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Katz's Pastrami vs Montreal Smoked Meat


porkpa
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A couple of weeks ago I received a gift of a vacuum packed brisket of Montreal Smoked Meat from Smoke Meat Petes. When I was in NYC over the weekend, I bought a brisket of Katz's pastrami. Katz's is the acknowledged leader in pastrami. Smoke Meat Petes is among three or four of the top contenders in smoke meat production to Schwartz's in Montreal.

Every year at holiday time I host a latke party for about 30 people at home. This year's event is scheduled for this Friday. I can't say that my latkes are the best ever, but neither I, nor anybody who has had them have ever had better. In addition to the latkes, I've always made a traditional Jewish style braised brisket and eggplant parmigiana for the non meat eaters. This year instead of the braised brisket I'm going to serve the pastrami and smoked meat side by side ansd try to elicit opinions from the guests. Most of those attending have never tasted either the Katz' pastrami or the Montreal smoked meat. The good part is that they probably won't be biased in their likes or dislikes. Other dishes will include the eggplant parmigiana, cold shrimp, cole slaw, pickles, various salads, rye bread, challah and various mustards.

I'll let you know the verdict.

Porkpa

PS-We'll have beer and soft drinks of course. Any thoughts as to any wines that might be suitable.

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This is a great idea! A double-blind experiment with thirty people would have solid reliability as small, impromptu food tastings go. Please make up surveys for guests (which include the question "Are my latkes the best of all time") and report results. I think, however, that Jeffrey Steingarten once participated in a comparative pastrami tasting and preferred another spot to Katz's. I still love Katz's.

JJ Goode

Co-author of Serious Barbecue, which is in stores now!

www.jjgoode.com

"For those of you following along, JJ is one of these hummingbird-metabolism types. He weighs something like eleven pounds but he can eat more than me and Jason put together..." -Fat Guy

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Funny you should mention pastrami tasting party.

My office is having a holiday party this afternoon. It's a potluck lunch.

My contribution is a smoked corned beef that's on my cooker right now.

It started off as a 15lb brisket a week ago. We corned it using a dry rub technique for a week, then coated it with black pepper and corinader seed before putting it on the smoker last evening.

This morning, it looks great and will rest before carving at noon.

It will be interesting to see now is reviewed by these NY/NJ attendees.

Edited by alanz (log)
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  • 4 weeks later...

We never got the results of the Katz's -- Schwartz's shootout. I hope nobody clogged their arteries too much to write.

As posted elsewhere, I did Katz's last week and did Schwartz's and a a few other places in Montreal last summer, as well as Langer's in LA in December.

My conclusion is that Schwartz's Montreal smoked meat is the tastiest and Langer's is the most tender. I find that the preparation of pastrami as opposed to smoked meat lacks the spicy zest of the Montreal product. Although I asked the counterman at Katz's for medium fatty and although they charge extra for lean, my sandwich was still much too lean for my taste. I asked for it to be cut from the plate and he didn't seem to know what I was talking about. Maybe I should know the word in Spanish. But even if he had been moister and more tender, the comparative inadequacy of the spicing makes pastrami less tasty than smoked meat.

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the comparative inadequacy of the spicing makes pastrami less tasty than smoked meat.

I won't jump the gun here -- I'll be interested to hear porkpa's report. But I have done an actual side-by-side tasting of pastrami purchased same-day in New York and Montreal and am certainly not convinced of this comparative-levels-of-spicing claim.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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the comparative inadequacy of the spicing makes pastrami less tasty than smoked meat.

I won't jump the gun here -- I'll be interested to hear porkpa's report. But I have done an actual side-by-side tasting of pastrami purchased same-day in New York and Montreal and am certainly not convinced of this comparative-levels-of-spicing claim.

When your taking into consideration of the spicing on the Pastrami you must consider how long and what position the individual pieces have been remaining in the Steamer.

Without to much knocking around the exterior surfaces loss a lot of their spice covers, plus the steamer aquires more spice into the steam.

Makes my mouth water.

Irwin :unsure::biggrin:

I don't say that I do. But don't let it get around that I don't.

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The Montrealers who constantly diss pastrami(I'm not one of them), say that the pastrami in the NYC delis are spiced like regular Montreal smoked meat(as opposed to the prefered old-fashioned Montreal smoked meat).

-Steve

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Although I asked the counterman at Katz's for medium fatty and although they charge extra for lean, my sandwich was still much too lean for my taste.

Did he give you a sample? Did you ask for a different, fattier slab of meat? How many times did you ask for another slab of meat? I ask because I've found the countermen responsive.

About asking for the pastrami to be cut from the plate, there I can't help you. I frankly wouldn't know how to recognize the plate. But I do know what I like when I taste and chew it.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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I think the confusion is that Montreal smoked meat uses the brisket cut(the fattier section of a brisket is the plate), while pastrami uses the 'plate' cut(some pastrami is also made from brisket however). Katz's pastrami is from the plate cut.

-Steve

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Having tried to do this kind of research several times, I can say from experience that it's very hard to get a straight answer out of anyone. But my understanding is that, yes, at Katz's pastrami equals plate, and that a request for plate would therefore be redundant.

Here's what Sam Gugino wrote in the October 31, 2001, Wine Spectator:

Pastrami comes from the cow's "plate" -- also called the navel or belly -- which is next to the brisket along the underside of the animal. It is much fattier than the brisket and thus produces a richer, more sensuous meat.

And Ed Levine in the April 30, 2003, New York Times says:

The development of pastrami as we know it today happened in America, Ms. Nathan said, first as a way to preserve goose meat and then, when the availability of kosher beef became more widespread in the 19th century, with what butchers call the cow's plate, also known as the belly or navel. It is found next to the brisket alongside the underside of the animal and is much fattier than brisket.

Although, I think Gugino is using Levine as his authority. I believe there's plenty of pastrami out there that's not made from plate, so I wouldn't phrase it quite the way they do, but as far as I know 100% of the pastrami at Katz's is made from plate/navel. I've never heard anybody at Katz's use the word "plate," though. It's always "navel" in my experience.

Having never butchered a side of beef, I'm not entirely equipped to speak with authority on these matters, but I believe (also to agree with SteveW) that, to confuse matters more, plate is brisket. However, it is a subset. In other words, a whole brisket has a point end and a plate end. I believe (and again I'm no butcher) the carcass has something like 12 ribs, and that between ribs 5 and 6 is the line of demarcation between the brisket and the plate but that a full brisket or full plate would include both. Which is to say -- I think, maybe -- you can go to Schwartz's and ask for plate and you'll be getting the same part of the brisket you'd get at Katz's. Someone with superior butchering knowledge could certainly expand upon and clarify this, though -- I could easily be wrong about all of it.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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  • 10 months later...

So FAT GUY,

Are you purposely not telling us who you like better.. Just went to Montreal for the weekend and went to Schwartz's.. I instinctually will defend New York over Montreal any day, but I must say that was an amazing sandwich.. The guy at the counter told me that people always claim that shwartz's is a better sandwich then katz's, but he couldnt tell me how many people said it to him in french. :raz: I am not ready to give montreal the title, although i am pretty sure i like the juicier New York sandwich better, I hate to say i like clott blackcherry soda better then Dr. Browns. :unsure:

I am really curious to hear your opinion on which is better..

Edited by Daniel (log)
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So FAT GUY,

Are you purposely not telling us who you like better.. Just went to Montreal for the weekend and went to Schwartz's..  I instinctually will defend New York over Montreal any day, but I must say that was an amazing sandwich.. The guy at the counter told me that people always claim that shwartz's is a better sandwich then katz's, but he couldnt tell me how many people said it to him in french.  :raz:  I am not ready to give montreal the title, although i am pretty sure i like the juicier New York sandwich better, I hate to say i like clott blackcherry soda better then Dr. Browns.  :unsure: 

I am really curious to hear your opinion on which is better..

I have eaten both and I can say that I will take either one any day of the week. Both fantastic! Regardless of any differences a meat sangwich lover wouldn't put either one of these down until they were bloated. :)

"My rule of life prescribed as an absolutely sacred rite smoking cigars and also the drinking of alcohol before, after and if need be during all meals and in the intervals between them." ~Winston Churchill

Morels- God's gift to the unworthy human species

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"Pastrami" New York Style was always prepared from the "Navel Plate" of the Beef Forequarter. This is how it was designated in the original "USDA" Meat guides.

In England and Europe the "Spiced Beef" was often prepared from the whole forequarter cut, some times called the "Silver Tip" that was popularly cured and corned and merchandised as "Salt Beef".

It's only recently that the American Purveyors began using "Whole Top Rounds" or "Insides", as well as Whole Boned Briskets, Jobber Trimmed Briskets and Flat Briskets for making both Corned Beef and Pastrami. I have even tried a Whole Top Sirloin Smoked and Cured as Pastrami.

That's why if you shop at almost any Deli, Chain Store or Retailer on the West Coast you'll observe Corned Beef and Pastrami being sold by the pound from various type of Beef Cuts, also lets not forget Turkey Pastrami.

I dis notice on my recent visit to NYC and environs that the majority of Chain Stores offered Pastrami in several variations, mostly from the Brisket but also from the Top Round, but almost all the Kosher Style and Kosher Meats were from Navel Plate and Brisket.

Deli Meats are better in NYC and it was even more special that the "BAGELS" were always [where I bought them] actually, "SEEDED" on both sides, something I've never seen anywhere in Seattle.

I hope this information makes everything more understandable, but I still haven't tried the best looking Pastrami I have ever seen that was made by "Chef Fowkes" on eGullet..

Irwin :blink:

Having tried to do this kind of research several times, I can say from experience that it's very hard to get a straight answer out of anyone. But my understanding is that, yes, at Katz's pastrami equals plate, and that a request for plate would therefore be redundant.

Here's what Sam Gugino wrote in the October 31, 2001, Wine Spectator:

Pastrami comes from the cow's "plate" -- also called the navel or belly -- which is next to the brisket along the underside of the animal. It is much fattier than the brisket and thus produces a richer, more sensuous meat.

And Ed Levine in the April 30, 2003, New York Times says:

The development of pastrami as we know it today happened in America, Ms. Nathan said, first as a way to preserve goose meat and then, when the availability of kosher beef became more widespread in the 19th century, with what butchers call the cow's plate, also known as the belly or navel. It is found next to the brisket alongside the underside of the animal and is much fattier than brisket.

Although, I think Gugino is using Levine as his authority. I believe there's plenty of pastrami out there that's not made from plate, so I wouldn't phrase it quite the way they do, but as far as I know 100% of the pastrami at Katz's is made from plate/navel. I've never heard anybody at Katz's use the word "plate," though. It's always "navel" in my experience.

Having never butchered a side of beef, I'm not entirely equipped to speak with authority on these matters, but I believe (also to agree with SteveW) that, to confuse matters more, plate is brisket. However, it is a subset. In other words, a whole brisket has a point end and a plate end. I believe (and again I'm no butcher) the carcass has something like 12 ribs, and that between ribs 5 and 6 is the line of demarcation between the brisket and the plate but that a full brisket or full plate would include both. Which is to say -- I think, maybe -- you can go to Schwartz's and ask for plate and you'll be getting the same part of the brisket you'd get at Katz's. Someone with superior butchering knowledge could certainly expand upon and clarify this, though -- I could easily be wrong about all of it.

I don't say that I do. But don't let it get around that I don't.

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Irwin, thank you for clearing up a mystery. I have seen -- and even bought -- the packaged stuff sold as "pastrami" and while I liked the flavor a lot, it clearly was not pastrami as I grew up on (an uncle owned a deli in the Bronx). Now I know that while the spicing may be pastrami-ish, the cut of meat used is more likely top round. For the fat-phobic, I guess. I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I like it, as long as I think of it as "lunch meat" and not as pastrami.

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I could even answer this. FG, could correct me, if anything is incorrect. On his taste test in 2000 for the Montreal Gazette, where he pitted NY Pastrami(Katz's) vs Montreal Smoked Meat(Snowdon Deli & Schwartz's), he prefered Katz's over Schwartz's. Two years later, he visited Schwartz's, & thought that the Schwartz's smoked meat was just as good, if not better than Katz's.

BTW, you correctly say Cott black cherry soda. Many Montrealers(including some people in the media), still mistakenly call it cherry coke. Black cherry soda & cherry coke are two different things. Cherry coke is coke flavored with cherry.

-Steve

So FAT GUY,

Are you purposely not telling us who you like better.. Just went to Montreal for the weekend and went to Schwartz's..  I instinctually will defend New York over Montreal any day, but I must say that was an amazing sandwich.. The guy at the counter told me that people always claim that shwartz's is a better sandwich then katz's, but he couldnt tell me how many people said it to him in french.  :raz:  I am not ready to give montreal the title, although i am pretty sure i like the juicier New York sandwich better, I hate to say i like clott blackcherry soda better then Dr. Browns.  :unsure: 

I am really curious to hear your opinion on which is better..

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I could even answer this. FG, could correct me, if anything is incorrect. On his taste test in 2000 for the Montreal Gazette, where he pitted NY Pastrami(Katz's) vs Montreal Smoked Meat(Snowdon Deli & Schwartz's), he prefered Katz's over Schwartz's. Two years later, he visited Schwartz's, & thought that the Schwartz's smoked meat was just as good, if not better than Katz's.

BTW, you correctly say Cott black cherry soda. Many Montrealers(including some people in the media), still mistakenly call it cherry coke. Black cherry soda & cherry coke are two different things. Cherry coke is coke flavored with cherry.

-Steve

What was the reason for FG'S change of mind from 2000 to 2002? Did Katz's quality decline? I think its also time to hear his next two year evaluation :smile: Can you provide a link to his article.

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Maybe I can help here a little. The primal cuts in many systems distinguish between the brisket / foreshank, which corresponds roughly to the animal's "chest," and the plate, which is immediately below, on the animal's underside, just above the flank. Classical pastrami, as is served in Katz's, is not made from brisket, but rather from navel, which comes from the plate. Brisket is essentially its own primal cut.

But the question still remains: what does montreal smoked beef taste like? Is it like the smoked brisket you get in Texas? Or is it more like the brisket you get at Katz's when you order a brisket sandwich?

wanting to know,

Mr. Cutlets

Edited by Mister_Cutlets (log)
Mr-Cutlets.com: your source for advice, excerpts, Cutlets news, and links to buy Meat Me in Manhattan: A Carnivore's Guide to New York!
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I would say it tastes like a smokey, really peppery piece of pastrami.. A little dryer then classic pastrami, where each piece can be easily seperated, but certainly not too dry because they steam after the smoking process. not super juicy because they dont brine it.. Getting it ordered with a lot of fat certainly helps make it more juicy.

Edited by Daniel (log)
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What was the reason for FG'S change of mind from 2000 to 2002?  Did Katz's quality decline? I think its also time to hear his next two year evaluation  :smile:   Can you provide a link to his article.

You have to remember, the Schwartz's smoked meat that he tasted in 2000 & 2002, were based one or maybe 2 smoked meat sandwiches. That could account for the possible difference. It would take multiple visits to Schwartz's, to get a better idea, if they're better than Katz's. While he's probably eaten pastrami at Katz's 50+ times?? I'll PM you his 2002 article later today. It's not specifically about Schwartz's, instead it covers the Montreal restaurant scene.

-Steve

Edited by SteveW (log)
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