Save the Deli

Torontovore’s Smoked Meat Taste Test

Some deli lovers are simply obsessed with rankings. Like the people who buy magazines with the title “100 places to visit” or “30 must-do pushups”, there’s just something about competition and listing that gets the pros fired up.

And so it is with smoked meat in Toronto, which has been enjoying a renaissance over the past few years. First came Caplansky’s, then Stockyards, and Goldins…and let us pray for even more.

But which is best? That’s the question.

I for one never delve into this. Partly because I am to preserve all worthy delis, and don’t like to play tic for tat. Everyone has different taste buds and something to offer. Just because your smoked meat is different than mine, doesn’t make it better or worse. It’s just different.

Still…about those rankings. So the food bloggers at decided to get into it, with some regular Chowhounders and other food bloggers from around the city. They rated smoked meats from Caplansky’s, Stockyards, Goldin’s, Centre Street, Wolfie’s, Dunn’s, and Cottage Chef. Here was the criteria:

Seven Briskets & Seven Tasters

We wanted to find out how local smoked meat/pastrami compared without being influenced by any advance knowledge of product identity. In other words, this was a single blind taste test. Only the host knew what was being served. The host was not allowed to participate in the judging or identify any of the samples until all the scores were in.


Centre Street Deli $30 kg (Old Fashioned)
Wolfies $24 kg
Caplansky’s $29 kg
Stockyards $33 kg
Cottage Chef $30 kg
Dunn’s $12 kg (a Montreal product purchased from Ajax COSTCO)
Goldin’s Romanian Style $22 kg (Sandwich at Free Times Café.)
All the meats were purchased unsliced.
They were steamed and hand cut just before serving
(Note that Goldin’s had to be cooked in its plastic packaging before serving. )

Meat samples were tasted without bread or any condiments (although we had sandwiches later after the official tasting featuring fresh rye bread from Bagel Plus and homemade creamy hot horseradish mustard from Cottage Chef).

The group based their rankings on the following criteria:

The ten (10) criteria used in judging each smoked meat sample are as follows:

After Taste
Overall Texture
Ease Of Swallowing / Moisture

Highest possible score for each single criteria is 10 points, lowest is 1 point.

Highest possible total score (10 points in all 10 criteria) from one judge, for each specific sample, is 100 points.

Highest possible total score from all 7 judges for one specific sample is 700 points.

All individual score sheets and comments have been saved as spreadsheets and are available for a more detailed analysis. Just leave a comment and I’ll send them to you. The latest analysis has put Stockyards out in front by a few points. Some numbers might change a little (I’ve learned that handwriting is not the best recording medium), but the overall results are solid.

So which came out best? Who won and who left much to be desired?

Check out and for the results.

3 Responses to “Torontovore’s Smoked Meat Taste Test”

  1. David Cantor Says:

    I am the owner of a small deli in Ottawa. I make my own smoked meat from scratch and I wanted to know if it would be possible to be judged by some of the smoked meat connoisseurs to see if my meat makes it near the top of the chart?

    I would be more then happy to send a few briskets to toronto immediately.

    Regards, David Cantor

  2. andrew Says:

    nice website. i always seem to find what im looking for and this is only like my third time being here

  3. Vishrut Shere Says:

    The perfect business opportunity for me has been with a company that allow me to write down 10 license plate numbers a month and then sponsor 3 others to do the same thing in order to earn up to $2,000 plus monthly in residual income.

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