bear pastrami recipe

I love wildlife as much as anyone and probably more than most. Sometimes, though, it’s down to us or them. This male black bear is probably 2-3 years old and establishing his territory for the first time.

Unfortunately, the bear decided he lives at my house now. He stood his ground whenever I tried to scare him off, broke through the electric fence to get to the beehives, and made his nightly bed in my front yard. That’s what you get for being on hiatus from the homestead I suppose.

It was sad to have to finally bag him this morning. My neighbor was happy for the chance to use his bear tag and get his share of the meat for his family. As conflicted as I was, I had a work crew coming to do maintenance around the property, and couldn’t very well have them battling a bear. Also, I’m pretty sure I would have lost had he chosen to enforce his claim on my property.

Mr. Bear is now on his way to the processor, and I hope to honor his life by turning him into delicious bear pastrami.

Bear Pastrami Recipe

This recipe starts by corning the bear meat for 5-7 days. Once the meat is corned, I use an oven shortcut with liquid smoke to mimic the taste of wood-smoked beef pastrami. I’ve only done this with beef brisket so far, but looking forward to trying it out once I get the bear from the processor. I hear bear meat benefits from long, slow cook times and the added moisture of this method. Trichinosis, BTW,  is not a worry since you’ll be cooking at 200F  or more for 10 hours.


  • 2 gallons distilled water
  • 8 lb. bear meat (hind leg, brisket would work, depending on the size of the bear)
  • 16 ounces Morton’s kosher salt (by weight)
  • 4 teaspoons Prague Powder #1 (pink salt)
  • 8 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 2 tablespoons hot pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons ground juniper berries
  • 2 tablespoons mustard seeds
  • 4 tablespoons fennel seed
  • 4 tablespoons cumin
  • 4 tablespoons black peppercorns
  • 4 tablespoons smoked paprika

Cure the meat:

  • Mix all ingredients, except meat, and stir to dissolve salts into brine.
  • Divide brine into two 8-quart containers, and place half the meat in each.
  • Weight, if necessary, to keep meat submerged.
  • Cure for 5-7 days, stirring up mix once a day.

Prepare the meat:

  • Remove meat from brine, rinse, and place in bowl.
  • Cover meat with boiling water, let soak for 30 minutes.
  • While the meat is soaking, preheat oven to 250F and make the rub.

Make the rub:

  • In spice grinder, place 4 tablespoons each:
    • Fennel seed
    • Cumin
    • Black peppercorns
    • Smoked paprika
  • Grind until mixed well.

Prepare the pastrami:

  • Drain meat and pat dry.
  • Place meat on flat rack in roasting pan. The rack should be feet down so the meat is raised above the bottom of the roasting pan.
  • Generously cover top and sides with rub, flip over, and cover other side with rub.
  • Add 4-6 cups water to the roasting pan – enough to fill the bottom 1-2 inches.
  • Add 2 tablespoons liquid smoke to the roasting pan water.
  • Wrap entire roasting pan, with brisket inside, with 3 layers foil.
  • Place in preheated oven, and lower temperature to 225F for 8 hours.
  • Increase temperature to 250F for another 2 hours.
  • Check internal temperature of meat – should be 200F. If not, continue cooking until 200F internal temperature is reached.
  • Remove from oven, unwrap, and let rest on cooling rack for 1 hour.
  • Slice against grain, eat or freeze up to 6 months.

Will let you know how it turns out!

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