After having a Montreal Smoked Meat Sandwich in Montreal a few years ago, we have been on a mission: eat this sandwich again. Click here to go straight to the recipe.
What is a Montreal Smoked Meat Sandwich?
A Montreal smoked meat sandwich is a cured, smoked brisket on rye with mustard. This sounds so simple, and it would be if you could just buy the meat from a deli. You can’t do that in Texas, really, so we have moved on from our quest to find the meat. Now, our quest involves making the meat. While Montreal smoked meat is close to pastrami, it’s made from a different cut of meat and cured longer. There are some differences in how the meat is steamed and smoked but I won’t get into all that because I’m not the smoker in the family. By “Smoker” I mean “Big Green Egg Obsessed Suburban Male.”
Speaking of “Green Egg Obsessed Suburban Male,” let’s take a minute to talk about Jim Rome. Yes, that Jim Rome – the sports guy. My husband was, at one point, a huge fan of the show. He tells me that Montreal Smoked Meat was first introduced to him when Jim Rome did a bit about how his buddy would constantly tell him that “Montreal Smoked Meat” is the best sandwich he’d ever eaten.
“What kind of meat is it?” The answer was always, “Smoked meat, you idiot.” and on and on. Eventually, Rome went to Montreal and tried it and declared it the best sandwich he ever had. A few years ago, my husband and I traveled to Montreal for Canada Day and some sightseeing and of course, my husband tried the Smoked Meat Sandwich and declared it “The Best Sandwich Ever.” So here we are, more than a decade later, making a Montreal Smoked Meat in Texas on a Sunday afternoon. Thanks, Rome, buddy. It is a great sandwich.
I’d also like to make a quick shout-out to the amazing Canadian food culture out there. Not many people appreciate the wide range of amazing flavors and recipes that Canada has to offer. Of course, the maple syrup is wonderful, and so are the maple sausages and cookies and Tim Horton’s donuts. They serve poutine at the ballpark, yall. It’s my favorite, and we are making poutine to go with the smoked meat sandwich.
There is an amazing Canadian restaurant in Addison, Texas that has been featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. We eat there a few times a year and they serve delicious food. I don’t have any affiliation with them, so I’m not recommending them but for any other reason than I think everyone should go eat some Canadian food at the Maple Leaf Diner.
As we speak, we are on day two of dry-curing a whole brisket.
To make the cure, we of course used Prague pink powder, cracked coriander, cracked pepper, kosher salt, ground bay leaves and cloves. We used the stone grinder for the pepper, coriander and bay leaf powder since we already had other versions of those spices in the house.
The smell was incredible. The coriander and pepper aroma was amazing.
Note that this entire brisket is completely covered with the cure. The brisket is completely smothered with this stuff. It is then placed in an XL Zip Lock bag or any other type of large, preferably somewhat air tight container.
Once bagged up, turn the brisket every twelve hours. In ten days, you’ll be ready to soak the brisket for a few hours before smoking.
Ten Days Later…..
My husband turned the brisket every twelve hours for ten days. On day 11, he took the brisket out and rinsed as much of the salt off as he could, and then soaked the brisket. He replaced the water every thirty minutes or so, in order to get as much salt out of the brisket as possible before smoking.
At this point, the roast is pretty ugly again, so don’t worry. Once all of the rub is off of it you can see that it’s changed from a vibrant red color to a kind of dingy brown. That’s ok – we’re going to add another rub to it and smoke it and cook it and steam it and it’s going to be prettier than a pink peony pretty soon.
The rub is made of crushed coriander seeds and peppercorns and again thickly rubbed into all areas of the brisket that can be reached. I used coriander that I found on Amazon, and that was the cheapest I could find for the quantity needed. If you don’t have a bulk spice market it may be difficult for you to lay your hands on the quantity needed for this recipe. I promise, it is worth it, though. I’ve got enough left over for another one of these, as well.
Smoking the Montreal Smoked Meat Brisket
We used the Big Green Egg to smoke our brisket. The Big Green Egg holds temperatures really well. We used maple to smoke the meat, of course, and the entire street smelled heavenly for 8 hours on a Saturday.
Smoke at 250 for four hours using Maple Chunks.
After Smoking, Bake the Smoked Meat
Wrap in foil and bake at 250 for five hours.
At this point, it is impossible to stop picking at this delicious smoked meat. It’s just… heavenly. It smells like summer and sunshine and wholesome memories.
Even though it looks and smells perfect, it is not quite ready, yet. You’re going to have to wait one more day. Sorry.
There is one more step that makes the Montreal Smoked Meat sandwich different from pastrami and corned beef.
Before we get to that, remove the brisket from the oven or smoker and let it rest on a countertop, covered, until it has cooled to room temperature.
Steaming Makes the Smoked Meat Tender
To achieve the final perfect tenderness, the brisket needs to be steamed for four hours. I do not have any traditional “steaming” equipment, so we improvised.
We placed the brisket on a roasting pan, boiled water under it and covered it with foil. This steamed the brisket beautifully.
The Cuisinart stainless steel roaster is the best roaster I’ve ever had, and using it for a steamer made me love it even more because it worked and then cleaned up so easily afterward. An SOS pad on the rack and inside left it looking brand new.
Next, slice and eat! We invited friends over, marking this the first time we have had company for dinner in our new house, since COVID hit a week after we moved in last year. It was wonderful to share food and laughter with friends. We served poutine with the montreal smoked meat but the sandwiches clearly stole the day in amazing flavor and deliciousness. I’m going to post the recipe below and create a downloadable recipe card for you to download and print for free. I hope you enjoy this as much as we did, and share it with your friends and family!
Montreal Smoked Meat Recipe
Start with a double or whole brisket – not a flat cut. Specify the “whole brisket” to the butcher. Cure it with the following ingredients:
4 tb Prague pink powder (6% nitrate “pink salt”) + 1.5 c kosher salt
1/2 lb cracked black pepper
1/4 lb sugar
1/4 lb cracked coriander
3 tbsp bay leaf powder (I just crushed bay leafs with a mortar and pestle)
3 tbsp cloves
Rub this cure all over the brisket and wrap tightly in a giant zip loc bag or unsealed foodsaver bag. Cure for at least ten days. We did eleven. Turn the brisket over twice a day, every 12 hours.
On day 11, soak the brisket in water for several hours, replacing the water every 30 minutes. Make a rub of 2 parts peppercorns and 1 part coriander seeds (cracked) and rub all over. Store in fridge overnight.
The next morning, smoke at 250 for 4 hours. Wrap in foil and bake at 250 for five hours. Bring down to room temperature and refridgerate overnight.
Steam the brisket for 3 hours. Slice and serve immediately, on rye bread, with mustard and pickles. Pepperonchini optional. Enjoy!
Big thanks to BigGreenMatt over at eggheadforum.com for the starter recipe, which we found here: ultimate montreal smoked meat recipe — Big Green Egg – EGGhead Forum – The Ultimate Cooking Experience…
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