Photo cred - Craig Jenkins
Forget bagels, we're bringing the food feud between New York City and Montreal out of the bakery and into the deli. It's time for a pastrami vs. smoked meat showdown.
Okay, less of a showdown (because we're incredibly biased and totally Team Smoked Meat) and more of a one-sided rundown of the differences between the two. Not like we'd let smoked meat lose this match.
To learn more about both cuts of meat, and why smoked meat will forever be superior, read on for our 10 reasons Montreal smoked meat is better than New York pastrami.
1. The Cut Of Meat
Okay, kind of a toss up here, as both are made with cuts of cow. Pastrami comes from the navel (belly area) of the cow; smoked meat is made from brisket. To compare the two, navel tends to be denser and fattier, whereas brisket can be stringier, but also much softer if prepared correctly, so there's a win. The fat content of the meats vary drastically, bringing us to our next point...
2. The Fat Variety
As mentioned, pastrami is made from the navel of the cow, a very fatty cut of meat where the marbling runs throughout the cut. Brisket, smoked meat's cut, has a more centralized allocation of fat, which is why you can get lean, medium, or fatty-style smoked meat. Variety is the spice of life, so the triple-action smoked meat beats out the singular-cut pastrami.
3. The Spice Rub
Pastrami is a little wuss when it comes to spices, typically only including coriander, black pepper, and sugar. Sugar, on meat!? Blasphemy. Smoked meat goes the intense, sugar-less spice route with rubs often including black pepper, coriander seed, garlic, mustard seeds, and many other spicy additions.
4. The Process
In all fairness, all delis prepare their respective meats a bit differently, but to speak generally, the pastrami-process takes about a week: 1-2 days for the brine, 3-4 for marination, and 10ish hours for smoke-cooking and steaming. Smoked meat takes a tad longer, with 8-10 days used for marination and some extra hours in the smoke cooker. Obviously the longer process yields a superior cut of meat.
5. The Wet Or Dry Method
Typically pastrami is brined, meaning it is soaked in salty water, whereas smoked meat is given a dry rub with curing salt. We all know that inferior meats need water to gain flavour. The salt dry-rub condenses and synthesizes the smoked meat flavour to be far superior.
6. The Flavour
A direct result of the spices used in each deli meat is the flavour. A darker and more rich flavour is brought out of the brisket from the smoked meat rub, while pastrami meat is sweeter. No man or woman should ever be subjected to sweet meat, unless it's candied bacon.
7. The Hue
Dark, red, and deliciously meaty, the colour of smoked meat is far superior to the rosy pink of patrami. One looks like real animal flesh (smoked meat) for that literal straight-off-the-bone/woodsman-ish vibe, and the other is all cartoon-y. Beauty is in the eye of beholder, but still, when it comes to meat, we like a more natural hue.
8. The Sight Test
Don't believe me that the hue and colour makes a difference? Take a look at this picture, with pastrami on the left and smoked meat on the right. The sexy, dark-red, and thick cut to the right is simply more enticing.
9. The New York Test
Montreal-style delis have been popping up in New York, the original home of the American Jewish deli where pastrami gained its fame, and they have been doing incredibly well. One example is the deli Mile End (wonder where they got that name?) who has been selling smoked meat to New Yorkers, and they've been eating it up by the boatload for the last 4 years. One taste and they were hooked on the better deli meat.
10. The Poutine Factor
No food post can escape the poutine factor, which basically boils down to: will it poutine? We sure as hell know smoked meat can, and it is awesome and delicious. Pastrami has yet to make the poutine-plunge (as far as we know) and until then, smoked meat will forever remain as top deli meat solely for that reason.
Are you Team Smoked Meat?
For more on all things Montreal, follow Michael on Twitter @MDAlimonte