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Montreal smoked meat is Canada’s answer to the pastrami sandwich. And it is a seriously great sandwich.

I love sandwiches. And my absolute favourite sandwich is the Montreal smoked meat sandwich. Piled high on rye bread with ballpark yellow mustard and served up with a kosher dill. 

Montreal smoked meat is bullet proof BBQ brisket

My second favourite thing to do with a brisket is to smoke it Texas style. BBQ brisket is one of the truly great things in this world. In my opinion anyway. 

But it’s hard to nail. Really hard. Overdone or underdone it’s dry. But there’s this point where BBQ brisket just jiggles when you poke it. Where it’s so juicy and flavourful. Magic. 

I’ve tried many times. Sometimes it fantastic. Sometimes it’s not. But I can make Montreal smoked meat consistently. And so can you. 

Making it is a campaign. Epic really. It takes 10 days start to finish. It takes up a bunch of room in your fridge. You have to tend to it every day. Smoke it then and then steam it. Real work. But it’s so worth it. And it’s pretty much bulletproof.

Montreal smoked meat is different than BBQ

Montreal smoked meat is cured, then smoked, then steamed. Just like pastrami. It’s made with beef brisket though. Pastrami is made with the navel.

You want to find a source for a high quality, untrimmed brisket. If the fat cap is any less than 3/8 inch stay away. Fat is critical. You want it. This isn’t health food. No doubt about that.

Curing salt is key

The first step is to cure the meat. So you need to know what you are doing. There are different formulas for curing salts. It’s important to understand the differences.

This recipe uses pink salt or prague powder number 1. It’s 6.25% sodium nitrite in salt. If you use a different curing salt follow the instructions to make sure you are using the right amount.

More is not better here. You want to use what you need and no more. These are nitrates. Those scary things everyone is always worried about. Pay attention. Maybe don’t eat this everyday. But once in a while probably won’t kill you.

It’s a 8 day cure. Seems like a long time. But it works. Wrap it up. Make room in your fridge. And flip it every day. That’s it. Not hard. Just slow. The ultimate slow food.

 

montreal smoked meat brisket

 

Eight hours in the smoker comes next

This is why it’s bullet proof. You aren’t trying to hit perfectly done in the smoker. Just trying to give it some good smoky flavour and a nice bark. 

Pull it after eight hours and put it back in the fridge. Don’t worry. You’ll finish it in a steamer. A big steamer.

Montreal smoked meat is finished in a steamer. For 2 to 3 hours. This is where you get that wonderful jiggly texture. That perfectly juicy beef.

Then it’s just a matter of letting it rest. Then all you need to do is slice it thin across the grain. And pile it high on good rye bread. A little ballpark mustard. Heaven.

Try this when you have a bunch of friends coming for a backyard barbecue. Tell them the good old boys from Canada let you in on their secret. Only in Montreal and your backyard…

.

 

montreal smoked meat sandwich
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5 from 7 votes

montreal smoked meat

This is a true Canadian masterpiece. I think it's best sandwich in the world.
Course Main
Cuisine Canadian
Keyword bbq brisket, montreal smoked meat, pastrami
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 12 hours
Total Time 13 hours
Servings 12 big sandwiches
Calories 838kcal

Ingredients

  • 12-14 lb beef brisket flat and point with fat

The curing mix

  • 8 oz black peppercorns cracked
  • 4 oz coriander seed cracked
  • 4 oz white sugar
  • 3/4 cup kosher salt
  • 3 Tbsp whole cloves
  • 10 dried bay leaves crumbled
  • 3 tsp pink salt - prague powder number 1

The rub

  • 6 oz black pepper corns, cracked
  • 3 oz coriander seed cracked

Instructions

Cure the brisket

  • Trim the brisket, removing pockets of hard fat and trim the fat cap (or just don't) to no less than 3/8 inch. Best to google this looking for "trim texas brisket".
  • Combine all the cure ingredients and coat the brisket. You want to use all of it because you have included your curing salt in the mix and you need all of that. Wrap the brisket in plastic bags and place on a large cookie sheet. Refrigerate, turning the brisket over 2 times per day for 8 days.
  • On the eighth day, soak the brisket in a sink of cool water for 30 minutes. Drain the water and refill, continuing to soak the brisket. Repeat this for 3 hours (6 water changes), dry the brisket and coat it with the pepper corn, coriander seed rub. Back into the fridge it goes.

Smoke the brisket

  • On the ninth day smoke the brisket for 8-9 hours at 225-250F with maple if you have it. You may need to separate the brisket into the flat and the point to fit it onto the smoker. After 8-9 hours remove the brisket from the smoker, let cool slightly and refrigerate overnight.

Steam the brisket

  • On the tenth day, set up a steamer that will fit all this wonderful brisket. Outside is better. This is going to smell. Plan for this step. You are going to need a big steamer. I use a turkey fryer with an inverted strainer and about 3 inches of water to steam my smoked meat.
  • Steam the brisket gently for around 3 hours. Don't let it boil dry. You are looking for a couple things. A 195-200F internal temperature will ensure tender Montreal smoked meat every time. Probe tender is the other key indicator. Take the opportunity to figure that out by getting a feel for it when you hit 195F.
  • Probe tender means when you insert your probe you don't feel any resistance in the meat. It's like pushing a hot probe through warm butter. It just slides in. This is a good to learn if you are going to do briskets or pulled pork - it's how the pros figure out what's done and what's not.
  • Once you hit 195F and probe tender pull the brisket and let it cool to around 160-170F. This can take up to an hour.
  • Once it's cool enough to handle slice thinly against the grain with a sharp knife. Serve a mix of the flat and the point in each sandwich. Pile it high on rye bread with yellow mustard and you'll have a sandwich worthy of any of the Montreal smoked meat shrines in Montreal.

Notes

The prep time is about one hour but the cure takes 10 days so make sure you allow the time for the process to run its course.
One easy way to crack the spices is to put them into a food processor and pulse until you get a coarse "grind". Fast and easy.

Nutrition

Serving: 12servings | Calories: 838kcal | Carbohydrates: 31g | Protein: 98g | Fat: 37g | Saturated Fat: 12g | Cholesterol: 281mg | Sodium: 3309mg | Potassium: 1965mg | Fiber: 11g | Sugar: 9g | Vitamin A: 110IU | Vitamin C: 3.5mg | Calcium: 230mg | Iron: 13.4mg

 

20 thoughts on “montreal smoked meat

    • I’ve added a target of somewhere around 155-165F for the smoke in the post. It’s not super critical if you are cooking a big packer (full brisket) as ultimately you want to get to around 195F during the steam step but be careful if you are trying this with a smaller brisket.

      Thanks for pointing this out. I can see where one might get confused.

  1. How certain are you of the brinning & rub make up relative to traditional recipes? As a displaced Montrealer now living in California I’m taking a shot at making my own. I’m most familiar with Montreal steak spice and its evolution from Schwartz’s and look to this blend as providing some guidance. What are you referencing for your brine and rub and how close to tradition do you think it is?

    Thx for detailing the process!

    • I have eaten at Schwartz’s many, many times. I’m in Ottawa so it’s not far. Across the street at the Main as well (I like the latkes there).

      A buddy of mine who has lived his whole life within walking distances of Schwartz’s brought the rye bread in the picture from a bakery in Montreal. He says my smoked meat is as good or better than anything they are serving in Montreal today.

      This is not the crap they serve outside of Montreal and call smoked meat. I do not think you will be disappointed…

  2. Hi there, sounds like you know what you are doing! I used to live in Montreal during the 50’and 60’s! (I know this really dates me) but I crave for this smoked meat, I always get it when visiting Montreal! I was wondering if there was a formula to cut down the recipe to a small piece of brisket, I live alone and would like to try this first!
    I don’t have a smoker, but have a small grill, and am not sure if it would work to steam it on a stove top or inside the oven with water! Can you give me some hints as to what I might do a little differently than your original recipe that calls for a large size? I’d really appreciate it, and I will give it a recipe rating too!

    • I’ve never tried this so please nobody take this as anything but my musing on the question.

      You could scale back the size of brisket some. I don’t think that will change much as long as you keep it to the whole flat or the whole point. Maybe you could cut down the cure to 5-6 days if you want to go smaller.

      No smoker is trickier. A small grill is probably more trouble than it’s worth. Maybe 8 hours in a 275 F oven followed by the steam. When you can probe with a carving fork and it gives it’s done.

      Good luck. Just about any Montreal smoked meat is better than none!

  3. This seems like an awful lot of coriander…..is it really a half pound or is this 8 fluid oz…measured in a measuring cup? Thanks!

    • It’s 4 oz of coriander seed for the cure and 3 oz of coriander for the rub. By weight. Not by volume. A whole brisket is a big chunk of meat.

  4. I grew up in Montreal, eating smoked meat at Schwartz’s and Smoke Meat Pete many times over the thirty years living there. Having moved to the US, I long craved the fatty richness of Montreal smoked meat. Pastrami is made here, but I find it lacking in flavour and texture when compared to the smoked meat found in Montreal. So, I have been on a quest to reproduce this luscious Canadian masterpiece. I have tried many recipes found online from food bloggers to celebrity grill chefs. Many have come close to being perfect, but each has had its shortcomings. This recipe is a true keeper.

    • Awesome. Thank you.

      I’m an Ottawa boy who makes the trip to Montreal regularly for my fix. You can’t get decent smoked meat outside of Montreal if you don’t make it yourself. I spent a lot of time (and ate a lot of smoked meat) trying to figure this out and now have Montrealer friends who live on the Main telling my mine (and now yours) is better than Schwartz’s.

      And I totally agree. Pastrami just doesn’t come close.

    • Haha. That is a little ambiguous I guess. A moderate boil. Not a simmer but not a raging boil. Somewhere in between. Definitely not third degree burns/trip to Emergency steam…

    • Google says 1 Tbsp (3 tsp) of table salt equals 17 grams. I imagine pink salt would not be much different. I don’t use grams when I cook though so no guarantees on the precision here. That said, I don’t think a 5-10% difference will make much difference in the final product.

  5. Followed these instructions completely. Just finished and it came out perfect. So excited to have the ability to make my own Montreal smoked meat. Thank you for posting.

  6. I have a 13lb packer curing and ready for smoking this sat. What are your thoughts on going from the smoker and into the steam phase without cooling over nite?

    • 13lb packer ready to go. That’s music to my ears!

      I have never tried skipping the overnight rest period. It’s coming out of the smoker hot. If you are going to try this without the rest maybe cut the steaming time? Or let it come down some before you start steaming? You are going for the brisket probe test in the end.

      I’d love to hear how it goes for you. The cooling over night makes this recipe a bit of a hassle for weekend parties. You really need a 3 day weekend to make it work. Let me know please.

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