Corned Beef vs Pastrami: Difference and Comparison

Corned Beef and Pastrami are two cuts of meat that are cured to serve over deli counters across the world. Even though they are often confused to be the same thing, there are major differences between them.

Nowadays, most delis use beef to make corned beef and pastrami. However, they use different parts of the animal to prepare it.

Key Takeaways

  1. Corned beef derives from beef brisket, while pastrami originates from beef navel, brisket, or other cuts.
  2. Corned beef undergoes brining, while pastrami involves smoking and additional spices.
  3. Corned beef features prominently in Irish-American cuisine, while pastrami has roots in Jewish-American culinary traditions.

Corned Beef vs Pastrami

The difference between corned beef and pastrami is that the lower chest of a cow, called brisket, is used to make corned beef, while pastrami can be made out of the deckle of the cow, shoulder cut, navel, or sometimes even the brisket. Moreover, unlike corned beef, pastrami can be made from different meats as well.

Corned Beef vs Pastrami

Corned Beef is a popular cured meat that has its origins in Ireland. However, it was the British who gave this delicious cut of meat its name.


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In the 17th century, very large-sized salt crystals, almost as big as corn kernels, were used to cure this cut of the cow to make corned beef. Hence, the name.

Pastrami is a cured cut of meat that originated either from Romania or Turkey. However, in 1887, delis in New York’s Sussman Volk were the first to put it in a sandwich and serve it.

So, the origins of a pastrami sandwich can be credited to the United States.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonCorned BeefPastrami
OriginCorned Beef is said to have originated in Ireland.Pastrami has originated either from Romania or Turkey.
Type of meatAs the name suggests, corned beef is made out of beef.Pastrami is generally made out of beef; however, pork, mutton, or turkey can also be used instead.
Cuts of meatCorned beef is made out of the brisket, which is the lower chest of a cow.Pastrami can be made out of the brisket, deckle, shoulder cut, or navel.
Spice mixCorned beef is not spiced.A mixture of black pepper, mustard seeds, coriander seeds, and fennel seeds is used as a spice mix for pastrami.
Cooking MethodCorned beef is boiled.Pastrami is smoked over hardwood.
FlavourCorned beef has a bland saltiness along with loads of umami.The flavour of pastrami is rich, luxurious, and punchy.
Fat ContentCorned beef has lower fat content than Pastrami.Pastrami has more fat in it than corned beef does.

What is Corned Beef?

Corned beef is a cured cut of meat that is served in delis across the world. It originated in Ireland and is largely associated with St. Patrick’s Day.

However, it was in the 17th century that the British coined the term for it. This was because it was cured with huge salt crystals, almost as big as the size of corn kernels.

In the 19th century, beef was a luxury for Irish people. So, the people who could not afford it turned towards consuming ham or bacon on St. Patrick’s Day.

However, when Irish people landed on American soil, they found that beef was available there at very cheap rates. Hence, corned beef became a popular choice for Irish American people.

Corned beef is made out of the lower chest of a cow called a brisket. The cut of meat is first cured with salt. Some people add other subtle spices as well. Next, it is boiled in brine, which makes it super tender and juicy.

Once boiled, the piece of meat is sliced and served on sandwiches. It is often cut into long slices and served along with cabbage as a side dish. The cooked meat has a salty taste but is filled with bursts of umami.

corned beef

What is Pastrami?

Technically, pastrami can be referred to as a technology for preserving meat when there’s no refrigerator nearby.

In older times, when people killed large animals like goats or cows, they devised a way to make the meat last for long. They cured it in salt, which killed all the bacteria and helped preserve it.

Nowadays, pastrami is the rich and luxurious tasting meat that delis sell worldwide.

Even though it is generally made with beef, traditional recipes also use lamb, pork, mutton, or turkey. While making it with beef, cuts like the deckle, shoulder, navel, or brisket are used.

The method for preparing and serving pastrami is quite similar to that of corned beef. The first step of the process is curing. Meat is either dry-cured or soaked in salty brine for a long time.

Then, a spice mix made out of black pepper, fennel seeds, mustard seeds, and coriander seeds is rubbed over it. Some people even use garlic to add more flavour.

Next, the meat is smoked over hardwood. This is often done with a pan of water kept nearby. This method generates steam and helps to keep the meat moist. When made, a popular way to serve pastrami is in a sandwich that generally uses rye bread.


Main Differences Between Corned Beef and Pastrami

  1. Corned beef originated in Ireland, while pastrami originated in Romania or Turkey.
  2. Corned beef is made only out of beef, unlike pastrami which can also be made out of lamb, mutton, pork, or turkey.
  3. Corned beef is prepared with the brisket of a cow, while pastrami uses either the deckle, shoulder cut, brisket, or navel.
  4. Corned beef is generally made without any spices, whereas pastrami is rubbed with a spice mix.
  5. Corned beef is boiled, while pastrami is smoked.
  6. Corned beef tastes bland and salty, while pastrami tastes rich and smoky.
  7. Corned beef contains lesser fat than pastrami and also dries out more easily.
Difference Between Corned Beef and Pastrami

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