What is 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 how the animal is harvested and processed. The processing does change the flavor—Kosher meat is soaked in water, salted for up to 30 minutes, then rinsed—and quality standards dictate whether ultimately the harvested and processed carcass can be labeled 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. These cuts are lean and easy to prepare! If you don’t have time to tenderize your purchase with a non-salt marinade, you can apply a cooking 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.
Of course, I have to start with the all-time family favorite: Brisket. Ask your butcher for the 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 braise the beef in your covered pan gently. It takes discipline when cooking a brisket: 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.
An excellent alternative to Brisket—because of the size of the product—is beef stew. Ask your butcher to cut lean stew pieces from the Chuck. By braising with low sodium beef stock or wine, you impart flavor without fat and calories. 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. I like to add tomatoes to the pot as the acids work well with the “slow and low” braising process to create a tender and delicious result.
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 standard Chuck version of the pot roast. It is primarily 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 satisfying and straightforward 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 her (or him) 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. 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 non or low-salt marinade for up to 24 hours.
And now for the collection prize: the Beef Shoulder Petite Tender (teres major muscle), which 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 is often confused with the Chuck Tender, but you can tell the difference by its size. The Chuck Tender is approximately five times as large, so if your butcher brings out a huge 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 Beef Ribeye Filet is the newest cut to make the butcher shop shelves. The beauty of this cut is that you get the flavor from the Ribeye without the internal fat. The Ribeye Filet 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.