sprinkle over the rub and pressing in the rub firmly with my hands
  • Place the venison in the smoker and smoke until the internal temperature is 145-150F. For a 1lb roast this took me a little over 1 hour at 185If you are cooking a larger roast you will need to spritz every hour, I usually do this with venison stock or apple cider.


  1. Any lean venison roast can be used to make pastrami. I like using the eye of round, but this is on the smaller side. Other good cuts would be the top or bottom round.
  2. You will need about 1.5 grams of curing salt per pound of meat. Prague powder number 1 is a common curing salt for pastrami, but other curing salts also work, I frequently use saltpeter.

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