Montreal smoked meat is Canada’s answer to the pastrami sandwich. It’s a seriously great sandwich.
I love sandwiches. Seriously. It’s a bit of a sickness. And my absolute favourite? The Montreal smoked meat sandwich.
Luscious smoked beef piled high on rye bread and slathered with ballpark yellow mustard. Kosher dill on the side. Maybe a Cott’s cherry coke. Sandwich nirvana.
Montreal smoked meat is bullet proof BBQ brisket
My second favourite thing to do with a brisket is to smoke it Texas style. Real BBQ brisket is one of the truly great things in this world. I think anyway.
Texas brisket is not an easy thing. Hard to get right. Really hard. Overdone. It’s dry. Underdone. It’s dry. Seriously annoying.
But if you nail it. Then you’re in this wonderful place. A place where BBQ brisket jiggles when you poke it. Where the collagen runs when you slice. A magical place.
I’m getting pretty good at it. I’ve smoked more than a few. I am not scared to plan a party around it.
But I do hold my breathe. Every single time. I still get nervous. 15 people for dinner. And I’m betting I’m going to nail Texas brisket. It’s a little stressful.
Montreal smoked meat though? I sleep easy. It will work. I can make Montreal smoked meat work every single time. And so can you.
It’s a culinary campaign. Epic really. Takes 10 days start to finish. And you give up a big chunk of your fridge.
You have to tend to it every day. Smoke it then and then steam it. Real work. But it is so unbelievable worth it. And it’s pretty much bulletproof.
Montreal smoked meat is different than BBQ
Montreal smoked meat is cured. Then smoked. Then steamed. Same as pastrami. But it’s a different cut. Beef brisket. Pastrami is made with the navel. And that changes everything.
You want a high quality, untrimmed brisket. If the fat cap is any less than 3/8 inch stay away. Fat is critical. Fat tastes good. Don’t kid yourself. This is not health food. No doubt about that.
Curing salt is key
A little food science. Montreal smoked meat is cured. Step number one. The first step is to cure the meat.
That’s probably sounds more intimidating than it actually is. Toss a few ingredients together. Rub it on the beef. And wait. For 8 days or so.
It’s a little crazy sounding. I know. But this is the only tricky bit. And it’s not really that tricky.
This recipe uses pink salt or prague powder number 1.
Number 1. That’s a thing. It means it has 6.25% sodium nitrite in salt. If it doesn’t say number 1 us the instructions on the package. It’s a minor adaptation. But it matters. A lot.
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.
Montreal smoked meat is a long game. An 8 day cure. It’s a long time. There are no shortcuts though. You just need to want it bad enough. And you should want it bad enough.
Wrap it up. Make room in your fridge. And flip it every day. That’s it. Not hard. Just slow. The ultimate slow food.
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.
Once it’s rested all you need to do is slice it thin. Across the grain. And pile it high on good rye bread. A smear of ballpark mustard. That’s heaven in sandwich form.
The king of sandwiches
There’s this place in Montreal. Called Schwarz’s Deli. It is Canada’s Katz’s. Seriously. The single most famous deli in the whole country.
It’s not the best smoked meat in Montreal. Not anymore. But it is pretty good. In person anyway. And it’s a fun experience. If you ever get to Montreal you should go.
But they got too big. Too famous. It’s not the same as when I was a kid. Or maybe I’m just remembering through a nostalgic lens. I don’t know.
What I do know is you can do better. And you can do it in your own backyard. It’s a journey. But it’s not hard. And it’s guaranteed to please.
Montreal smoked meat. Only in Montreal and your backyard…
montreal smoked meat
- 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
- 6 oz black pepper corns, cracked
- 3 oz coriander seed cracked
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. You should just be hitting the stall at this point. You are looking for an internal temperature of 155-165F.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.