Food & Drink

Seven reasons why Montreal’s smoked meat is pastrami’s cooler, tastier big brother

In Montreal they eat smoked meat, in New York they eat pastrami, and quite frankly it's Montreal who're smoking the competition -- sure, you might think that pastrami's perfectly nice, but that's just because you haven't had Montreal smoked meat before. So what makes it better? To wit:

1. The Meat
Sure, it's always ominous when an ingredient is described as just being "meat", but in this case Montreal's famed protein is pure brisket, whereas pastrami tends to be comprised of the cheaper naval plate cut of beef. Yes, “mystery meat” reigns superior for once.

2. The Cut
Head over to Schwartz’s (Montreal's preeminent smoked meatery) at any time of day, and you’re guaranteed to find a line-up. Not only is the line-up a testament to Schwartz’s smoked-meat supremacy, but it also means that they’re able to keep their briskets steaming constantly and ready to cut into thin, melt-in-your-mouth, 3mm slices.

3. The Texture
The far thicker slabs of pastrami may sound appealing at first, but that also means they tend to be tough and downright chewy. Unless you order your Montreal smoked meat lean (which on no account you ever should), you can expect a moist cut of brisket, barely held together by its muscle fibers, with the perfect amount of fattiness there to infuse rich smoky flavor.

4. It’s Smokier and Richer
Montreal smoked meat is marinated for 8-10 days and then smoke-cooked for 6-8 hours, which is about double the time pastrami’s given. That’s not just diligence and duteous professionalism folks. That’s love.

5. It’s Healthier
Nobody said that smoked meat is healthy, but it is definitely healthier than its New York counterpart, since it’s cooked with way less sugar and is less fatty in general. Plus, its distinctive peppercorn seasoning, like The Main's particularly peppery smoked meat, not only stimulates your taste buds, it also helps you burn fat. Apparently.

6. It's the perfect topper for other things that Montreal is better at
Montreal’s smoked meat is so deliciously tender, that sometimes little bits crumble off of it. And what do resourceful Montrealers do when that happens? They put it on their pizza, their poutine, and their superior bagels. Try smoked meat on a poutine at Dunn’s, or on a bagel at Siegel's Bagels.

7. More Bang for Your Buck
The price of Katz’s Pastrami sandwich in New York is straight-up insulting, especially when you can get a bigger and, more importantly, better sandwich just a short drive north of the border, for less than half of the cost. The price for a quality smoked meat sandwich at Snowdon Deli is so low, you’ll feel like you’re robbing them.

Bonus: Montreal smoked meat is so tremendous that there’s a friggin’ musical about it
A sure sign of greatness. Featuring such favorites as “Once I Had a Brisket,” “Me and My Salami,” and “Cold Cuts Keep Falling on My Head.”