What's the Big Difference?

What's the Big Difference?

With St-Patrick’s day quickly approaching we thought it would be a good time to talk about the difference between Corned Beef, Pastrami and Montreal Smoked Meat. This may come as a shock to some people but there are many similarities between these 3 options but there are also many differences that make each of them unique though they all start out as simple beef briskets.


Let’s begin by talking about Corned Beef which is a very popular dish for St-Patrick’s day around the world. The reason Corned Beef is such a popular St-Patrick’s Day meal is because Corned Beef actually originates from Ireland. Of course, origin is not the only difference between these 3 styles of beef brisket, preparation and spices are a huge factor as well. In the case of Corned Beef, rather than using a secret set of spices rubbed on the exterior of the meat, Corned Beef starts off by being brined in a liquid mixture that  usually contains salt, sugar, black pepper, bay leaf, juniper berries and cloves. Once this brining process is complete, the brisket is cooked by being boiled. Boiling the meat traps more of the flavour that was absorbed during the brining process but makes it so that you cannot have an exterior rub applied before the cooking process.


Pastrami has a bit of a more complicated origin. Modern day Pastrami is a combination of a Romanian Pork dish and a Turkish Beef Brisket dish. Both of these proteins are prepared by rubbing the exterior with Coriander, Black Pepper and Paprika. Today’s Pastrami is also rubbed with these spices and just like these related dishes, Pastrami is cooked through a process of being Dry Cured and Cold Smoked. Modern Pastrami is also made using Beef Brisket. The question remains, how could these two origins come together to create what we now know as Pastrami? Well, throughout the 20th century with millions of immigrants making their way to the United States, particularly along the east coast, New York City Delicatessens are the reason why Pastrami is such a popular dish today.


Montreal Smoked Meat is a delicacy that people come from all around the world to experience. Of course, for us it has become an everyday meal item whether we use it to make the classic sandwich or if we include in our Poutine’s which is another dish perfected here in Quebec or even include it into our Mac n’ Cheese or on Pizza. As for how Montreal Smoked Meat is made it is actually a combination of Corned Beef and Pastrami. So what makes it a combination of both? Well, just like Corned Beef, Montreal Smoked Meat is brined before being cooked. On top of being brined, it is rubbed with a blend of spices but uses significantly less sugar in both the brining process and the rub. Of course, rather than being boiled like corned beef, Montreal Smoked Meat is smoked for roughly 12 - 14 hours. 


While these 3 dishes are very similar they are not exactly the same whether it be because of where they originate from or how they are prepared. Everyone can agree however that they are all absolutely delicious and all use the same amazing ingredient that is the Beef Brisket. So for your St-Patrick’s Day celebration you now know that Corned Beef is an Irish Dish perfect for the occasion but if you can’t manage to find any Corned Beef but still wish to have something close to it, well, Pastrami and Montreal Smoked Meat are both delicious alternatives.


Thank you for reading through this fun little blog post focusing more on the history of these amazing foods and don’t forget that St-Patrick’s day is right around the corner so if you want your dinner to reflect the luck of the Irish, then you should absolutely try out Corned Beef for yourself. Of course, if Corned Beef just is not your thing, then feel free to use Smoked Meat or Smoked Pastrami as an amazing substitute! Happy St-Paddy’s Day everyone!