Montreal-style Smoked Meat

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Smoked Meat is Montreal’s answer to American pastrami. I had it for the first time when I was a college student and debated at McGill University. After Ben’s wedding in Albany, I went to Montreal a second time and had a smoked meat sandwich at Schwartz’s deli after waiting in a long line. A few year’s ago I bought The Mile End Cookbook, which is from a Montreal-style Jewish restaurant in Brooklyn, because it has a recipe for making smoked meat. It took a long time for me to get around to it, but I made a batch over the last two weeks, and it did turn out very well. It is an example of a dish which is not really hard to make, but which takes time, and is easier with the right equipment, like an electric box smoker and a large pot with a steamer liner. It takes about 12 days to cure the meat, 4 hours to soak it after the cure, 6-8 hours to smoke it, and then another 2 hours or so to steam it, and then the final product is ready. So it is a project, and takes a lot of elapsed time, but none of the steps are very difficult. The result was very tasty, and unlike anything I could get in Richmond.

According to Wikipedia, the Montreal Seasoning sold in the spice section is based on the spices used to make Smoked Meat.


12-15 lb. whole beef brisket

Curing Mixture

¾ cup plus 2 Tbs. Diamond Crystal kosher salt

1 Tbs. plus 2 tsp. pink curing salt

½ cup sugar

1 lb. peeled garlic (8-10 heads), coarsely chopped in a food processor

1 cup whole black peppercorns

6 Tbs. coriander seeds

¼ cup mustard seeds

2 Tbs. whole allspice berries, cracked

3 Tbs. dehydrated onions

3 Tbs. paprika

20 dried bay leaves


Spice Rub

¼ cup whole black peppercorns, cracked

2 Tbs. coriander seeds

1 Tbs. paprika


Trim the fat cap on the brisket to ¼ inch thick. Cut the brisket into two equal pieces so that each piece can fit in a 2.5 gallon ziplock baggie.


Mix all of the curing ingredients into a large bowl. (There is a lot of garlic and spices in this mixture.) Rub the brisket all over with the curing mixture. Put each half of the brisket into a 2.5 gallon ziplock baggie, express all the air out of the baggie, lay the pieces flat in a refrigerator. Flip the meat daily, and allow it to cure for 12 days. There is no harm if your schedule (like weekends) makes it more convenient to continue the curing process for another couple of days. The curing mixture is quite pungent, and after a few days I put the two baggies in a trash bag to try to reduce leakage of the smell into the rest of the refrigerator.

Here is what the meat looks like after it is cured:

When the brisket is cured, rinse the spices off under cold running water. Put the brisket in a non-reactive container (like the polycarbonate container I use for sous-vide cooking) and soak it in cold water for 4 hours on the kitchen counter to moderate the salt content. Dry the brisket with paper towels, and rub with the spice rub. Put the rubbed briskets on a rack and under a fan to dry the surface while the smoker is made ready.

Heat the smoker to 215 degrees, and smoke the briskets for 6-8 hours, with new chips every hour, until the internal temperature reaches 155 degrees.

Remove the smoked brisket, and store overnight and unwrapped on a cookie sheet in a refrigerator.

The next day, put the briskets in a steamer, and steam them for 1.5 to 2 hours until the meat is fork tender. Replenish the water periodically if necessary.  Cut the steamed meat against the grain into ¼ inch slices and enjoy.


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