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Montreal Smoked Meat, the journey!

Discussion in 'Food and Drink' started by PierreRodrigue, Feb 9, 2015.

  1. PierreRodrigue

    PierreRodrigue Tactical Walrus Founding Member Contributor

    So for me having family from the Montreal area, I have always been fond of the stuff. I know that there are diw hard pastrami fans here, and wonder what the difference is. To be honest, there really isn't a ton of difference. MSM is less sweet, and may be traditionally prepared similarly to pastrami. But there is a difference! Maybe more or slightly different spices...

    So here I am with a new appreciation of all meats smoked, and this had to be done. I have done a ton of internet research, phone calls, and recipe collecting, and have arrived at what I think is a solid MSM in the traditions of Pete's and Schwartz's.

    So a couple weeks ago, I ordered and picked up a massive 17 pound brisket, and in my haste to get home, didn't open the butcher paper to look at it. When I had my daughter bring it in for me the next day to get it going, I opened it up, and immediately thought she had grabbed a pork belly by mistake. Man it was fatty!! and it was only the flat, no point! So discouraged, I cut it in half mixed up the spices and cure, and set it in the fridge to do its thing. Next day at work, I called up the butcher/abattoir, and mentioned I wasnt happy. Bring it back he said... I told him I had already cut it, and had half spiced. He said no worries, "If your not happy, I just lost a customer, likely more, as there will be no good word of mouth" So impressed, I returned it on a Friday, He told me that on the following Tuesday, they will be putting 4 fresh animals on the hook for processing, and would personally cut me a brisket.

    Thursday I got the call it was ready for pickup. So after work I rushed back to town and picked it up. NICE!!

    I got right down to grinding and blending spices for the dry cure.
    Then coating and rubbing it into the brisket. Then wrapped, and into the refer for 10 to 14 days.

    After the dry cure, the brisket was rinsed, and soaked for 3 hours, to reduce the surface salt, then dried, and prepped for the dry rub, for the smoking/cooking portion of the process.
    I used a digital scale, and an old coffee grinder to help with the spice grinding. I find this more uniform than an electric grinder. Everything weighed for accuracy.

    So into the offset smoker, with a little help from an AMNPS for the maple/apple smoke.

    After a 6 hour smoke, I had to bring it in to finish it in the oven, -37C with wind and blowing snow, it was tough to hold temps. It was then foiled, and plastic wrapped for two days.
    Had to sneak a taste!!
  2. PierreRodrigue

    PierreRodrigue Tactical Walrus Founding Member Contributor

    After a two day rest in the fridge, It got a three hour tented steam at 210F in the oven, then sliced and served.
    This is my second sandwich, sorry its a tad messy! That didnt affect the taste though!! ;)
    I served it with coleslaw, beer battered sweet onion rings, and double fried fries... I need maternity pants!! Man I over ate!
  3. Wagner the Wehrwolf

    Wagner the Wehrwolf Founding Member

    God I love Quebecois smoked meat! Medium fat for me please.
  4. Looks delicious!!

    Curious why the offset instead of your new smokehouse?
  5. Mrmnms

    Mrmnms Founding Member Gold Contributor

    I'm guessing ambient temperature up there made the smoke temperature a challenge.
  6. PierreRodrigue

    PierreRodrigue Tactical Walrus Founding Member Contributor

    Biggest reason was the internal space, and the time the meat was gonna be exposed to smoke. The offset is smaller, smoke has more chance to contact the meat.

    True. It was -37 wind chill the day I smoked, with a 35 MPH wind. It was a challenge indeed!

    In the end, it was a best guess which smoker would have worked better. The smoke house is much larger, so longer heat up time, burns propane, so bigger chance of a flame out, but it is better insulated against the elements (except in front of the intake vents where the burner is.)
    The offset, I used charcoal, one reason was for flavor, the other it the fire wouldn't blow out. Also a smaller airspace to heat up. Down side was the snow and wind sucked the heat out of the smoke chamber as fast as the charcoal could generate it. In the end though, I ended up with a great hunk of meat. ;)
  7. Lucretia

    Lucretia Founding Member

    I'm not generally a fan of pastrami, but I'd eat that! Looks great!

    Can't imagine trying to smoke meat under those conditions. Amazing work, sir! (Or maybe a tad insane...)
  8. James

    James smarter then your average duck Founding Member Gold Contributor

    I both love and hate your posts Pierre, really depends on what time of day I stop in... thankfully i just had lunch, so very nice indeed
  9. Mrmnms

    Mrmnms Founding Member Gold Contributor

    you would be welcome at my table or smoker any time Pierre
  10. Toothpick

    Toothpick #2 since day #1 Founding Member

  11. Jim

    Jim Old Curmudgeon Founding Member

    Pierre, that is a thing of joy! I would augue from here in NYC that you have a pastrami there.

    Over the years I have tried to pin down the various permutations of MSM and Pastrami- the best defiinition I can come to is by cure time. That dry cure brings it into a Corned beef, the smoke and spices into a Pastriami.
    My "impression" ( not a fact by any streach or intent ) is that MSM is more of a marinated product and not fully cured before smoking.

    In any case you nailed that sucka!
  12. PierreRodrigue

    PierreRodrigue Tactical Walrus Founding Member Contributor

    Thanks Jim! The subtleties between MSM and Pastrami are not in my arguable skill set... AT ALL!! lol! This recipe calls for a full cure. The recipe calls for pink salt, or cure #1, which is 6.25% nitrite. Only way to keep the meat "pink" Its a different animal for sure. Maybe a blend of a corned beef, and a pastrami would be a more accurate description. But then again, the spices and smoke separate it from both.

    Here have a look at the recipe/process, tell me what you think. Id like to beat this around a tad, and invite all to chime in! If I'm gonna do it again (I will for sure) I'd like to be able to describe it, and the differences/similarities a bit better...

    Montreal smoked meat

    This is mostly it's everything I've learned about Montreal Smoked Meat and Pastrami over the past 6-8 months.


    1. A kitchen scale.
    2. Ziplock Big Bags XXL. Available at Wal-Mart.
    3. A steamer or sous vide immersion circulator. This could be a stovetop steamer, rice steamer, roasting pan with a rack for the oven, or a large bamboo steamer. This is for finishing the meat, usually 3 hours. Note the sous vide approach is based on the method in Modernist Cuisine.
    4. An outdoor smoker. Smokers lead to better flavour, but using the oven will do in a pinch, since most MSM these days at deli's isn't wood smoked.
    5. A digital probe thermometer (optional) For inserting into the meat - it's the reliable way to check doneness reliably.
    6. A moderately cold refrigerator with room or a cold room. 38-40F or 3C-4.4C. Try not to go colder than 37F/2.5C.


    These are hypothetical quantities based on ratios from the initial cut of meat. This is the Modernist Cuisine format due to its ease of reading once you know the recipe; details on these ingredients below.

    For the Dry Cure

    Weight - Description - Ratio

    5 kg [11 lb] - Beef Brisket, with fat cap - 100%
    0.2 kg [7.04 oz] - Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt - 4%
    Note: Dry cure salt guideline is 1 lb per 25 lb of meat
    0.0125 kg [0.44 oz] - Curing (pink) salt - 0.25%
    Note: Assuming pink salt is 6.25% nitrate - the guideline is 1 oz per 25 lb of meat
    0.1 kg [3.52 oz] - White Sugar - 2%
    Note: Adjust sugar to taste -- down to 0.6%, up to 2.7%; MSM usually has less sugar than pastrami
    0.03 kg [1.18 oz] - Ground Black Peppercorns - 0.67%
    0.03 kg [1.18 oz] - Ground Coriander Seeds - 0.67%
    0.025 kg [0.88 oz] - Mustard Seeds - 0.5%
    0.01 kg [0.35 oz] - Garlic powder - 0.2%
    0.01 kg [0.35 oz] - Ground Cinnamon - 0.2%
    0.01 kg [0.35 oz] - Fennel Seed - 0.2%
    0.005 kg [0.18 oz] - Ground Cloves - 0.1%
    0.0025 kg [0.09 oz] - Chile Pepper Flakes - 0.05%
    0.0025 kg [0.09 oz] - Ground Bay Leaves - 0.05%

    For the Rub

    Weight - Description - Ratio
    0.36 kg [12.7 oz] - Ground Black Peppercorns - 7.2%
    0.21 kg [7.4 oz] - Ground Coriander Seeds - 4.2%
    Note: Pepper to Coriander ratio is usually 2:1, this one adds a bit more Coriander
    0.1875 kg [6.6 oz] - White Sugar - 3.75%
    Note: Adjust sugar to taste -- down to 0%, up to 7.5%; MSM should have less sugar than pastrami
    0.05 kg [1.76 oz] - Garlic powder - 1%
    0.0325 kg [1.14 oz] - Chile Pepper Flakes- 0.65%

    For Smoking
    1. Charcoal - lump or briquettes, depending on your smoker, enough for 4-5 hours of low heat (250F)
    2. Smoke wood - about 4 to 6 fist-sized chunks of fruit wood (apple/cherry), pecan or maple. Hickory can be mixed in but sparingly (say 2 pieces out of 6). MSM traditionally used maple but in modern times isn't smoked at all. I like pecan, or maple/apple blend.

    For Serving
    1. Rye bread
    2. Mustard
    3. Pickles (optional)
    4. A large sharp knife
    5. A large fork

    Dry Cure Procedure
    1. Trim some fat off the brisket, particularly on sides and top. Leave at least 1/4 to 1/2" of the fat cap on the bottom.
    2. Rub the garlic powder on the brisket.
    3. Combine the kosher salt with the curing salt, being mindful of meat to salt ratios. Rub the brisket with the salt mixture. If there's excess, throw it in the bottom of the ziplock bag.
    4. Grind the remaining dry cure ingredients and mix together in a large bowl. Rub the meat with the dry cure spices. There shouldn't be much excess, but it can go in the ziplock.
    5. Place the brisket in the bottom of the ziplock back, try to ensure any excess that was in the bag is evenly distributed on the meat.
    6. Squeeze the air out of the bag and close the zipper; store the ziplock bag in a cold room or refrigerator, around 38-40F (not super cold).
    7. Overhaul (turn over) the brisket every 12 hours or so, for 7 days. Smaller briskets can take less time (roughly, I'd estimate a 6 lb brisket for 5 days, a 15 lb brisket for 9 days). I did 12 days
    8. After the cure, take the brisket out of the bag, and rinse off the curing spices.
    9. Fill a large sink with water and soak the brisket for 3 hours, changing water every 1/2 hour. Pat the brisket dry with paper towels.

    Rub and Smoke Procedure
    1. Grind the rub ingredients and mix together in a large bowl. Rub the meat with the dry rub.
    2. Optionally, wrap the brisket in ziplock again and let it sit in the dry rub in a fridge or cold room for 6-8 hours. (I skip this sometimes)
    3. Light the smoker with the smoke wood, to 225-250F
    4. Smoke the brisket until it reaches 165F internal temperature - around 4 to 5 hours, depending on the brisket size and temperature of your smoker
    5. Remove from smoker, and either proceed with steaming, or wrap in foil, then ziplock or plastic wrap, and refrigerate until ready to eat

    Steaming and Serving
    1. Carve the fatty (thicker, point end) of the brisket to separate it from the leaner (flat end) meat, and carve again into smaller chunks to fit in your preferred steamer.
    2. If using a stovetop steamer, get the water steaming, and keep on low. Oven roasting pans should be filled with water up to the rack and the oven set to 200F. If using sous-vide, set your immersion circulator for 140F.
    3. Steam for 3 hours, until the brisket is fork tender.
    4. If using sous vide, you have two options. (a) Vaccuum pack your chunk and cook for up to 72 hours. I found this didn't work as well as straight steaming, hence … (b) The modernist cuisine way calls for putting an equal weight of the MSM brine (water would be fine) in the bag with the MSM, seal it (this may be difficult with non-chamber sealers), and cooking for 72 hours. I have not personally tried this approach yet.
    5. Once tender, grab the chunk with a large fork, carve brisket chunks against the grain with a sharp knife, serve on rye bread with mustard.
  13. Mrmnms

    Mrmnms Founding Member Gold Contributor

    I've been doing pastrami for a long tume Pierre. Yours looks spot on. I finish mine just the way you do. I've been wet brining mine for the last few years, but I'm going to give you dry rub a go. Thanks!
  14. I love the details...thanks for sharing! I agree - going to try the dry rub. I've always dry rubbed bbq brisket and wet brined pastrami. Time to mix it up!
  15. Jay

    Jay No soup for you Founding Member


    That's a pastrami, and a damned fine looking one, at that.
  16. Mrmnms

    Mrmnms Founding Member Gold Contributor

    Neil , how bought a pastrami swap this spring? I can drop it off in my way through. Stay warm all of you!
  17. Excellent idea!

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