Beef…it’s what’s for dinner. Remember that tagline? Many people shy away from beef these days because they think it’s the culprit of health problems. While it’s true that you should limit the amount of beef you eat per week, when eaten in moderation, like most other foods I discuss, beef can have a place in your diet. But do you know which cut to eat? Personally, I find beef to be a very confusing topic, especially Kosher beef. Lucky for me Kari Underly, one of the few female butchers around, offered to share her expertise on this topic. Here is part one of her guest post (stay tuned for part two tomorrow).
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.
What makes beef Kosher is the way in which the animal is harvested and processed. The processing does change the flavor — Kosher meat is soaked in water, salted for up to 30 minutes and then rinsed. There are also quality standards that dictate whether the harvested and processed carcass can ultimately be labeled and sold as Kosher. That said, 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). 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 cut of meat with a non-salt marinade, you can apply a cook method that will bring out the best flavor and make the meat the most tender.
The following cuts of Kosher beef are perfect for slow and steady cooking:
- Brisket. This is my all-time favorite. 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 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 will dry out your brisket.
- Stew meat. This is a good alternative to brisket because of its size. You can ask your butcher to cut lean stew pieces from the chuck. By braising the stew meat 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.
- Shoulder or arm pot roast. This is another good cut of meat for braising. The shoulder is typically leaner than the chuck version of pot roast. It may contain a bone, but typically does not. 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.
Do you have a favorite recipe for braising meat?
Check out Kari’s picks of Kosher meat to use for grilling and sautéing here.
Kari Underly is the founder of Range, Inc., a consultancy dedicated to helping companies in the meat industry develop merchandising tools and new market strategies. She is a 2012 IACP Award finalist and 2012 James Beard Award finalist for her book The Art of Beef Cutting. She has been featured in Better Homes and Gardens, on Food Network’s “Unwrapped,” NBC’s “Today” show, iVillage and Martha Stewart Radio. You can follow Kari on Facebook and on Twitter @kariunderly.