Smoked Brisket, Corned Beef, Pastrami, Montreal Smoked Meat. What’s the difference?

By March 2, 2020 Fresh Ideas

Smoked Brisket, Corned Beef, Pastrami, ‘Montreal Smoked Meat’

            You’ve had Pastrami and ‘Montreal Smoked Meat’ in Sandwiches.  If you’re an internet foodie or a traveller you’ve seen the thick piles of bright-red meat on Rye-Bread made in places like Montreal.  Schwartz’s Deli in Montreal is the leader in ‘smoked meat’.

            We have a lot of people that come to the kitchen thinking we’re a deli or something.  They come in and say ‘Could I have a pound of ‘Smoked Meat’? to which we have to answer: ‘What kind of Smoked Meat would you like? – Chicken, Beef, Pork, Sausage?’  What they’re picturing is the red-stuff.  They’ll even go to the extent of telling us ‘that’s not smoked meat’.

            A quick scan of the above-article reveals a few things.  To be succinct about it:

Pastrami: Beef Navel, Brined twice with spices, salt and sugar, (two different brines), Smoked

Corned Beef: Beef Brisket, Brined with spices and salt, Boiled or Steamed

Montreal Smoked Meat:  Beef Brisket, Brined with Salt and Spices (Less Sugar), Smoked

The common difference between any of these sandwich meats and our smoked-brisket is the ‘Brining’ Process.  The Brining Process, which is what gives these meats the bright red color includes ‘Pink Curing Salt’.  Pink Curing Salt, sometimes called ‘Prague Powder’ is a special product that we use in making Bacon.  ‘Pink Himalayan Salt’ is either a dyed salt-product or it may be a salt that is less refined, making it very mineral-rich.  The pink colour MAY come from the other minerals associated with the salt in the deposit, but not likely.  It is often dyed.

Here is a more in-depth article about it:

Pink Salt is composed of 6.25 percent sodium nitrite and 93.75 percent table salt (sodium chloride).  It’s a preservative.  It is dyed Pink so that it is not confused with regular Salt.  It is only used at very specific concentrations in recipes because at high-concentrations it has been identified as having Carcinogenic properties (but only at high exposures over a long-period of time).  At low concentrations it is not effective at killing-off the bacteria and the meat is not ‘cured’.  The bright red colors of Deli-Meats (including pepperoni, salami…etc) is mostly due to the presence of this preservative.

This is our curing salt, only used for Bacon.

            Using ‘Curing Salt’ in Nova Scotia is highly regulated.  We only have one recipe for Bacon because the Health Inspector needs to approve that the proposed recipe falls within the acceptable range of ‘Pink-Salt’ concentration.  We don’t have any inclination, at this time, to start using preservatives more broadly.  We are very happy with our preservative-free products.

Dan Corbett

Author Dan Corbett

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