I’m often asked about the difference between Kosher and non-Kosher cuts of beef… are they better tasting? better quality? simply different parts of the carcass? Here are a few answers to these questions, and then I want to talk about the best lean cuts of Kosher beef and how to prepare them.
What makes beef Kosher is the way in which the animal is slaughtered and processed. The processing does change the flavor—Kosher meat is soaked and salted—and there are quality standards that dictate whether ultimately the slaughtered and processed carcass can be labelled and sold as Kosher. But the cuts themselves come from parts of the carcass—called primals—that you may already know: the Chuck (shoulder area), Rib, Brisket (upper chest) and Plate (below the rib) primals.
Because these primals have many individual muscles, the cuts will have plenty of connective tissue and bone. Connective tissue is what typically makes meat tough. If you don’t have time to tenderize your purchase with a marinade, you can apply a cook method to bring out the best flavor and tenderness. Here are a few of my favorite Kosher cuts and tips that will be sure to please your family. These cuts are lean and easy to prepare!
Of course I have to start with the all-time family favorite: Brisket. Choose a Flat cut, because this is the leanest portion of the brisket. The majority of the fat comes from the Point portion of the Whole Brisket, and fat helps to keep the brisket moist. Since you’re using the Flat cut, make sure you have a nice mirepoix (a sautéed mixture of onion, carrot, and celery) and plenty of liquid to gently braise the beef in your covered pan. When you’re cooking a brisket, you have to be disciplined: slow and low will reward your patience. And no peeking in the oven! This lets out the moist heat and your brisket will turn out dry.
A good alternative to Brisket—because of the size of the product—is beef stew. You can ask your butcher to cut lean stew pieces from the Chuck. By braising with low sodium beef stock or wine, you are imparting flavor without all the fat and calories. I like to add tomatoes to the pot as the acids work well with the “slow and low” process of braising to create a tender and delicious result. To make a savory, protein-rich one-pot meal, I often add legumes (beans or lentils) and a few of my favorite Italian spices, such as oregano, thyme, garlic or rosemary.
Another way to use your braising skills is with a Shoulder or Arm Pot Roast. The Shoulder Roast can contain a bone, but typically does not; and the Shoulder is leaner than your typical Chuck version of the pot roast. It is mostly the tender and lean triceps muscle, so there is less connective tissue and fat than in the Chuck roast. A shoulder roast in your crockpot is a sure bet for a simple and satisfying Shabbat meal.
The Beef Shoulder Ranch Steak—a newer cut—is a real gem on the grill. If your butcher doesn’t recognize this cut by name, tell him (or her) you want a boneless shoulder steak, with the connective tissue and the elbow tendon removed. What you’ll have is the same tender and lean triceps muscle as in the Shoulder Pot Roast, but now it’s ready for the grill. If you purchase your Ranch Steak by quality grade, I recommend Choice. Simply apply your favorite dry rub or spices. If you prefer Select quality grade, because it is a bit leaner than choice, I recommend a simple marinade for up to 24 hours.
And now for the true prize of the collection: the Beef Shoulder Petite Tender (teres major muscle). This is sometimes referred to as an “Oyster Steak” and weighs in at around half a pound, so this is a generous serving. The Petite Tender may be confused for the Chuck Tender, but you can tell the difference by its size. The Chuck Tender is approximately 5 times as large, so if your butcher brings out a really big cut, send it back! Although the Chuck Tender is Kosher, it isn’t tender enough for the grill. The Shoulder Petite Tender is perfect for the grill, or you can slice it into medallions for sautéing or strips for stir fry.
The newest cut to enter the supply channel is the Beef Ribeye Filet. The beauty of the Ribeye Filet is that you get the flavor from the Ribeye without the internal fat. This is one of my favorite cuts and I highlight the technique used to create it in my book, The Art of Beef Cutting: A meat professional’s guide to butchering and merchandising. The book provides step by step photographs on how to remove the unwanted fat and create this delicious cut yourself. If your club store offers kosher beef subprimals, or if you’re simply a meat enthusiast, I’m sure you will find this book helpful.
Lastly, always remember the key to healthy eating is correct portion sizes. There’s no reason to eliminate beef from the menu at home or in restaurant meals! So you know, the recommended serving of beef is 4oz raw (3oz cooked). This is equivalent to the size of a deck of cards or a cut that can fit in the palm of your hand. Eating and serving correct portion sizes helps not only your waistline but your bottom line as well!
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