Pastrami Vs Salami – What You Really Need To Know

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If you’re a fan of deli meats, you may have eaten pastrami and salami. At first glance, you may mistake the two as the same type of protein when, in fact, they are two very different types of meat.

So, what are the differences between pastrami and salami? Both pastrami and salami are cured deli meats but are cured and served in different ways. They use different meats, are prepared differently, and differ in both taste and texture.

Read on to find out more about pastrami and salami and how the two compare with each other:

What Is Pastrami?

Pastrami is a smoked and cured deli meat made from beef. It is a thick, tough cut of meat, which is why it must be properly steamed and tenderized.

While it can be made from different cuts of meat, the navel part of the brisket, also called the plate cut, is the most commonly used. It may also be made from the round and short rib of the cow.

While beef is the most popular type of meat used for pastrami, there are other versions available which are made of turkey, duck, venison, tuna, goat, and salmon.

You may even find vegetarian pastrami these days made with wheat flour and a variety of vegetables, which can be used as a great substitute for meat.

It is believed that the earliest versions of pastrami date back to either Romania or Turkey. The Turks salted and dried beef and called it “pasdirma”. The word eventually changed to “pastrami”.

The process of making pastrami is the same one used before contemporary refrigeration to preserve large amounts of meat and keep it from spoiling.

Pastrami is commonly used in sandwiches, salads, and as part of a charcuterie board. It can easily be found in delis and sandwich shops where it is thinly sliced and layered with items such as pickles, mustard, and sauerkraut.

How Is Pastrami Made?

When making pastrami, the meat is first corned by letting it sit in a brine solution for a few days. This results in corned beef, which is boiled and seasoned with herbs and spices such as salt, black peppercorn, garlic, basil, and all-spice.

The meat is smoked or steamed for a few hours to infuse the flavors and tenderize and preserve it.

Smoking imparts a smoky flavor and gives the meat a dark crust, whereas steaming gives it a cleaner taste and nice texture.

In some instances, the meat isn’t marinated in a brine solution, but instead dry-cured in a salt paste for a few weeks. The cure eventually gets absorbed by the meat and gives it a similar color and flavor as brined meat.

Types Of Pastrami

There are two common types of pastrami: black pastrami and red pastrami. Black pastrami, also called New York-style pastrami, is darker in color since it is fully cooked and rubbed with pepper and molasses.

Red pastrami, also called New England-style pastrami, is rubbed with pepper, coriander, and paprika, and has a typical red color in addition to a shorter cooking time.

What Is Salami?

Salami is a type of cured meat that is stuffed into a casing. It is a type of sausage that is allowed to ferment and cured before being dried and made edible.

Salami is an Italian word that refers to any type of salted meat. However, due to its popularity, the word salami is used for a particular type of salted meat that is stuffed into an animal casing and left to cure.

Different types of meat can be used to make salami, although beef, veal, pork, and venison are all fairly common, and the meat is seasoned with a lot of ingredients such as salt, herbs, and garlic to give it additional flavor.

Salami is produced in many different countries including Italy, France, Germany, and the US, and is often named for the country or region it comes from.

The origins of salami are in Rome and Greece, although Italians are known to produce the most types of (at least 300) and the most delicious varieties of salami in the world.

Salami is usually hard meat, making it easier to slice thinly, and is often found in delis as well as in pre-packaged slices.

How Is Salami Made?

Salami is typically made by grinding the meat and mixing it with a variety of spices and flavorings such as salt, pepper, garlic, paprika, and wine.

Before being stuffed into a natural animal or synthetic casing, the meat is allowed to ferment and then hung up to cure. Some types of salami, usually called cotto salame, are also smoked before or after curing to give them added flavor.

The curing process helps preserve the meat and makes it an inhospitable environment for harmful bacteria that can cause the meat to spoil.

After curing, the meat is dried out to make the casing firmer and prevent moisture from passing through. If the preparation is done properly, the salami can last without refrigeration for several years.

Types Of Salami

The types of salami continue to increase as the number of new recipes emerge from different parts of the world. Considering how many variations of salami are available, it is easy to say that the number is at least in the hundreds!

Salami can be classified into two main groups: ground meat and whole-cured meats. Salami made from ground meat is blended with herbs, spices, and wine, and includes:

  • Cotto salami
  • Genoa salami
  • Hard salami
  • Finocchiona
  • Soppressata
  • Mortadella
  • Salsiccia
  • Pepperoni

Whole meat salami is salami made using whole cuts of meat such as beef or cured pork. It includes:

  • Pancetta
  • Guanciale
  • Lardo
  • Prosciutto
  • Capocollo
  • Bresaola

Pastrami Vs Salami: Similarities

Other than being types of cured meat, pastrami and salami share quite a few similarities.

Both undergo the process of meat preservation in order to prevent the growth of certain microorganisms.

Salt, nitrates, smoke, and a few other substances are used to cure the meat and neither requires cooking before being eaten.

Both have a high salt content, which is something often found in deli meats; however, salami is richer in sodium as compared to pastrami.

Both pastrami and salami are equally delicious and can be served in a similar way. They can easily be sliced and served in sandwiches and alongside fruit, cheese, and crackers on a charcuterie board.

Pastrami Vs Salami: Differences

Apart from the type of meat used, pastrami and salami are prepared in different ways, leading to a noticeable difference in their taste and texture.

Pastrami comes from one of two places: Romania or Turkey, whereas salami is known to have Italian roots. The former is commonly made with beef brisket or other cuts of beef, while the latter can be made using beef, venison, or pork.

To make pastrami, you’ll need meat that is brined, coated with a mix of spices, and then smoked. Making salami is somewhat different, where the meat and seasoning mixture is stuffed in a casing, fermented, cured, and allowed to air-dry.

When it comes to taste, pastrami has a smoky beef flavor and tends to be a bit spicy. In comparison, salami has a higher fat content, especially if it is made with pork, and is a little sweeter than pastrami. 

Since there are so many varieties of salami, it is hard to define the exact taste of salami as each one differs slightly from the other.

Pastrami Vs Salami: Summary Table

OriginRomania or TurkeyItaly
Type of meatBeef brisketBeef, venison, or pork
CuredYes (in brine)Yes (air-dried)
TasteSmoky beef flavorRicher and sweeter
UsesSandwiches, salads, appetizers, charcuterie boardsSandwiches, salads, appetizers, charcuterie boards

Related Questions

Now that you know all about pastrami and salami and how they compare with one another, here are a few additional questions we thought you might have:

What is the difference between salami and pepperoni?

All pepperoni is salami, but not all salami is pepperoni. Salami is a cured sausage made using fermented meat that is air-dried. Pepperoni is a type of American salami made from cured beef or pork seasoned with paprika or other chili peppers.

Are pastrami and salami healthy?

Since both pastrami and salami are deli meats, they are high in fat, dietary cholesterol, and sodium, making them not the best choice when it comes to health.

Out of all the lunch meats, pastrami has the most protein, but if you wish to opt for something healthier, we suggest you go with lean cuts of turkey, ham, roast beef, or chicken breast.

What are the black spots on salami?

The black spots on salami can either be remnants of black peppercorn used in the meat mixture or black mold. If it is the former, it is completely safe to eat as it is part of the recipe and added for flavor.

However, if it is mold, it must be tossed out immediately as it can make you sick upon consumption.

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