It is one of the staples of many Jewish households. We love our steak, burgers, sausages, pies and of course that great Sunday tradition, salt beef on rye. But how well do you know your beef?
After the first BSE scare in 1992, the rules governing beef changed. Since then, butchers have used castrated steers aged between 18-24 months. Most offal is now off the kosher menu, as it is considered too risky for human consumption. Liver and heart are still permitted although if you fancy beef heart you will probably have to make a special request. With the new legislation, meat now has to be traceable - this is indicated by the blue label on all packaging, allowing the butcher and consumer to know when and where the animal was born, bred and slaughtered.
Jonathan Perlmutter of Perlmutter and Sons butcher in Southgate, north London, is adamant that the kosher stamp guarantees high standards. "Buying kosher meat reassures the consumer that their meat has been rigorously supervised and the quality is high."
When buying kosher beef you can go for anything from the forequarters of the animal but nothing below the 10th rib, except for oxtail. However, there is still plenty to choose from, so much so that it is easy to get confused about which cuts are best suited for which dishes. Whether you are cooking for a special occasion, feeding your family or trying to make your pound stretch further, the cut of meat you choose is vital. See below for our guide.
How to tell your brisket from your bola joint
Kosher steak does not have the best reputation for being tender and succulent. Jewish consumers are used to buying beef that is only two to three days old. Non-kosher steaks are hung to tenderise them, therefore the meat is darker in colour and more yielding.
Ball of the rib, rib eye and eye of the rib are actually all the same cut and are the best steaks for grilling, accompanied by fried onions and chips of course.
Some kosher butchers call this cut porterhouse which is technically untrue, as a true porterhouse cut comes from the sirloin which is not permitted under kashrut.
The ball of the rib cut can be recognised by the lump of fat in the middle of the steak.
When buying steak, allow 85g-115g for children, 200g for an adult with a small appetite and 280g-335g for an adult with a larger appetite.
A joint of ball of the rib makes an excellent roast but it can be costly.
These come from the shoulder of the animal. The joints are leaner and less expensive than the ball of the rib.
There are three types of bola joint – prime, round and side (1kg feeds a family of four).
Prime bola is ideal for roasting, but it is not as tender as ball of the rib. Round bola is good for casseroles and braising while the side bola joint - also known as fairy steak, blade stake and feather steak - can be marinated and used in stir-fries or on the barbecue.
This is also known in the USA as London broil. This is traditionally the cut which is pickled to make salt beef.
Brisket, which comes from the breast of the animal, can no longer be pickled at home because saltpetre, which is used in the process, is also a vital ingredient in the manufacture of explosives. So, these days you will need to buy your salt beef from the butcher or from the deli.
Unpickled brisket is ideal for braising and can also be used to make cholent.
CHUCK STEAK or BRAISING STEAK
This originates from the neck of the animal. Because this is a well-used muscle it is a tougher meat which makes it ideal for long, slow cooking - for example goulash, pies and gedempte stews. It is much cheaper then the prime cuts of beef but many feel it also has better flavour.
SHIN OF BEEF
This cut, as the name suggests, comes from the leg of the animal. At Rosh Hashanah some consumers superstitiously opt for the right shin because they want to put their best foot forward for the New Year. This meat is very lean and is best used for making soup, kreplach, curry and sausages.
This cut is indeed from the top of the rib and is ideal for stewing and excellent for cholent
Normally made from cuts of chuck and shin. Watch out for cheap mince which can have a high fat content.
This is the only cut of meat you will have to kosher yourself. It is also the only kosher cut that you can freeze before it is koshered.
Calves' liver is milder in taste than ox liver but is also more expensive.
A solid muscle usually bought pickled and traditionally served cold. The squeamishness of modern consumers mean it is much less popular now than it used to be although ox tongue is experiencing something of a revival in fashionable restaurants.
Another less popular cut of meat but one which can be delicious braised and in soups.