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"Smoked Meat" vs Corned Beef

We just got back from a week in Montreal. All the guidebooks, and friends
who had been there told us about smoked meat, specifically at Schwartz's, although it turned out there are competitors in Montreal with equal bragging rights.

It's to die for. Looks like corned beef, you get your choice of lean, medium or fatty cut. Hubby went for lean, which turned out to be a bit dry; I opted for medium, and it was heavenly.

So, my question is, can one find this guilty pleasure anywhere in the Delaware Valley? Let me describe the process they use if that will help.
A whole brisket is marinated in a dry rub, for what I was told was 10 days.
Then it is smoked; and only after that, it is steamed to produce melt-in-your-mouth tender, tasty meat.

If I had a smoker and a steamer, which I don't, and can't (condo living),
I'd make it myself, but it's a long trip to Montreal, and it's too darn cold this
time of the year, so I'm up for travel in the Delaware Valley if someone is
making this style of brisket.

It's so good, and can't be copyrighted, that it's hard to believe we would not emulate our Canadian neighbors to the North... But, I've never read
anything about this on the CH Board.

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  1. Go to a jewish deli, if you can find one, and get the pastrami. make sure it is NOT from beef round, but either from brisket or, I think, the knuckle? Pretty similar.

    2 Replies
    1. re: woodburner

      I think you're thinking of navel rather than knuckle. The brisket is basically the breast, or chest muscle, and the navel is simmilar but further "down" the animal towards the belly (or navel, hence the name).

      Don't know if OP has had pastrami in the Philly area but there are a few places in the suburbs and city that serve traditoinal pastrami and corned beef (or at least it's close enough for a Southerner). While it's not the same as Montreal smoked meat it is the same basic idea made the same basic way..

    2. Here is the last thread I could find on Philly board about smoked meat. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/778163

      People suggested that Spread Bagelry might have some but to my recollection they are making the brisket in house and importing pastrami from NY.

      The closest place short of going to Montreal that I am aware of is Mile End Deli in NY. They have locations in NoHo and Brooklyn. http://www.mileenddeli.com/locations-...

      1. Basically, the equivalent of "smoked meat" is pastrami. The spicing is a little different, and the cut of meat is sometimes different, but its about as close as you will find.

        1. That is so interesting about pastrami. To me it is a different
          kind of meat altogether--much fattier, very tasty, and worth
          a try for a comparison. Going to NY to that Mile End place
          is also quite a trip!

          1. I lived in Montreal for three years (Undergrad.) I learned that Smoked Meat is what Pastrami ASPIRES TO (sorry for the grammar, but that's verbatim Canadian.) I believe you can get smoked meat shipped from several Montreal sources.

            1 Reply
            1. re: MainLiner

              Have had many pastramis and while some very good, compared to a good Montreal smoked not even close, aspires says it exactly.

            2. Hmmm. I guess I was wrong about getting it shipped from Montreal. Must be a trade restriction. The only site I saw online that shipped was inter-Canada only.

              3 Replies
              1. re: MainLiner

                The interesting thing is that the most famous Deli in Montreal that makes its own smoked meat is Schwartz's and it was recently purchased by Celine Dion, (kind of like Madonna buying Katz's in NY?). They are going to start supplying local supermarkets with the product.

                If you go to Schwartz's you can buy vacuum packed portions of the meat that you can bring into the country.

                1. re: cwdonald

                  I had just read recently that Canadian Thanksgiving is when the Canucks celebrate the fact Celine Dion moved to Vegas :)

                  When I lived there (77-80) Schwartz's was THE gold standard, but Ben's and Dunn's were the "downtown" go-to's if you didn't want to hike to "The Main" (St. Laurent.)

                  Though when I go to MTL these days (and Schwartz' is still my Mecca) and rye and yellow mustard (if you order cheese with your meat there they will call your mom) is the only way to have it, in my student days, Smoked Meat was a standard way to order fried rice in most Chinese joints.)

                  The Most bizarre use I had seen was in Dunn's front window advertising "Smoked Meat Pizzaghetti." I never had the balls, even in my most drunken moments to order it.

                  Someone had mentioned ordering smoked meat "lean." Bad idea. It is NOT "health food." Though medium is fine, and "fatty" a guilty pleasure, I liked to compromise and order a "lean" with "extra speck." For the non-Yiddish speakers out there, "speck" refers to the fatty outer coating with the rub on it. This rub is essentially what you get when you buy McCormick's Montreal Seasoning. Schwartz's also offers a killer rib-eye (a kosher cut) rubbed in the Smoked Meat spices. Their fries (like most in Montreal) are to die for. Don't get me started on steamies and poutine.

                  1. re: MainLiner

                    Wow I never made the connection between smoked meat and Montreal seasoning. Thanks for that.

                    Spread Bagelry was serving smoked meat for a while but I think cwdonald is right that they stopped.

                    My call for best "smoked meat" in philly right now is the brisket at fette sau -- of course that is in the literal sense. But it is fatty, delicious and addictive in the same way that good Montreal smoked meat and pastrami are.

              2. This may be outside your travel range, but their is a place in NYC (2 actually, 1 in Manhattan, the other in Brooklyn) that serves Montral smoked meat and related items:

                http://www.mileenddeli.com/

                The Manhattan store is actually within walking distance of Katz's, so you could probably buy one at Mile End, bring it to Katz'z, get a 2nd sandwich, and do an onsite comparision. As long as you buy a sandwich (or something) at Katz's I've never had them object to anyone bringing in a Knish or a bagel with lox from the equally well-known places a few doors west. There are also public benches on Allen Street, if the weather is nice: it's not exactly a "park" in the sense that Olmstead might have envisioned, but I've enjoyed many sandwiches, bagels, etc. sitting out there.

                The comparision might be interesting to many readers , especially if you could post photos of the 2 types of sandwiches side by side.

                1. CW & mchametzky who mentioned Mile End Deli ( www.mileenddeli.com ) pinpointed what is a known US deli providing Montreal style Smoked Meats. A comment from the founder/owner follows:

                  'We indeed serve smoked meat, made the way it is made in Montreal. It happens to be quite similar to very good pastrami - The particular differences are: Dry-rubbed instead of wet-brined; whole brisket instead of brisket deckle; and some variation in spicing, in that, there is more aromatics and less sweetness".

                  "Our meat is cured and smoked completely in-house in Brooklyn and sourced from prime angus ranches in Iowa. So it's inspired by the smoked meat of Montreal but actually produced right here in NYC."

                  Hope to see you soon (and don't order it lean!),

                  Noah

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: Bacchus101

                    There's a very good MSM thread on Chowhound. Covers how to make it and variations.

                    1. re: sal_acid

                      I smoke a dry-rubbed packer brisket at least one a month, and have tried the canonical seasoning mixes.. Never tastes like MTL. Fine tasting brisket, but not the same. Maybe they use oak or maple, but smoked meat there never tastes smoky.

                      1. re: MainLiner

                        Its funny, i was born and raised in Philly and moved to Montreal(married to a native) in 2004 when i was 25. When i come back to philly, i easily put on 5lbs or so in 2 weeks when i visit friends and family. Smoked meat is fine once in awhile, but i miss the pizza, sandwiches in philly and pretty much everything else food related. Best thing Montreal has to offer in my opinion is Greek and Portugese cuisine since we have big populations of both and they offer good food at good prices.

                        1. re: mike2000z28

                          Montreal has some great ethnic food, but some of the local flavors are quite unique.. Poutine (fresh cut fries with cheese curds and gravy), Steamies (steamed hot dogs all-dressed) tortiere (pork pie), and ragout pattes de cochon (pig foot stew) are impossible to find elsewhere (at least comparable versions.) Pizza and "subs" don't compare to Philly, but MTL has its traditions... Also can't forget the Laurier and St, Hubert BBQ rotisserie chickens !!!

                          1. re: MainLiner

                            And the huge Lebanese diaspora there makes it also the home for great Middle Eastern food!

                            1. re: MainLiner

                              When is the last time you were back? Besides the corruption the biggest problem is lack of food outside the downtown core. I live in the east end and there is zero takeout pretty much where i live that isn't crap. I crave my Philly foods. The great thing with Philly is you can get really good takeout outside downtown and in the burbs and good restaurants. Montreal outside a certain area you aren't getting anything remotely decent. If you live on the West island you have more choice because it is English and if you live east of decarie you have pretty much nothing. My favorite restaurant that you get your moneys worth is probably Marathon and some of the other Greek places as well as some Portuguese places on St Laurent.

                              1. re: mike2000z28

                                Mike, very interesting insights from an insider, thanks. We visit annually Montreal and Quebec City, but of course even with our familiarity from many visits we are just tourists in the City and immediate surrounds. We hope you get back to Philly frequently to enjoy the food scene which at all levels is electric!