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Updated: Mar 5

Venison pastrami, so good yet almost always prepared so wrong.

There seems to be a lot of misinformation on the web when it comes to preparing venison pastrami. One of the big missteps usually made is the cook tries to prepare it as you would traditional beef pastrami. This entails brining, smoking the meat until "well done" and then steaming.

The steaming process is where things go south real fast. Why is this?

As you know venison meat is very lean and once you cook it north of 150 degrees, the meat becomes dry and tough. There is virtually no amount of steaming that is going to make your venison resemble the fatty juicy beef pastrami of your dreams.

There simply isn't enough fat or connective tissue that allows this to happen. If you are wanting to have a pastrami that favors the beef version, check out my venison neck pastrami recipe. The meat is braised until fork tender and then smoked at a low temperature which produces stellar results.

Now down to business. This recipe yields a juicy, tender and smoky piece of meat that is best suited for slicing thinly as you would a gourmet ham. You will want either a razor sharp carving knife or an electric meat slicer. I use the LEM Mighty Bite 8 1/2" Meat Slicer and it produces ultra-thin uniform cuts perfect for sandwiches and charcuterie platters.

The cut of meat you want to use for this recipe is the sirloin or "ball roast". While other cuts will work, the size of this cut allows for more time on the smoker which means more flavors. And don't worry about any connective tissue or silver skin that lies between the muscles. Contrary to what you're led to believe with most recipes, the moisture from brining the meat, along with the long low and slow smoke does indeed melt most of this stuff away. The remaining bits aren’t noticeable after slicing thin.

What temperature should you smoke at? For best results I highly recommend smoking between 150-180 degrees F for two to three hours if possible. Then raising the temperature to 200 degrees F until the internal temperature of the meat reaches 140 degrees F. That's it, that the secret to having juicy venison pastrami. You want it on the smoker as long as you can "within health standards" until you reach the perfect internal temperature of 140 degrees F.

It usually takes me around 4 to 5 hours to smoke a whitetail ball roast using this method. If you're strapped for time, simply smoke at 200 degrees F until you reach an internal temperature of 140 degree F. It won't be quite as smoky but it will still be tender and delicious.

The final step is to let the meat rest. After you pull the meat off the smoker, wrap loosely with aluminum foil. Then wrap this up in kitchen towels and let rest for at least 45 minutes before slicing. If slicing at a later date, wrap the meat in plastic wrap after it has completely cooled and refrigerate.

Cooks Notes About Pink Curing Salt:

  • The pink curing salt that is used in this recipe also goes by the names TCM, Instacure #1 and Prague Powder 1.

  • I use a ratio of .0025 pink salt. This breaks down to 10 grams/2 teaspoons of pink curing salt for 4000 grams of water to cure up to 5 pounds of meat.


For the Brine

1 gallon of water

1 1/2 cups kosher salt

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup dark brown sugar (packed)

2 teaspoons/10 grams pink curing salt (TCM, Instacure # 1, Prague Powder 1)

2 tablespoons pickling spice (store bought or see recipe below)

6 garlic cloves, chopped

3-5 pound venison sirloin roast (Surface fat and silver-skin removed)

For the Rub

1 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds (coarsely ground or crushed)

1 teaspoon juniper berries (coarsely ground or crushed)

1 teaspoon black peppercorns (coarsely ground)


  1. In a large pot bring add the water and the remaining brine ingredients. Bring to a simmer and stir to dissolve the salt and sugar. Remove from the heat, allow to cool to room temperature and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.

  2. Add the venison roast to the brine. Place a plate on top of the meat to keep completely submerged. Cover and refrigerate for 3 days.

  3. Remove the venison from the brine, rinse it and then dry it thoroughly. Discard the brine.

  4. In a small container mix the juniper, black pepper and coriander until evenly combined. Coat the venison completely with these spices.

  5. (Smoking option # 1:) Smoke the meat between 150 and 180 degrees F. for two to three hours. Then increase your smokers temperature to 200 degrees F and smoke until the internal temperature reach 140 degrees F. (Smoking option # 2:) If you don't have enough time for option # 1, smoke the meat at 200 degrees F until the internal temperature reaches 140 degrees F.

  6. After the meat is cooked, wrap loosely in aluminum foil. Then wrap this in kitchen towels and allow to rest for at least 45 minutes before slicing.

Venison Pastrami
Photo by Larry White

Pickling Spice Blend (this will keep for months tightly sealed in your cupboard)


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Meet Larry White

Chef Larry White

Hey folks, I'm Larry. The recipes you'll find here are inspired by my years as a chef, travels as a hunter, and being a father. I cook from these experiences, so my food ranges anywhere from fun and creative to traditional and to what somewhat family style comfort food.     

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