Pastrami vs Corned Beef – Find Out the Difference Between!

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pastrami vs corned beef

When selecting your next sandwich meat, you may be torn between pastrami and corned beef. You know both come from different parts of a cow, but how exactly are they made?

In this guide, we’ll tell you all about the similarities and differences between pastrami and corned beef.

Pastrami vs Corned Beef: Pastrami and corned beef are both prepared meats made to last a long time without refrigeration. They are both prepared with salt, although pastrami is also rubbed with other spices. Corned beef uses rock salt, also called salt corns, to better preserve it. While pastrami is smoked during its cooking method, corned beef is boiled. Both types of meats come out with a tender texture to them. They are often sliced and are popular sandwich mainstays.

What is Pastrami?

what is pastrami

Pastrami began as a solution to preserving meat without a refrigerator. It has origins in Romania and is now found throughout Europe, Canada, and the United States.

To make pastrami, beef brisket is usually used, although some variations use lamb or turkey. The raw cut of beef brisket is first brined in a salt water solution.

It is then dried before being rubbed down with spices and herbs such as black pepper, garlic, coriander, cloves, and mustard seed.

Finally, the meat is smoked and then steamed. If you don’t have a beef brisket cut of meat, you can also use beef plate or beef round.

Pastrami has been cooked thoroughly when the connective tissues of the beef break down. It can be served sliced or shredded.

What is Corned Beef?

what is corned beef

Corned beef has its origins in Europe and the Middle East and became popular in World War I and World War II because it was able to keep for so long.

Despite its name, there is no corn in corned beef. Instead, large pieces of rock salt are used which are also called corns of salt. In addition to the salt, sugar and some spices are also used to create its flavor.

Salt is composed of sodium nitrate and this helps to preserve meat. It decreases the risk of botulism, making meat safer to consumer, even if it has been cooked previously.

Corned beef is cooked by boiling it. The length it takes to cook will depend on the weight of your beef. Once cooked, it is sliced and served.

Does pastrami taste like corned beef?

While pastrami and corned beef are both cuts of meat usually from cows, they do have different tastes. Corned beef primarily uses salt to flavor the meat while pastrami uses many different spices.

In addition, corned beef has a slightly juicier flavor to it because it is boiled in preparation. Pastrami can taste a bit drier because it is slow-roasted in a smoker.

Difference Between Pastrami vs Corned Beef

difference between pastrami vs corned beef


Both pastrami and corned beef need some preparation to them. They both start with large cuts of meat and these need to be seasoned.

Pastrami is the more flavorful of the two dishes because of the amount of spices used. A common mixture will include salt, black pepper, garlic, coriander, and more.

In contrast, corned beef is usually just seasoned with rock salt. However, you can add more seasonings to corned beef if you want.


How the two types of meat are cooked is very different. Pastrami is smoked with hardwoods for its flavor. These can include oak, hickory, and maple.

Usually when pastrami is being smoked a pan of water will be included to introduce more steam to the method and keep the meat moister

Meanwhile, corned beef is cooked by being boiled. While it can be boiled with other foods, such as cabbage for more flavoring, it is often simply boiled on its own.

Boiling corned beef can take quite a while, depending on how large the cut of meat is. Be sure to weigh your beef first so you can determine the cooking time.

You will want to boil your beef for about 1 hour for every pound it weighs.

Type of Beef

While beef is the most common source of meat for pastrami and corned beef, different types of cuts are used. Corned beef is usually made from brisket, which is the lower chest area of a cow.

Meanwhile, pastrami is made from either the navel area of the cow, called beef plate or the shoulder.

However, pastrami can sometimes be made from brisket and you can even find turkey pastrami.


1 ounce of pastrami has 41 calories and 1.6 grams of fat. It also has 6 grams of protein.

While pastrami doesn’t have a lot of vitamins and minerals, it does have a lot of sodium. Expect 248 mg of sodium for every ounce.

1 ounce of corned beef has 56 calories and 4 grams of fat. It also has 4 grams of protein.

You can find 345 grams of sodium in every ounce. The high sodium content is due to how the corned beef is prepared, as it requires a large amount of rock salt.


Despite being two types of meat, pastrami and corned beef have very different ways of being served.

Corned beef is often associated with Jewish delis in New York City or with Irish heritage and meals served on St. Patrick’s Day. If you order a Reuben sandwich, the meat used will be corned beef.

Pastrami is often used in sandwiches. Thick layers of pastrami on rye bread, often served with pickles, is a common concoction.

Which is healthier corned beef or pastrami?

While corned beef and pastrami share similar nutritional elements with regards to fat content and protein, they differ in sodium. Because of how corned beef is prepared, its sodium content is a lot higher than pastrami.

Based on this factor, pastrami is slightly healthier than corned beef.


Corned beef and pastrami are both prepared beef dishes. While pastrami is smoked in preparation, corned beef is boiled.

They are both types of meat that have a long shelf life and taste yummy in a sandwich.

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