That Katz’s Deli is an iconic NYC institution is unquestionable. Sandwich connoisseurs come from all over the world to visit it for that very reason.
The Katz’s staff takes extreme care with what they do. The deli has been perfecting this process over the last 126 years, so they should be pretty good at it by now.
Fifth-generation owner Jake Dell sat down with WNYC and shot the video above, talking in great detail about the process of making their pastrami.
Of note: Katz’s goes through a staggering 15,000 pounds of pastrami every week—and sometimes even more. They also serve around 4,000 people every single day.
We definitely didn’t expect Dell to give away everything, but the information he provided definitely gives some insight into what makes good pastrami.
Here are the key steps a pastrami takes before it’s served at Katz’s:
- Pastrami (and all Katz’s other meats) are cured in their 20′ x 30′ walk-in refrigerator, for about 3 to 4 weeks.
- Katz’s uses a “wet-cure, simple salt solution” for their pastrami, along with additional secret ingredients.
- Then the pastrami is smoked, though Dell didn’t give specifics on how long, or with what type of wood. The beautiful black ring you see around the outside of pastrami comes from the rub as the pastrami smokes. The smoker they use is “a huge, huge, huge commercial smoker…that we smoke up, you know, a couple thousand pounds of meat at a time.”
- Then the pastrami is boiled for four hours, and steamed for another half-hour to “loosen up the meat.”
- Finally, the pastrami is carved by hand. By the time it undergoes all the processes that make it delicious, Dell says it would “literally crumble” if you tried to slice it on a commercial slicer.
He describe the cutters as artists, and if you look at the clean, precise slicing action in the gif above, it’s clear that they are.
Dell offered some final words of wisdom on why he thinks Katz’s is so iconic.
[pullquote]”I have regulars from Singapore! [amazed face] I mean, you see people from all walks of life, you see a sanitation worker eating side-by-side with a Wall Street trader, and next to a tourist. I mean, it’s wonderful to see that. To me, it’s kind of a microcosm of New York. You know, when you look around this place, this is what makes New York so unique and so special, is that everyone eats side by side.”[/pullquote]