What Are the Differences Between Montreal Style Smoked Meat and New York Pastrami?

There are plenty of delicious ways to prepare meat, and in North America, deli styles that came over with Jewish migrants are some of the most popular, especially when served as enticing hot sandwiches.


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Pastrami, which is strongly associated with New York, though it is available throughout the US and beyond, is a meat most of us have had an opportunity to try, or may even buy regularly. In the USA, though, fewer people are familiar with its French Canadian cousin – Montreal smoked meat.

What Is Montreal Smoked Meat?

If you happen to be in Quebec, sampling some smoked meat Montreal style is an absolute must (unless you don’t eat beef, which is what it is made of). Montreal smoked meat is served in delis and restaurants who specialise in this delicacy and often prepare it in house with their own proprietary recipe, and blend of spices and seasonings. It is usually served warm, and in sandwich form, much like pastrami, however it has a different texture and flavour which many people – especially those from Montreal – swear is even more delicious.

How is Montreal Smoked Meat Different?

One of the biggest differences between Montreal smoked meat and pastrami is the part of the cow that is used to make it. In Canada, British style cuts of meat are favoured, making some cuts easier to come by than others. Montreal smoked meat is made using the brisket, whereas pastrami is made using the navel – a cut similar to the belly portion of a pig used to make bacon. Navel is harder to find in Canada, so brisket became the cut of choice for salting, smoking and seasoning beef to produce a delicious deli meat.

The brisket cut tends to be softer than the belly when prepared properly, and slightly stringier. The fat is also distributed differently, in a large cap rather than marbled through the meat. All of this lends the smoked meat in Montreal a different texture and taste to New York pastrami.

Finding Your Favourite Smoked Meat

As with pastrami, smoked meat can be different in every restaurant or deli, where people use recipes passed down for generations to get what they believe is the perfect blend of seasonings to really set off the meat. Preparation methods can vary slightly too, as can how the meat is served, so the only real solution if you want to find the very best smoked meat for your own palate is to try plenty of different places! In Montreal, smoked meat can be a fairly common lunch or dinner, or you might buy it to take home and serve yourself. Whenever you get the chance to have it, though, it is a rich and tasty treat that is certain to delight!

If you enjoy deli meats, and are already a fan of pastrami, it may be a good idea to seek out some great Montreal smoked meat so you can see the subtle differences in taste and texture for yourself!

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