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 preheated my Louisiana Grills smoker to 180 F and lit my A-Maze-N tube smoker with Whiskey Barrel Oak pellets. You can just use your smoker but I like a good strong smoke taste.
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.
I’m glad you were able to turn your lemon into lemonade before the shakes got too bad!
Har! It was close. Deli meat withdrawal is a terrible thing!
Old Fat Guy,
After reading numerous recipes for MSM…i.e…Wet brine, dry brine, I’ve decided to go with your recipe. I’m a Montreal expat. down in Northern Vermont with a 13lb whole beef brisket in a vacuum pack sitting in my fridge…Got a digital electric wood smoker with access to lot’s of maple wood as that’s how we heat (Wood, not the smoker-:)) and my Prague #1 salt just arrived today via Walmart/HossierHill Farms…I tried a recipe years back (Dry rub) down in NJ but did not know to steam…My bad…If this turns out good I will consider you a God…Or at least a Demi-God, as my, She Who Must Be Obeyed maintains the superior title. I have been dying for a MSM sandwich for soooooo long.
Thanx for sharing your recipe,
Skinny Old Toothless Guy.
Har! I know what you mean about MSM. Montreal is one of my favourite cities. I could spend a couple of days just at the market. I can not afford to go as often as I like and I had to come up with my own version of MSM. My buddies and I really like this version and I hope you find it a suitable reminder of Schwartz’s and Dunn’s. Let me know if you have any questions.
Greetings from PA,
I noticed you avoided using a rub altogether. Since, if my memory doesn’t fail me, I seem to recall some paprika, garlic, and, ground coriander on the MSM at Schwartz’s … I was wondering whether you avoided creating a bark on purpose?
In any case, this is a well described, excellent baseline for starting to create my own favorite (there is literally no chance SWMBO will ever try this, but there is still hope for the entitleds).
Almost old but already fat guy
I have now idea what Schwartz’s does but would like their recipe to learn from it. This is my attempt at reverse engineering to copy their result. Any MSM I have tried doesn’t have a dark bark. It has only the browning of the surface from the smoking. It would be hard to maintain a bark as it is held in moist heat for slicing in Dunn’s, Schwartz’s etc which softens the surface.
In short, the reason I do it this way is it comes out to my tastes. You should absolutely experiment to your tastes. That’s what makes great food, variations from many cooks! I would appreciate hearing how you vary to your tastes and the results.
As for SWMBO, tell her it is corned beef. She’ll just think it a much tastier version!
Thanks. I modified the procedure a bit, by cold smoking for 3 hours and then sous-vide cooking at 135F for 48 hours. The flavor is just a bit stronger than my favorite in Montreal (Smoke Meat Pete), and it seems just a touch more acidic, but it’s pretty darn close. The sous-vide method cooks the meat uniformly, without disturbing the smoked flavor or the seasoning, and it’s the perfect texture. Easy to slice and tender.
Thanks for posting this. The best part of cooking is when someone takes a recipe and improves it for their tastes! This sounds wonderful. I have been meaning to get into sous vide but just haven’t had the time.
But Sous Vide for this type of meat doesn’t render the fat out. You need higher heat to get the fat to melt, otherwise it will be overwhelming.
I live in MTL, worked at Pete’s & have eaten smoked meat pretty much everywhere, if you’re ordering it up lean, don’t bother to eat it… It’s SMOKED MEAT!!!
My name is Alex. I am an ageing and fattening guy. Dare I say I am an aspiring OldFatGuy? I think so.
I just want to thank you for this post. I live in Nanaimo, on Vancouver Island, BC. I am not metrically challenged.
In my neighbourhood we have a few families who are really into making different meats (pig roasts, lamb roasts, briskets…general awesomeness). I have made smoked meat, best I can, according to your recipe six times now. My friends and I all appreciate the quality of your recipe. I have been happy by steaming a little longer to get to that jiggly phase, but that’s probably due more to my lower temperature than to your directions.
Thanks again. Your smoked meat recipe is one of the best things I’ve ever made.
Har! I hope you can achieve better than an old fat guy! Thanks so much for your kind words and letting me know how my recipe turns out for you. Your neighbourhood sounds great! I would love to be among foodies like that. As for steaming the meat longer, the best part of cooking is adjusting recipes to the way you like it! I like a little firmer, you like a little softer. We are all happy!
I lived in Ladysmith and worked in Nanaimo when I first got married. I miss Vancouver Island!
The Old Fat Guy
I have never had true montreal smoked meat. I followed your directions to a T. Damn this is good
Thanks! It is one of the best things I have made.
I remember about 10 years ago. Flying to Montreal from Vancouver on business – and buying 20 lbs of genuine MSM. We ate at one of the iconic places. The name escapes me. Awesome experience there and home. DO IT, if you can.
Schwarz’s and Dunn’s are the two big names but there is a lot of good smoked food in Montreal. It is one of the best foodie cities in the world.
Thanks for all the recipes!
How tender should the meat be after steaming? I’m coming up 3 hours and it is still resistant to a fork.
The meat should not be very soft like stew. It should still have some texture for slicing.
what is the oven temp for the steam cycle?
i do 250 for 4hrs.
also i put another coating of the dry rub on the brisket before i smoke.
this way it turn out like the real deal..
Thanks for the suggestions. I find finishing in the oven doesn’t work as well for me so I always finish in steam. Also, I and my friends think this tastes like the real deal.
WOW! Montrealer here and a chef, I have been making Bacon for a few years now and have been looking for a good Dry cure recipe for some time now and this one was just fantastic. I used a small Sterling Silver brisket and did not remove the point so I left it 14 days sous vide, and followed every step religiously figuring I would do my Tweaks on the second batch. Not changing a thing as this was Schwartz level results. I steamed half the brisket figuring I would have a nice piece left over for a friend… we plowed through the whole thing. great recipe and thanks for sharing.
You are so kind to get back to me and with your generous praise.
I am jealous of you living in Montreal. It is one of the great foodie cities of the world.