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My impression has been that pastrami and corned beef have a cure in common, but corned beef is simmered whereas pastrami is spice-crusted and smoked.

This seems reasonable, but recently I've been hearing of both foodstuffs cooked entirely sous vide.

Without the cooking method distinction, the only remaining difference is that pastrami now has the crust and liquid smoke. Is liquid smoke sufficient to move into the realm of pastrami? Or is this just pastrami-flavored corned beef?

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

It is just pastrami-flavoured corned beef.

A restaurant I used to work at, we made our own pastrami, corned beef, and Montreal-style smoked meat. Pastrami is smoked corned beef, essentially, but the smoking process induces textural changes as well, and results in a drier meat than plain corned beef.

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