The Meatwave: Barbecue & Grilling Recipes, Reviews, Tips, and Tricks

Tue Mar 12, 2013

Montreal Smoked Meat

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Montreal Smoked Meat

When making pastrami for the first time, I pretty much hit the nail on the head on flavor—the meat was smoky and salty, with a highly seasoned peppercorn, coriander, and garlic crust that screams "pastrami." Still, that cured and smoked brisket flat didn't sit right with me, mainly because of one glaring omission, it was never steamed! Wanting to correct that and improve my pastrami texture and tenderness, I set off to try again, but once I had a brisket home, decided to do things a little differently and turn this chunk of beef into Montreal smoked meat.

Montreal Smoked Meat

Montreal smoked meat is, more or less, Montreal's answer to pastrami. The process can be almost identical, but there are couple important differences. First is the cut of meat—smoked meat is often made with the whole brisket, letting customers choose between the fatty deckle or the more lean flat, while pastrami is usually just the brisket flat or beef plate. So I accordingly started this off with an entire brisket, and it just happened the only one available the day I went to the butcher was a 16lb monster.

Montreal Smoked Meat

The cure I put together was similar to the pastrami cure, although I held back the amount of sugar. I also decided to ditch the Morton Tender Quick and do a mixture of pink curing salt and kosher salt instead. Getting many questions about the amount of nitrites in the Morton's and not knowing the answer, I thought it was better the second time around to make my own salt mixture to better understand exactly what I was putting into my cure.

Montreal Smoked Meat

The whole brisket was coated in the dry-cure and placed in a doubled up two and half gallon Ziploc bag. Then into the fridge it went for the long curing process. As the meat sat in the cure, it released moisture, which began collecting in the bag. To ensure the cure was penetrating the meat evenly, I flipped the brisket over twice a day.

Montreal Smoked Meat

This went on for four days, at which point the cure had enough time to work its magic and it was almost ready to be smoked. But before smoking, I needed to remove the cure and some excess saltiness, which was achieved through a water bath. Swapping out the extra large bowl I used to do this with pastrami for a roasting pan—wchich is a much more practical size and shape for the task—I soaked the brisket in water for two hours, changing the water every half an hour.

Montreal Smoked Meat

The second important difference in smoked meat is the rub. While some smoked meats will have something similar or the same as the black pepper, coriander, and garlic mixture of pastrami, there's more variation from one smoked meat joint to the next. Having no real point of reference for the most "classic" rub, I decided to put together a somewhat typical Montreal rub thinking it should fit the bill nicely.

Montreal Smoked Meat

The cured and rubbed brisket was then hot smoked at 225 degrees until the meat was just cooked through, hitting an internal temperature of 165 degrees. There's some debate on whether smoked meat is actually smoked. I contend smoking smoked meat and pastrami is the only way to go, but commenters on Serious Eats mentioned some of the institutions in Montreal may not actually smoke their meat, instead cooking it in an oven. To me that seems wrong, although likely true, but I will never be able to say for sure until I get to Montreal and do my own smoked meat investigation (a very delicious case I hope to tackle some day).

Montreal Smoked Meat

When making pastrami, this is where the process stopped. That time I foiled the brisket and let it sit for a couple hours, then sliced and served. The meat tasted great, but the texture and tenderness was shy of the almost falling apart quality of really good, freshly smoked pastrami. This was because I skipped the final step—steaming.

To correct my previous error, I finished the smoked meat resting in a v-rack set in a roasting pan filled with about one and half inches of water. This was put over two burners on the stove, covered, and steamed until the meat's temperature rose to 180 degrees. At this point the brisket was noticeably more tender than my first pastrami, but not quite at that giggly barbecue stage.

Montreal Smoked Meat

The results spoke for themselves. While still a ways off from perfect, more internal fat rendered out, leaving the meat in that state where it's solid enough to stay together when slicing, but tears easily with just a little pull. In contrast to the overpowering spicy pastrami rub, the diverse Montreal seasoning created a more nuanced flavor that let the meat stand out, while still providing a robustness. Overall, it was a pretty stellar piece of meat that was an incremental improvement over my first try. Now it's just smoke, and smoke again until I have a pastrami or smoked meat that fully reaches its pinnacle, something I'm determined to achieve over my lifetime.

Montreal Smoked Meat

Montreal's answer to pastrami, Montreal smoked meat more or less follows the same procedure with a couple differences in the seasoning and cut of meat that make it its own beast.
  • Prep Time:
  • 1 Hour
  • Inactive Time:
  • 4 Days
  • Cook Time:
  • 7 Hours
  • Total Time:
  • 4 Days 8 Hours
  • Yield:
  • 10-12 servings


  • For the Cure
  • 1 cup Kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoons pink salt (aka InstaCure, Prague Powder)
  • 1 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 whole brisket, around 12-14 pounds, fat cap trimmed to %u215B-inch
  • For the rub
  • 3 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoons ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon dill weed
  • 1 teaspoon ground mustard
  • 1 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2-3 fist-size chunks of medium smoking wood, such as oak or hickory


  1. To make the cure, in a small bowl mix together salt, pink salt, black pepper, coriander, sugar, bay leaf, and cloves. Coat entire brisket with the cure and place in an extra-large resealable plastic bag. Place in the coldest part of the refrigerator and cure for 4 days, flipping brisket twice a day.
  2. Remove brisket from bag and wash as much cure off as possible under cold running water. Place brisket in a large container and fill with water and let soak for 2 hours, replacing water every 30 minutes. Remove from water and pat dry with paper towels.
  3. To make the rub, mix together black pepper, coriander, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, dill weed, mustard, celery seed, and crushed red papper in a small bowl. Coat entire brisket with the rub.
  4. Fire up smoker or grill to 225 degrees, adding chunks of smoking wood chunks when at temperature. When wood is ignited and producing smoke, place brisket in, fat side up, and smoke until an instant read thermometer registers 165 degrees when inserted into thickest part of the brisket, about 6 hours.
  5. Transfer brisket to large roasting pan with V-rack. Place roasting pan over two burners on stovetop and fill with 1-inch of water. Bring water to a boil over high heat, reduce heat to medium, cover roasting pan with aluminum foil, and steam brisket until an instant read thermometer registers 180 degrees when inserted into thickest part of the meat, 1 to 2 hours, adding more hot water as needed.
  6. Transfer brisket to cutting board and let cool slightly. Slice and serve, preferably on rye with mustard.


  • 01
  • Maurice says
    Looks awesome - which exact "InstaCure, Prague Powder" did you use? On Amazon there are like #1 and #2 ? Thanks!
    Posted Thu, Mar 14 2013 10:00am
  • 02
  • Josh says
    @Maurice It's Prague Powder #1. I order mine from Butcher-packer.
    Posted Fri, Mar 15 2013 9:25am
  • 03
  • Chris says
    I have never even heard of Montreal smoked meat before but it looks and sounds fantastic. I was about to smoke pastrami in the next week or so but I might have to switch it up now. Or at least add the steaming technique. Great how to post, Josh.
    Posted Mon, Mar 18 2013 10:16pm
  • 04
  • Trent DeRoche says
    I'll be trying this very soon. Thanks for the info.
    Posted Fri, Oct 4 2013 12:00pm
  • 05
  • Katherine B says
    I'm Canadian and grew up eating smoked meat whenever we visited family in Montreal. It's almost silly delicious and you should definitely take a trip up there to investigate further. I'd love to make this but will not have access to a smoker, for the smoking step how long would I need to bake it in the oven, and is there a way to jimmy rig some soaked wood chips (wrapped in foil perhaps) in the oven that might add a little of that smokey aroma? Thanks!
    Posted Mon, Oct 21 2013 1:43pm
  • 06
  • mw says
    @ katherine B

    Check into the grillen mates.. they are little cans that you add to a charchol grill that turns it into a smoker.... a mix of that and just charcole might help you out
    Posted Tue, Oct 29 2013 10:43pm
  • 07
  • Kurt says
    I agree with Katherine, Having grown up in Cornwall (45 minutes away from Montreal) nothing beats authentic Montreal Smoked Meat. It is unbelievably delicious!

    Posted Tue, Dec 3 2013 10:21pm
  • 08
  • Tom says
    My understanding is Montreal institutions cure it for much longer. Up to 10 days. I did that. Mine Is 11.5 pounds and is going to cook for about 9 hours (4 hours no foil, 5 hours foiled) tomorrow. Then it is going to be streamed for approximately 3 hrs on the 25th. Maybe cure it for longer. Just remember to soak out the cure in cold water for 3 hours swapping out the water every 30 minutes. Very important. Don't miss this step.
    Posted Tue, Dec 24 2013 12:40am
  • 09
  • Tom says
    Re Morton's tender quick and nitrate/nitrite.

    There is 0.5% nitrate and 0.5% nitrite in Morton's tender quick, so total 1%.

    Also you don't necessarily need to smoke it (my opinion is smoked meat should be smoked) but many places in Montreal including the famous Schwartz's I am pretty sure don't smoke their meat (you can tell via flavour duh). Just pop it in a large roasting pan on a rack and bake at 225-250 until it is up to desired temp.
    Posted Tue, Dec 24 2013 1:21am
  • 10
  • VJ says
    I like to hang my cured meats to dry fully before smoking, usually a day or two depending on air temp and humidity. Smoke sticks better.
    Posted Mon, Dec 30 2013 3:41pm
  • 11
  • Smoke Meat Ted says
    Tried this recipe on a small scale (2lbs piece of Brisket) to test it, 4 days curing (couldn't find InstaCure or ignored that ingredient), then onto the grill with indirect heat at 225 for 5 hours turning once. Then wrapped in foil and into the fridge until we had a chance to taste it a few days later. Steamed for 2.5 hours.
    Good Rye Bread, French's mustard, and stacked high, with a great pickle. To die for! One suggestion, use a very sharp knife.
    Posted Thu, Jan 9 2014 1:21pm
  • 12
  • Josh says
    @Smoke Meat Ted Glad to hear you gave this a go and it turned out well, certainly one of the more ambitious recipes I have on the blog :)
    Posted Thu, Jan 9 2014 11:30pm
  • 13
  • Mike says
    Being from montreal I have eaten my share.
    There are manny shops in the ethnic districts that specialize in smoked meat, but the best we ever had was at the Momtreal Canadiens hockey games at the old Forum.
    In every restaurant that i ate at, the smoked meat was j
    Kept in a steamer and thinly sliced as requested. Just add a good rye bread, mustard and swiss cheese and dill pickles you are good to go!
    Posted Sat, Mar 22 2014 10:07pm
  • 14
  • StandUp4Canada says
    Read your recipe and there seems to be one thing missing. When you make Montreal Smoked Meat you DO NOT dry cure it, you brine it for a week or more then smoke it. YOu basically made pastrami with a brisket.
    Posted Sat, Apr 5 2014 12:58pm
  • 15
  • saif says
    Yesterday i was try this ricipe and find the one thing is that if you put better amount of onion powder then is going to more yummy . BTW i love your blog .
    Posted Fri, May 16 2014 6:47pm
  • 16
  • RobertB says
    Montreal Style Smoked Meat is great! Thanks for the recipe.
    Posted Sat, May 31 2014 5:26am
  • 17
  • Marg says
    I mixed my curing ingredients in water and brined my 6 lb brisket for 5 days then rinsed well, applied rub, wrapped in foil and cooked in oven 12 hours. Did not need to steam - was fall apart tender and oh, so good!
    Posted Sun, Jun 15 2014 4:28pm
  • 18
  • Marg says
    Sorry - forgot - 250 degrees
    Posted Sun, Jun 15 2014 4:30pm
  • 19
  • Mike says
    I make montreal smoked meat for levitts and live in montreal as well. I know for a fact the brisket is injected with the brine, and then sits for 3 days. Then it is spiced and cooked in ovens WITHOUT SMOKE! They are steamed for around 3 hours.

    That is the way montreal style smoked meat is made, however I enjoy smoking my briskets and then adding my home made expresso bbq sauce.

    Posted Sun, Jul 6 2014 7:30pm
  • 20
  • Tom says

    Yes Montreal smoked meat is generally brined, not dry cured. However, if using a proper cure, after 2 days, there will be enough of the juices drawn out that it will be in a brine (if you put it in a vacuum sealed bag). My smoked meat always turns out great that way.

    Back in the day, Montreal smoked meat was always smoked and the brine was not injected, the meat soaked in it. Both injecting the brine and not smoking it are cost saving measures that have been developed because these minor changes don't have too great an effect on quality, and save a lot of time and money. Smoking meat using a charcoal smoker costs a lot more than baking it. Same goes for brining it for 10 days versus 3. If you are doing it for a private party, don't cut corners like the businesses, you won't be disappointed with the extra effort required. If you are a business you do what you need to do to maximize profit. That is the only reason they don't smoke smoked meat and that they inject their brine.
    Posted Tue, Jul 8 2014 4:33am
  • 21
  • Andrew says
    Worked at Shopsy's deli in Toronto (can hear the Montrealers chuckling) as a kid and ate my share of MSM, corned beef, tongue and pastrami on best rye with 1000 island dressing! Starved for good deli meats living in CA so going to give this one a try. Great blog and thanks for the additional background Tom. No cutting corners for me...
    Posted Wed, Sep 3 2014 11:57pm
  • 22
  • charlie wolfe says
    A couple comments here say that Montreal Smoked meat is not a dry rub process--not true--I spoke with Frank at Schwartz's Deli in Montreal when I was ordering my 3 pounds of their MSM rub and he says it goes like this:

    1. Rub the brisket with the MSM rub and let sit in the fridge for 5 days undisturbed.

    2. After day #5 flip it over and let sit another 5 days for a total of 10. (He says it can sit as long as 13 days but not longer.)

    3. Smoke the brisket for 7-8 hours at 250. When I asked what internal temp to pull it off he says they do hundreds of briskets this way and it would be impossible for them to track temperature on so many briskets. (Note: I pulled my first MSM brisket off the smoker after 5 hours, at which point I had achieved an internal temp of 205). Note, they do not use any wood, just charcoal smoke for the cooking process.

    4. Take meat out of the smoker and put into a steamer (I used a rice steamer with the brisket cut into two halves so it would fit). About an hour, but you can go longer

    5. Let sit in the fridge overnight and slice the next morning

    Mine turned out awesome although I plan to experiment with longer cook times (and higher internal temps) in keeping with Schwartz's instructions on my next MSM cook.
    Posted Sun, Sep 7 2014 7:57pm
  • 23
  • lewis says
    I am from montreal, and have never found anything remotely close to it anywhere.
    An important element is the carving. It takes skill and there are very few around who can still do it right, while its hot.
    It MUST be served on rye bread with mustard. The smaller the slice the better (higher meat to bread ratio) and must have mustard.
    The sign of good MSM is that it falls apart as you eat it.
    Juicy and yummy.

    Posted Sat, Sep 13 2014 7:24pm
  • 24
  • Ken Davis says
    Hello from Australia. A friend from Maine, now living over here, told me about Montreal Smoked Meat, with much encouragement to do one in my Traeger. I stumbled upon your blog today after googling the temperature I should smoke at. I forgot since my first MSM.

    I read through several recipes for the MSM, and decided to wet-brine for the 4 days, and then marinade in the dry rub, turning twice daily, for 7 days, then smoke for 8 hours, then steam for four hours until the internal temperature reaches 180 degrees F.

    Today is smoking day for my second MSM. Steaming tomorrow morning.

    One day I shall try the real MSM in Montreal.

    Best wishes everybody.

    Posted Fri, Oct 3 2014 10:08pm
  • 25
  • Cecilia Ruel says
    I made it to your recipe and it is wonderful. Tried the same thing with pork tenderloin exactly as your recipe for Montreal Smoked Meat and have beautiful ham. Thankyou
    Posted Sat, Mar 7 2015 4:23pm
  • 26
  • Nate M says
    I filmed a video of this and put it on youtube with a link to your page hope you get some extra traffic from my video (well the video is going live tomorrow night). I did it slightly different....using a corned beef brisket...It was fantastic.
    Posted Thu, Mar 26 2015 9:24am

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