Classic Ruben Sandwich with Smoked Pastrami

In honor of by beautiful wife, I am celebrating St. Patrick’s Day by making a kicked-up cowboy version of the classic Ruben sandwich. Shannon is of Irish heritage and she loves a good Ruben. We visited New York City three or four years ago and when we ate at Katz’s Deli, she told me that it was the best sandwich she ever had. That got my hackles up a little bit and I knew I needed to make her the best Ruben sandwich she ever had when we got back home.

Brine the Brisket

Now, if you want to make a good Ruben, you have to start a few days in advance to brine and smoke the pastrami. Get yourself a brisket flat from the butcher, about four pounds, and bring it home to brine. That’s right, we are going to make a brine – don’t worry, it is easy. A little patience for a huge reward, y’all: perfect, fork tender pastrami.

Get a big stockpot and pour in three quarts of water. You are going to use a full cup of salt. The amount of Prague pink powder is up for debate, but I like to use just under a fourth of a cup.

Tip: Prague pink powder is also sold as “pink curing salt.”

Smoked Pastrami

Add the rest of the ingredients to the brine and mix with the pickling spice. Bring it to a good boil, stir it and turn off the heat. Cool it off for 10 to 15 minutes.

Grab yourself a container just big enough for a Leprechaun to take a bath in and three quarts of ice-cold slushy water to the brine so that the mixture is cool. Place the brisket in the container with the brine and the ice water and cover it with more ice. Fill the container up so that the brisket is good and covered with water, at least an inch. Cover the container in the ice box.

Tip: About every 24 hours, open the container and use a pair of tongs to turn the meat over.

Five Days Later…

How y’all been? Nice to see you back!

All right, now take the pastrami and rinse it thoroughly. The brine contained a lot of salt so you want to rinse off as much excess as you can. Take your time and pat it as dry as you can possibly get it.

Tip: Pat the pastrami dry with a paper towel after rinsing so the rub will stick to it better.

Lay the pastrami out on a flat cookie sheet. Make the rub listed in the recipe below and rub it all over the meat. Every single visible inch of the meat should be completely encased. Then, let it sit for an hour or so.

Tip: Have the meat sit out of the ice box until it is room temperature. This will make all the difference in the smoker.

Get the Smoker Hot

To smoke the pastrami, I am going to use a mixture of oak, apple and cherry. You can grab some of my mesquite wood right here at the website, if you want to keep some on hand. Once the smoke gets to going at about 225 degrees add the brisket in fat side up. We’re going to get the temperature up with the oak and then add the fruit wood to the pit barrel towards the end.

We are going to smoke this meat until the internal temperature is around 160-170 degrees. When you get to 170 degrees, wrap the meat up in foil and add some more wood into the smoker until it is about 300 degrees. We are going to cook it about 2 more hours until the center is about 200 degrees and the meat is extremely tender.

It took me about 6 hours and forty minutes to get this finished, and it is simply perfect. Let the meat cool in the foil inside a grocery sack for another 45 minutes. Then it’s time for Shan to eat her Ruben sandwich.


Ruben Sandwich

Ruben Time!

Slice the meat against the grain. Lay out a couple of slices of rye bread. Make the sauce from the recipe below and spread that on the bread. Top with the meat, and then the provolone cheese. Traditionally, the Ruben calls for swiss cheese, but Shannon is not a fan of Swiss and she is the boss, so provolone it is. Top with sauerkraut, more sauce and enjoy.

Tip: Drain as much liquid as you can from the sauerkraut, so the sandwich doesn’t get soggy.

It makes the best Ruben you’ll ever taste in your life. Don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel and our newsletter. See y’all next week!

Classic Reuben Sandwich with Smoked Pastrami - Cowboy Kent Rollins

Prep Time 5 days
Total Time 5 days 7 hours


  • 3 quarts water
  • 1 cup Morton's coarse kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons pink curing salt Also known as Prague Mix #1,or Pink Curing Salt
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 5 tablespoons pickling spice
  • 1 tablespoons whole coriander seeds
  • 1 tablespoon whole yellow mustard seeds
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tablespoon dry oregano
  • 3 quarts ice cold water
  • 3 to 4 lbs beef brisket trimmed
  • 1/4 cup ground coriander
  • 3 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • ½ tablespoon dry mustard
  • Rye bread slices
  • Sauerkraut
  • Thousand Island dress see below
  • Swiss or Provolone cheese slices


  • In a large stockpot add the 3 quarts of water, kosher salt, pink curing salt,
  • white sugar, brown sugar, honey, pickling spice, coriander seeds, mustard seeds, minced garlic and oregano. Stir well and place over medium-high heat and cook until it begins to boil.
  • Remove from the heat and let cool. Stir then add the 3 quarts of ice water.
  • Pour the cooled brine mixture into a large container. Add the trimmed brisket and make sure it is submerged. Cover with a lid and place in the refrigerator for 5 days. Be sure to flip the brisket daily.
  • Remove the brisket from brine and lightly rinse with water. Thoroughly pat the brisket dry with paper towels.
  • In a small bowl, combine the coriander, black pepper, paprika brown sugar, and dry mustard. Rub the brisket generously well with the rub on all sides.
  • Leave the brisket out on the counter to warm up closer to room temperature, about 1 to 1 ½ hours.
  • Preheat the smoker to 225 degrees F. Add some apple wood chunks and cherry smoking chips. Place the brisket in the smoker and cook for about 4 to 5 hours or until the internal temperature is 160 to 170 degrees F.
  • Remove the brisket from the smoker. Add more wood and open the vent halfway to let the smoker heat to about 300 degrees F.
  • Wrap the brisket well in aluminium foil and place it back in the smoker and cook for about 1 to 2 hours until the internal temperature is 200 degrees F.
  • Remove the brisket from the smoker and let it rest for about 30 to 45 minutes. Thinly slice against the grain. To assemble the reuben sandwich: spread some of the Thousand Island sauce on the Rye bread. Top with pastrami, sauerkraut, cheese and more dressing.


Ruben Sauce
½ cup Mayonnaise
2 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
1 tablespoon diced purple onion
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 tablespoon diced pickled jalapeno
Salt and pepper, to taste
Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl. Chill until ready to serve.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!



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