Where Does Pastrami Come From? Fascinating Deli Meat Facts For Kids

Oluniyi Akande
Jan 24, 2024 By Oluniyi Akande
Originally Published on Oct 12, 2021
Beef pastrami slices on cutting board.
Age: 3-18
Read time: 7.6 Min

The world-famous pastrami is usually made from beef, brisket, pork, turkey, or lamb.

It is seasoned with a mixture of garlic, spices, mustard seeds, black pepper, and herbs. The raw meat of pastrami is partially dried, brined, smoked, and steamed.

Corned beef and pastrami are quite similar. Originally, pastrami, like corned beef, was created to preserve meat before the invention of the refrigerator. The New York and the American Jewish deli cuisine created the iconic pastrami sandwich, which was a serving of hot pastrami at delicatessens as a pastrami sandwich. For example, pastrami on rye. The name 'pastrami' comes from the Romanian variant 'pastrama'. It is a Romanian conjugation of the verb 'pastra' which in Romanian means 'to keep food for a long duration, to conserve food'. It is also claimed that the word ‘pastrima’ came from a Greek word meaning 'dried meat'. The traditional cutting of the meat is on a beef plate to make pastrami. In the United States, it is now common for pastrami to be made from turkey, beef brisket, and beef round primal cut. The central part of the plate which is the beef navel is generally made in New York City, the city is also famous for its pastrami sandwich.

Let’s keep reading to learn more about this delicious meat that is loved all over the world! Afterward, you must also check out where does pepperoni come from and where does paprika come from.

What is pastrami and what animal does it come from?

Pastrami is known to be a cold cut of beef or deli meat. There are many different cuts of pastrami meat like the short and round rib of a cow or the most common one, the plate cut, which is the navel end of beef made from brisket. It is seasoned with sugar and spices, rubbed with salt, smoked and dry-cured, and finally, cooked by either steaming or boiling. You may also be wondering what the difference is between deli pastrami meat and corned beef. While both corned beef and pastrami are made of brisket, the difference is in the way the deli meat is processed and the different cuts of beef.

The highly fattened navel end made from the first cut of brisket is what pastrami meat is made of. Though both pastrami and corned beef are salt-curing brine, corned beef is boiled while pastrami meat can also smoked. The deli meat of pastrami is also well-known to be used in sandwiches. In a sandwich, pastrami can be served cold or hot, but it is usually served hot. Pastrami on rye is a famous and classic sandwich made by the delicatessens in New York. This sandwich consists of shaved pastrami, rye bread, spicy brown mustard seed, and an option for cheese, typically Swiss cheese. A kosher dill pickle is served on the side of the sandwich. New York-style pastrami is generally the black pastrami that has a dark color as it is fully cooked and rubbed with molasses and pepper coriander. The red pastrami is often referred to as the New England style pastrami.

Is pastrami healthier than turkey?

Pastrami is famous for being known as a New York classic, but it was originally made of goose breast when it first originated in Romania. As most people know, New York pastrami is made from beef which is then soaked in cured brine, steamed, and smoked to make the meat tender. Unlike other meats like salami and bologna, pastrami is low in both fat and calories, but high in sodium. Getting too much sodium in your system can lead to you having health problems like heart disease and increased blood pressure.

If you want to manage your sodium intake or avoid eating red meat, turkey pastrami is the perfect replacement for it! It is made from turkey breast and has approximately the same number of calories as beef pastrami. There are 42 calories present in one serving of pastrami made with beef. The protein content is slightly lower in turkey compared to beef pastrami with a weight 0.2 oz (6 g). Pastrami made from turkey has a protein content of 0.16 oz (4.5 g). However, the big difference between these deli meats is the saturated fat content. In beef pastrami, a majority of the fat in it is saturated, which is why turkey pastrami is said to be the better option to keep your cholesterol level under control. It is also considered as the healthier option, compared to beef pastrami. Turkey pastrami meat will also contribute greatly to your ability to process information and your immune system.

Roast beef pastrami on wooden board with fresh rosemary.

Is pastrami processed meat?

A way to preserve processed meats is by curing, smoking, adding preservatives, or adding salt. Bacon, salami, ham, pork, bologna, and pastrami are all processed meats. Pastrami is also a deli meat and all deli meats are known to be processed. However, pastrami is not said to be a bad meat to eat. As long as you limit how much you eat, you can avoid developing any of the diseases that come with a high of consumption of pastrami. Pastrami with rye bread is a good combination to eat as rye bread has whole grains in it which is healthy.

You may think that corned beef is healthier than pastrami, but you will be surprised to know that pastrami is slightly healthier than corned beef! While most of the meat properties remain the same, they differ in sodium levels. The sodium levels are a bit higher in corned beef than in pastrami. This is why it is said to be healthier than corned beef. Apart from this, there are quite a lot of differences between pastrami and corned beef. They have different mixes of spices. In pastrami after the brining is done, it is seasoned with coriander, mustard seeds, black pepper, fresh garlic, and fennel seeds. It gives the pastrami a blackened coating of spices. In corned beef, there is no seasoning of spice done as such.

Both of these meats also have different cooking methods. Corned beef is boiled, sometimes with a few pieces of cabbages and some other ingredients too. Pastrami is smoked meat where the smoking is done over hardwood. Often, a pan of water is kept nearby, to help in keeping the meat moist and steaming it. After it is steamed, it is set aside to cool down and then served. One similarity they do have is that they have the same brine. To infuse more flavor and moisture in the meats, it is brined. Both pastrami and corned beef are salt-cured brined in a mixture of coriander, cloves, black pepper, juniper berries, bay leaves, and their preservatives of sodium nitrite.

Why is pastrami so expensive?

Pastrami, one of the most famous delis meats in New York, is expensive because of the way it is made. Pastrami meat is processed in many different ways. The meat is first brined like they do for corned beef. It is then seasoned and dried, smoked, and lastly, steamed. This long process of preparing pastrami is done before the meat is shaved down, nicely placed on rye or any other bread. Furthermore, it is then wrapped in deli paper, sliced into two pieces, a delicious pickle is added, and it's good to go.

Now we can see why pastrami is so expensive because the process to prepare it is so elaborative. Originally, Eastern Europe was responsible for creating pastrami to preserve meat. Goose breasts were used to make pastrami as they were considered cheaper. When pastrami arrived in America in the late 19th century, it was quite expensive and they started using more beef as it was inexpensive. The preparation of pastrami has changed a bit from what it was in the olden days. Back then, placing meats in sandbags was the original process of preparing pastrami. But now, the pastrami is made from brined beef consisting of spices, salt, and sugar. It is then seasoned with dry spice, drying it for many days, and getting it smoked for several hours. It appears pink due to the pink curing salt used.

The process of preparing pastrami may be lengthy, but it is worth it once you get a taste of it. It is also considered healthy because it contains low calories and fat. Pastrami also has a good amount of protein present in it. It is said to be one of the best deli meats out there. As long as you don’t have a heart condition, pastrami is considered healthy. Compared to bologna and salami, it is said to be a much better form of meat. Pastrami, however, contains a high amount of sodium. It isn’t as high as corned beef, but it is still pretty high. It should be eaten in moderation.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for where does pastrami come from? Fascinating deli meat facts for kids, then why not take a look at where does cork come from? What is a cork oak tree? or a look into tasty turnips: what do turnips taste like.

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Written by Oluniyi Akande

Doctorate specializing in Veterinary Medicine

Oluniyi Akande picture

Oluniyi AkandeDoctorate specializing in Veterinary Medicine

With an accomplished background as a Veterinarian, SEO content writer, and public speaker, Oluniyi brings a wealth of skills and experience to his work. Holding a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Ibadan, he provides exceptional consulting services to pet owners, animal farms, and agricultural establishments. Oluniyi's impressive writing career spans over five years, during which he has produced over 5000 high-quality short- and long-form pieces of content. His versatility shines through as he tackles a diverse array of topics, including pets, real estate, sports, games, technology, landscaping, healthcare, cosmetics, personal loans, debt management, construction, and agriculture.

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