While I was preparing the sandwich for this week’s menu photograph, my husband asked me “What’s the difference between corned beef and pastrami…or for that matter, how is Montreal smoked beef different from the other two? It’s a good question.
Corned beef, pastrami, and Montreal smoked beef are all made from beef brisket. The difference between the three lies in the way the brisket is prepared.
Corned beef is usually wet cured in a spiced brine. It can also be dry cured in granular salt. Unlike pastrami and Montreal smoked beef, it’s not smoked. It is ready for serving once the curing process is complete.
Pastrami is cured in a wet brine, partially dried, then seasoned with various herbs and spices. Once seasoned, it is smoked and then steamed.
Montreal smoked beef is prepared in a manner similar to pastrami but the brine it’s cured in is made with more cracked black pepper than a pastrami brine. The brine for Montreal smoked beef also contains aromatic spices such as coriander and is made with considerably less sugar than pastrami brine.
So there you have it: similar yet different. All three are very good, though, and well worth enjoying from time to time.