Pastrami Vs Roast Beef – What’s the Difference?

This post contains affiliate links, and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links, at no cost to you.

Meat has always been the rich man’s food. While the plebeians boiled their potatoes and chomped on cabbages and turnips, the gentry sank their teeth into roasted lamb and grilled beef and charred veal. So, it’s safe to say; meat has always been the star.

To pay homage to this culinary giant, the human civilization dreamt up a million ways to prepare it. Roasting, broiling, pan-broiling, pan-frying, stir-frying, outdoor grilling, braising, cooking in liquids. We did it all.

While entire relationships have begun and ended over the eternal debate regarding the best way to cook meat, this article will compare the difference between two very basic entities: roast beef and Pastrami. But first question:

What is meat?

Meat is the flesh of animals (mostly domesticated) used for food. It includes the muscle, fat, tendons and ligament. Now on to the real question. Pastrami and beef… what ARE the differences?


Pastrami is a beef dish originally made from beef, lamb or turkey. The word Pastrami comes from pastrama, which is said to have Romanian and Turkish roots. It is said that the word’s literal meaning means to preserve food. Makes sense since pastrami or pastrami preparation begins with bringing and was a popular method of food preservation in the olden times before refrigerators came into being.

Pastrami making starts with a luscious piece of meat that goes through a very detailed process. It is soaked in salt water, dried, seasoned, smoked, AND steamed. While the beef plate is the best cut for Pastrami, people experiment with almost any and every cut nowadays. Apart from beef, lamb and turkey pastrami have also entered the market, with turkey pastrami being a popular choice among the halal community.

What makes the Pastrami such a delicious dish is not just the prime cut of meat used or the carefully created processing it undergoes; there’s also a lot of history involved. First introduced in the united states by a Lithuanian butcher, who wisely scored the recipe off a visitor, Pastrami is a central Jewish cuisine. It originated among the Romanian Jews, first made from goose breast. It became popular in the mid-1800s before travelling to the states, where pastrami sandwiches became so popular that Pastrami became a staple at restaurants and fast food outlets

From gracing every Hanukah family dinner to every single picnic basket nestled between slices of rye, Pastrami is here to stay.  Pastrami is a lean, low-calorie option and is popular among fitness enthusiasts. One ounce of Pastrami contains 4 grams of protein, around 2 grams of fat and a whopping 302 milligrams of sodium. While it provides a complete range of amino acids, the high saturated fat and sodium content don’t deduct points health-wise.

Roast Beef

Every picture, every article, every movie scene depicting a happy family sitting down for Christmas dinner or a Sunday lunch features a gleaming silver tray piled high with glistening roast beef. Roast beef is synonymous with England. The word roast beef is so English that it is shocking to find out that it wasn’t a popular item in many medieval English feasts. However, it did grow in popularity, especially in the 1800s and 1900s and now is s staple of family dinners and leftover school lunches and delicatessen meats.

The method of preparation is simple. A hunk of choice meat, drizzled with oil. Seasoned with black pepper and salt and roasted on a tray of fresh vegetables like potatoes, carrots, and peas. It’s easy to make and delicious to eat. A win on all levels. Served with horseradish sauce sometimes.  A single ounce yields 85.7 calories, around 8 grams of protein, around 5 grams of fat, vitamin a, vitamin c, calcium and iron.


Pastrami is a type of cured meat, smoked with Jewish roost made from the navel end of beef brisket, while roast beef is a more traditional simpler dish made from sirloin, rib, top rump or fillet. Pastrami has a more complex preparation method, while roast beef is a simple classic recipe. Pastrami has a longer prep time as it has to be cured first, taking weeks to prepare. Roast beef is simpler and easier to cook.

Pastrami is usually served in sandwiches, paired with pickles mustard cheese. Roast beef is mostly a staple for family dinner, served with Yorkshire pudding and vegetables. Health wise, they are both rich sources of fats, proteins, vitamins and calcium, but roast beef has the edge here. Pastrami is processed meat and is usually served with huge carbs, making it less healthy of the two.

So What’s the Difference Between Roast Beef and Pastrami?

  • Pastrami is Romanian in origin, while roast beef is an English item
  • Pastrami has a longer preparation time as compared to roast beef
  • Roast beef is a simpler recipe and is a traditional dish in the anglosphere
  • Pastrami is usually made from beef brisket or navel. Roast beef is made from many beef cuts
  • Pastrami is a more casual food eaten mostly in sandwiches
  • Roast beef is a healthier option as compared to Pastrami
  • Pastrami is usually paired with mustard, cheese and pickles, while roast beef is a part of traditional dinners, eaten with vegetables and traditional Yorkshire pudding
  • Pastrami can be frozen for 3 months; roast beef can be frozen and stored for up to 6 months