This article was updated on 8th August 2023 for clarity and to incorporate new insights.
Pastrami meat is best served hot. If you like it cold, you’re in the wrong place! But what’s the best way to reheat pastrami without drying it out? I experimented to find out.
In a rush? The best way to reheat slices of pastrami is wrapped in a damp paper towel in the microwave for 20-40 seconds, or by steaming them for 2 minutes. To reheat whole pastrami, wrap it in foil and heat it at 250°F/120°C for up to 90 minutes.
How I tested reheating pastrami
I bought some pastrami from my local grocery store and kept it in the fridge overnight. The next day, I experimented with five different reheating methods to see which worked best.
These methods include:
- Microwaving: My favorite method.
- Steaming: Results in moist pastrami.
- In the oven: Best for whole pastrami.
- In a skillet: Good if you want crispy pastrami.
- In a water bath: Good for unopened pastrami.
I tasted the pastrami once I’d reheated it and took notes based on the taste, the moistness, and the texture of the meat. Fresh pastrami is juicy and tender, and I wanted to achieve results as close to freshness as possible.
Reheating pastrami in the microwave
Time: 20-40 seconds
- Lay the pastrami on a microwave-safe plate. You can lay several slices on top of one another.
- Cover the pastrami with a wet paper towel.
- Microwave for 20-40 seconds until all the slices are heated through. Big stacks of slices will need slightly longer.
Using a wet paper towel to reheat pastrami in the microwave effectively lets you steam the meat, which is an excellent way to heat it and retain its moisture. An alternative to a wet paper towel is to sprinkle the pastrami with some water, then cover it with a lid.
Be careful not to microwave the meat for too long, or you run the risk of drying the meat out while trying to heat it. I would check on the pastrami every 20 seconds.
Results: This was my favorite way to reheat pastrami. It was fast and easy, and it produced lovely, moist meat. All the other methods required more effort, and there was no real difference in the quality.
Reheating pastrami by steaming
Time: 1-2 minutes
- Set up the steamer and bring the water to a gentle simmer.
- Place the pastrami slices in the basket. You can layer a few on top of each other if you need.
- Put the lid on and steam for 1-2 minutes.
- Check on the pastrami and steam for longer if required.
Note: you can also use stock instead of water.
If you don’t have a steamer – don’t worry! There are a few ways you can make one, one of which I cover here. You might find other ways online that work for you too.
Get a saucepan and create an elevated platform by folding a length of foil that fits into your pan into an accordion shape. Then cover the bottom of the pan with water and bring it to a simmer.
Place the pastrami slices flat and on the foil platform and cover the pan with a lid. You can also use a colander above a simmering pan of water, but be careful to keep the pastrami as flat as possible so it doesn’t break.
Results: This is essentially the same process as using a wet paper towel in the microwave and, in my opinion, the results were very similar in terms of quality. But using a steamer removes the danger of overheating the meat and drying it out.
Reheating pastrami in the oven
Time: 10-15 minutes
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
- Place your pastrami in foil. Sprinkle with a tablespoon of water, then wrap tightly.
- Let the pastrami heat in the oven for 10-15 minutes, or until warmed through (this will depend on how many slices you’re reheating).
Note: you can also reheat whole pastrami in the oven. I give instructions later in the article (here).
If you’re using a toaster oven, the pastrami will heat up quickly, so don’t forget to keep an eye on it!
Heating the pastrami with the right amount of liquid is the key to making oven-heated pastrami juicy because the liquid creates steam, which keeps the meat moist. The first time I tried this method, I didn’t add as much water as I listed above, and my pastrami was a little bit dry around the edges.
Don’t pack too many slices in one foil wrap, or the middle portion will struggle to heat up! I wouldn’t pack more than 5 or 6 slices together.
Results: This method is a bit time-consuming, but the pastrami tasted very good, and wrapping a few slices together in different packages means you can heat a decent amount of pastrami at once.
Reheating pastrami in a skillet
Time: 1-2 minutes
- Heat your pan over medium-low heat.
- Add a few tablespoons of water or beef stock, enough to cover the bottom of the pan. For crispier meat, use oil*; for less crisp meat, use enough water or stock to cover the pastrami completely.
- Add slices of pastrami, then cover with a lid for 1-2 minutes, or until the pastrami is heated through.
I used water to reheat the pastrami, which made the meat nice and moist. But for a bit more flavor, use beef or chicken stock.
If you like crispy pastrami, use oil instead of water or stock. This will allow you to fry the meat, crisping the edges, but the pastrami won’t be as moist. And if you use oil, you don’t need to cover the pan with a lid.
Results: This was my least favorite method of reheating pastrami, but that’s only because of how involved it is. The pastrami tastes good using this method, and it offers a way to get crispy pastrami if that’s your thing.
Reheating pastrami in a water bath
Time: 5-10 minutes
- Place your pastrami slices in vacuum-sealed packaging.
- Bring a large pot of water to the boil (large enough to fit your packaging).
- Once the water is boiling, turn the heat down to low, submerge the pastrami, and put the lid on the pot.
- Wait about 5 minutes, then remove the pastrami from the water bath. The meat should feel warm throughout the package
Note: you can also reheat whole pastrami in a water bath. I give instructions later in the article (here).
This is the recommended way of reheating (unopened) Katz delicatessen pastrami. If it’s opened, they suggest using the microwave.
Before you try this method, check the packaging your pastrami comes in to make sure it’s safe to put in boiling water.
- Vacuum-sealed packages are safe, as are Katz delicatessen packages.
- Ziploc bags are NOT safe for this method, and if that’s all you have, then this reheating strategy probably isn’t for you.
If your pot is big enough, you’ll be able to put a few packages of pastrami in at once, like with the oven method.
Results: I had the right kind of packaging, so this was a decent way to warm my pastrami. The pastrami stayed moist, which is the way I like it. One downside was that it was hard to tell when the meat was warm enough without opening the packaging – it was a bit of a guessing game!
How to reheat a whole pastrami
You can reheat whole pastrami using a sous vide machine or in the oven.
Oven: Preheat the oven to 250°F (120°C). Pour chicken/beef broth into a roasting pan until it covers the bottom. Place your pastrami on a rack in the pan and cover the pan tightly in aluminum foil. Heat the pastrami for 60-90 minutes.
Sous vide: Place pastrami in a vacuum-sealed bag and set the sous vide machine to 190°F (87°C). Heat the pastrami for approximately one hour. The pastrami will be nice and soft when you slice it.
Pro tip: I would recommend slicing the meat when it’s cold and then reheating the slices. The meat is easier to cut when it’s cold and slices are easier to reheat.
How to store pastrami
Store leftover pastrami in the fridge. Keep it fresh by wrapping it tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil. Pastrami will last for 4-5 days in the fridge or up until the use-by date on the packaging. Whichever is sooner.
Never leave pastrami out at room temperature for more than 2 hours, or it can start to harbor harmful bacteria.
Can you freeze pastrami?
Yes, you can freeze pastrami for up to 3 months. For ease of access, freezing pastrami by the slice is best. Separate each slice with parchment paper and then wrap them in plastic wrap or put them in a freezer bag. If you’re using a freezer bag, remove as much air as possible before sealing it.
To remove air from a freezer bag, the easiest thing to do is find a straw and suck the air out. Or, if you happen to have a vacuum sealer handy, use that.
The less air that can reach the pastrami, the longer it will last. Vacuum sealing removes 100% of the air, so there’s a 0% chance of the meat developing freezer burn.
Separating the slices with parchment paper means you can easily take out 1 or 2 pieces as you need, rather than having to thaw a big block of meat.
If you want to freeze whole pastrami, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap followed by a layer of aluminum foil, and put it in the freezer. Whole pastrami is hardier than sliced pastrami, so it will last for longer in the freezer (up to 6 months).
To thaw the pastrami, take it out of the freezer and leave it overnight in the fridge. If you’re trying to thaw it in a hurry, run the package under cool running water.
How to reheat a pastrami sandwich
If you haven’t finished a pastrami sandwich that you put together or ordered, there’s no need to worry.
You can heat a pastrami sandwich as you would a grilled cheese sandwich: put it in a pan and heat it, flipping occasionally until it’s as hot as you want. Alternatively, you can take the sandwich apart and warm the bread and meat separately; meat in the microwave and bread in the toaster oven.
How To Reheat Pastrami [Tested Methods]
- 5 slices pastrami
- Lay pastrami on a microwave-safe plate. You can lay several slices on top of one another.
- Cover the pastrami with a wet paper towel.
- Microwave for 20-40 seconds until all the slices are heated through. Big stacks of slices will need longer.