I opened my freezer and grabbed a pack of pastrami when I noticed an intolerable circumstance. This package was my last package of Pastrami, Montreal Smoked Meat and Corned Beef. My hand started to develop a tremor and sweat broke out on my brow.
Fortunately, I had a whole packer brisket in the freezer and I was able to get to work to solve the problem. I decided this batch would be Montreal Smoked Meat.
Some of my followers have asked me what Montreal Smoked Meat is. It is similar to Pastrami and it is actually hard to give you an exact definition because different people make it different ways.
For me, Montreal Smoked Meat has a lot of coriander in its spices. Further, it is cured with a dry cure and then smoked. After smoking, it is steamed and can be served hot or sliced as sandwich meat.
Pastrami has more pepper and some aromatics like juniper berries. It is cured in a wet brine and then smoked. It may or may not be steamed after smoking. It is not usually served hot as a meal but is sliced up as sandwich meat served hot or cold.
Corned Beef has mostly pepper in the cure and less aromatics. It is cured in a wet brine and is not smoked. It is steamed to cook it and is usually served as a hot entree but can also be sliced for sandwich meat.
Now that you are bored to tears, lets start making Montreal Smoked Meat.
I have previously posted how I make Montreal Smoked Meat. In my earlier recipe, I use Morton’s Tenderquick for the curing salt. Unfortunately, my local supplier no longer sells it so I had to adjust the recipe to us Prague Powder #1. Also, I didn’t post it with a recipe in Yummly format so I will repost this updated version.
The curing salt is a mixture of salt and sodium nitrite that gives the bacon its cured flavour and red colour. It also inhibits bacterial growth. Montreal Smoked Meat is cooked at low temperatures and cured for a long period of time. Without the curing salts, the meat may spoil. The curing salt usually used is called Prague Powder #1, Instacure #1 or many other names. Whatever it is called, you are looking for a product that is 93.75% salt and 6.25% sodium nitrite.
It is important that you don’t use too much curing salt as excessive sodium nitrite is bad for you. It is important to not use too little or the beef may spoil during smoking.
You can use any size piece of brisket. You can also use bottom round but it is quite lean and I find brisket gets a better texture.
I had a whole brisket. This has two parts. One is the leaner flat and the other is the fattier point. Now, I would make it all into Montreal Smoked Meat but She Who Must Be Obeyed has suggested that the point is too fatty and is not good for me. Sigh.
I separated the flat from the point. This is easy to do. There is a thick layer of fat that runs through the brisket between the two parts. Just carefully slice through the centre of the fat strip. You can buy just a flat or make the whole brisket into Montreal Smoked Meat.
My flat was still quite large so I cut it in half to make it easier to handle. I also trimmed the fat layer to about 1/2 inch thick. You can go leaner but I like a nice fatty layer on my Montreal Smoked Meat. I did trim some quite lean for She Who Must Be Obeyed.
Once I had the point separated, I saved it to make burnt ends at another time.
I weighed one of the pieces.
I mixed up the dry brine ingredients. For each kilogram of beef you need to mix:
- 3 grams of Prague powder #1
- 35 grams of Kosher salt
- 30 grams of pepper corns, roughly cracked (I use a coffee grinder)
- 15 grams sugar
- 15 grams coriander seeds, roughly cracked (I use a coffee grinder)
- 5 ml powdered bay leaf (if you can’t find powdered, run dried leaves through a coffee grinder)
- 5 ml ground cloves
For my American friends who are metrically challenged, for each pound of beef mix:
- 0.05 ounces of Prague powder #1 (1/5 teaspoon)
- 0.6 ounces of Kosher salt
- 0.5 ounces of pepper corns, roughly cracked
- 0.25 ounces of sugar
- 0.25 ounces of coriander seeds, roughly cracked
- 1/2 teaspoon powdered bay leaf
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
If you have 2 kilograms, double the amounts. If you have 1/2 kilogram, halve the amounts. The proportions are critical.
Put the beef on a plate or tray and rub the dry cure onto the surface. Put the beef in a sealable bag and make sure to get the dry cure that fell onto the plate into the bag. Seal the bag.
Repeat with each piece of beef if you have more than one. Each piece has to be in its own bag with the appropriate proportions of dry cure ingredients for its weight.
Put the bag in the fridge for 10 days, massaging and turning it every day.
Take the beef out of the bag and knock most of the spices off it. Rinse it under cold water. Soak it in cold water for 60 minutes, changing the water twice. Pat it dry with paper towels and put it in the fridge overnight, uncovered.
You want it to have a totally dry surface before you smoke it. If there is any moisture at all on the surface, dry it with paper towel.
I smoked it to an internal temperature of 150 F. I let it cool, and wrapped it in plastic wrap. I put it in the fridge overnight to let the smoke set. I put it on rack over simmering water and covered the pan. I let it steam for 3 hours.
At this point, you can serve it hot. I was looking to use it as sandwich meat so I let it cool, covered it and put it in the fridge overnight.
I sliced it up and put it in small vacuum sealed bags. You can heat the bags for sandwiches later by putting them in boiling water until hot.
You’ll note the difference between the lean and fatty slices. She Who Must Be Obeyed chastised me soundly as she felt it is bad for me. My protestations that the fat was the tasty part did not help. Sigh.
Of course, I had to have a sandwich and give it a try. I heated some up and tucked in!
This is one of the best things I make. It takes some work but it is well worth it. It has the nice brined taste of pastrami but the coriander gives it a great herbed flavour. Please, try this.
The Old Fat Guy
- 1 kg (2.2 pounds) beef brisket weighed after trimming fat cap to 1/4 to 1/2 inch
- 3 grams (0.11 ounce) of Prague powder #1
- 35 grams (1.2 ounce) of Kosher salt
- 30 grams (1 ounce) of pepper corns, roughly cracked (I use a coffee grinder)
- 15 grams (0.5 ounce) sugar
- 15 grams (0.5 ounce) coriander seeds, roughly cracked (I use a coffee grinder)
- 5 ml (1 teaspoon) powdered bay leaf (if you can’t find powdered, run dried leaves through a coffee grinder)
- 5 ml ground cloves
- Note: The proportions of the dry mix to the weight of the meat is critical. If you use more or less meat, you must adjust the amount of dry mix ingredients to match.
- Mix all ingredients except beef.
- Put the beef on a plate or tray.
- Rub the cure mix into the surface of the beef.
- Put the beef in a sealable bag. Get as much of the dry cure that fell onto the plate or tray as possible in the bag.
- Seal the bag and put it in the fridge for 10 days, turning the bag and massaging it daily.
- Take the beef out of the bag and knock as much of the spices off as possible.
- Rinse the beef under running cold water.
- Soak the beef in cold water for 60 minutes, changing the water twice.
- Pat the beef dry with paper towels. Put the beef on a rack in the fridge, uncovered, overnight.
- Make sure the surface of the beef is dry.
- Heat your smoker to 180 F and smoke the beef to an internal temperature of 150 F.
- Let the beef cool, cover it and refrigerate it overnight.
- Put the beef on a rack, over not in, simmering water. Cover the pot and steam for 3 hours.
- You can serve it hot or let it cool and slice it as sandwich meat.