Why It Works
- Steaming the meat after smoking produces a more tender, smoother textured smoked meat that is equally delicious cold or reheated the next day.
- The diverse spice blend of a Montreal rub creates a more nuanced flavor that lets the meat stand out, while still providing a robust taste overall.
Ever since making my first pastrami, I've wanted to correct a rather large omission in my process—the pastrami was never steamed. To finally fix this, I got another brisket to smoke, but instead of remaking pastrami, I went the Montreal smoked meat route instead.
Montreal smoked meat is, more or less, Montreal's answer to pastrami. The process can be almost identical, but there are two main differences. First, the seasoning—smoked meat rubs can vary while pastrami is primarily a mix of black pepper, coriander, and garlic. Second 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.
As with pastrami, the smoked meat starts with a dry cure to let the salt and nitrites work their magic in the fridge for five days. Then the brisket gets soaked to remove some saltiness and is coated with my interpretation of a Montreal rub, then placed in the smoker until it hit 165°F.
When making pastrami, at this point, I took it out, let it rest, then sliced the meat and served. Hot off the grill, it was excellent but the next day, reheated, it was on the dry side. So this time for the Montreal version, I took an additional step of steaming the brisket until it jumped another 15 degrees, ending the cook at 180°F.
This made a world of difference. The texture of the meat was much smoother after gently bringing it to a higher temperature with steam. It also solved the leftover problems—both cold and reheated, the smoked meat was equally delicious.
The flavor was also better, its diverse spice rub creating a more nuanced flavor that let the meat stand out, while still providing a robust taste overall. Fixing a problem has never been so delicious.
- For the Cure:
- 1 cup Kosher salt
- 3 tablespoons ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons ground coriander
- 1 tablespoons pink salt, such as Prague Powder #1
- 1 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 whole brisket, around 12-14 pounds, fat cap trimmed to ⅛-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
To make the cure, in a small bowl mix together salt, black pepper, coriander, pink salt, 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.
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.
To make the rub, mix together the coarsely ground black pepper, coriander, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, dill weed, mustard, celery seed, and crushed red pepper in a small bowl. Coat entire brisket with the rub.
Preheat smoker to 225°F, adding the smoking wood chunks when at temperature. Alternatively, light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and spread coals evenly over half of coal grate (for indirect heat). When wood is ignited and producing smoke, place brisket in smoker or on the cooler side of the grill, fat side up. Maintain a low temperature. Smoke until an instant read thermometer registers 165°F (74°C) when inserted into thickest part of the brisket, about 6 hours.
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°F (82°C) when inserted into thickest part of the meat, 1 to 2 hours, adding more hot water as needed.
Transfer brisket to cutting board and let cool slightly. Slice and serve, preferably on rye with mustard.