All You Need to Know About Kosher Beef Cuts

Understanding the Primal Cuts

It’s time we demystify the world of kosher beef cuts. As home cooks, many of us have struggled to understand the different cuts of meat and how to properly prepare them. But fear not, with some guidance, we can all become experts in kosher meat handling and preparation.

Where does the meat we eat actually come from? Steers are divided into nine distinct sections, known as PRIMAL CUTS. In the United States, five of these cuts are used for kosher consumption. The hindquarters require a specific process called nikkur, where the sciatic nerve is removed to render the meat kosher. This process is only carried out in certain countries or communities by specially trained menakkers. The chuck, rib, brisket, shank, and plate are then further divided into subprimals or fabricated cuts, which are what you typically find at the supermarket.

The Importance of Understanding the Source

To truly appreciate the beef we consume, we must understand its origins. Meat consists of muscle and connective tissue. The more the muscle is used, the more connective tissue it contains, resulting in tougher meat. For example, the chuck, which comes from the shoulder of the steer, is one of the most active muscle groups, leading to a tougher cut of meat.

Knowing where our meat comes from is crucial because it determines the cooking method required. Tough cuts of meat need moist cooking to break down the muscle fibers and connective tissues. In contrast, tender cuts require dry heat cooking methods to firm up the meat without drying it out.

Unraveling Fabricated Cuts

Unfortunately, for kosher consumers, identifying the exact cut of meat in the butcher shop can be challenging. Butchers, whether kosher or not, tend to label their cuts as they please. However, here are some commonly found fabricated cuts:


The chuck roast is often tied in a net and includes the Square Roast (top portion) and the French (or Brick) Roast (bottom portion). Due to its toughness, the chuck is often cubed and sold as stew meat. Another tough cut, Kolichol, is often used for cholent or pot roast. However, there are exceptions. Shoulder London Broil & Silver Tip Roasts, also cut from the chuck, can be roasted using dry heat cooking methods until medium-rare.

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One of the more tender cuts from the chuck is the minute steak roast. It is recognized by the thick gristle that runs down the center. Slicing the roast horizontally above and below the gristle creates filet split cuts, perfect for quick cooking in stir-fries or grilling.


The rib section offers the most tender cuts of kosher meat as the muscles in this area are less worked. Rib steaks, ribeye steaks, club steaks, and delmonico or mock filet mignon (made from the center eye of the rib) can all be found here. The Surprise steak, located above the prime rib, is a flavorful flap that is both tender and delicious. However, the “Top of the Rib” or “Deckle” is one exception within the rib section. It is a tougher cut and benefits from moist heat cooking.

Ribs can also be found in the chuck primal, specifically the first five ribs of the ribcage. This is where flanken and short ribs come from. Flanken is a cross-section cut, including pieces of rib between the meat and fat. Spare ribs are essentially short ribs that have been halved lengthwise. Both short ribs and flanken require moist heat cooking.


Situated below the rib primal, the plate includes the flavorful skirt and hanger steaks. These cuts have a high salt content and are best cooked quickly on the grill.


Brisket is the breast of the steer and is an extremely tough cut. It is often sold as 1st and 2nd cut. The first cut is flat and lean, while the second cut is smaller but fattier. In general, fattier meat yields a tastier product as fat adds flavor. If possible, choose a well-marbled cut over a lean one and trim the congealed fat later.

Brisket can be further utilized for corned beef and pastrami, both highly popular options. Corned beef is pickled, while pastrami is smoked.

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The foreshank is known for its exceptional flavor and high collagen content. It includes the shin and marrow bones, making it ideal for making stocks.

Additional Parts

Apart from the primal cuts, there are other edible parts of the steer, such as the neck (primarily used ground up), cheek (great for braising), sweetbreads (thymus gland), liver, tongue, and oxtails (hard to find kosher due to the removal of the sciatic nerve).

Ground Beef

Ground beef can come from any part of the animal, but it usually consists of lean cuts and trimmings. Ground meat is often tenderized through the grinding process, making it a great choice for tougher cuts. Remember, the leaner the meat, the drier the end product will be. Aim for a good ratio of 80% lean to 20% fat.

The cuts mentioned above are just a fraction of the possibilities available. Every butcher may have different scraps and leftovers, each labeled according to their convenience. If you have a specific purpose in mind or want to avoid lengthy braising, consider ordering a specific cut from your butcher or inquiring about the origin of prepackaged meats.

Understanding Grading

To ensure the meat is safe for consumption, all meat is graded by the USDA. This grading system helps measure the quality differences in meats. Grades evaluate tenderness, flavor, age, color, texture, and marbling. USDA Grades include Prime, Choice, Select, and Standard. You may have heard of USDA Prime Grade meats, which are often used in high-end restaurants. USDA Choice is the most common grade found in food service operations.

Cooking Methods

Once you determine whether your meat is tough or tender, you can choose the appropriate cooking method. Tough meat requires slow, moist heat cooking to break down the connective tissue and tenderize the meat. Tender meat, on the other hand, benefits from dry heat cooking to firm up the proteins without breaking down connective tissues.

Dry Heat Cooking

Dry heat cooking methods include broiling, grilling, roasting, and sautéing/pan-frying. These methods involve cooking meat at high temperatures to caramelize the surface. To determine doneness, use a meat thermometer or develop the knack for judging doneness by feel.

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Thermometer readings:

  • Very rare (sometimes called “blue” meat): 120-125°F
  • Rare (deep red center): 125-130°F
  • Medium rare (bright red center): 130-140°F
  • Medium (pink center): 140-150°F
  • Medium well (very little pink): 155-165°F
  • Well done (all brown): 160+°F

Moist Heat Cooking

Moist heat cooking includes simmering (used for corned beef and tongue) and combination cooking methods such as braising and stewing.

Combination cooking methods blend dry and moist heat to achieve tenderness. The meat is first browned and then cooked in a small amount of liquid. Acidic ingredients like wine or tomatoes are often used to aid in tenderization. The meat and liquid are brought to a boil over direct heat, then simmered with reduced heat and covered. Braising or stewing can be completed in the oven or on the stovetop. The oven provides gentle, even heat without the risk of scorching. To determine doneness, the meat should be fork-tender but not falling apart.

The main difference between braising and stewing lies in the size of the meat pieces used. Stewing involves smaller cuts, while braising utilizes a single, larger portion. Braising requires liquid to cover only 1/3 to 1/2 of the meat, whereas stewing demands complete submersion in the liquid.

Resting and Cutting Meat

When meat finishes cooking, it is essential to allow it to rest for 10-20 minutes before slicing. Resting allows the juices to redistribute, preventing them from running out of the meat prematurely.

Another cooking principle to keep in mind is carryover cooking. Even when the meat is removed from the heat, the internal temperature continues to rise slightly. Therefore, consider carryover cooking when using dry heat methods. If you desire medium doneness, for instance, remove your meat at around 150°F as it will reach approximately 155°F due to carryover cooking.

Lastly, when cutting meat, it is crucial to cut against the grain (perpendicular to the muscle fibers). This technique shortens the muscle fibers, resulting in a more tender texture. Cutting parallel to the muscle fibers can lead to chewy, stringy cuts of meat.

So, now that you have a better understanding of kosher beef cuts and how to prepare them, it’s time to put your new knowledge to use in the kitchen. Explore the realm of mouthwatering meat recipes and enjoy the culinary journey!

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