Just when you think you’ve grasped the names of different foods and ingredients in Israel, you start hearing cuts of meat being identified as numbers. You may have seen a map of cow meat cuts – but what does it all mean? We will guide you through selecting, purchasing, and cooking your meat in order to help you Live Your Best Israel Life!
For a printable guide on the different numbers of Israeli meat cuts and how to cook them, please click here.
The American’s Guide to Meat Cuts in Israel
By Yitz Goldman, founder of Golden Gourmet www.goldengourmetcatering.com
Everyone likes a good piece of meat. That becomes a challenge for some newcomers to Israel looking to buy that familiar piece of meat they know from their homes. The meat here is actually butchered differently than in the U.S., which is why you don’t always recognize the pieces you are looking at by the butchers’ counter.
After this article, you’ll realize that buying and preparing meat in Israel is not all that difficult. I’ll walk you through it, show you how to prepare different types of meats, where you can buy them, and their price range. I’m the type of person that likes good food, and I like to share what I know. In fact, that’s why I founded Golden Gourmet, to get people to enjoy food as much as I do! (check out our site )
To preface, there are 2 basic ways to prepare meat, cooking and roasting (smoking and sous vide for a different post). Don’t know the difference? Cooking is making the meat ready to eat by means of immersion in water, and roasting is by means of dry heat. Different cuts of meat will demand different ways of preparation to maximize the flavor and texture of that piece.
Buying meat in Israel can be a daunting task. In the U.S., you just go to the meat section, find whatever meat you’re looking for, pick the right size you want, and voila! In Israel, it’s usually not as easy. First of all, most if not all quality meat is sold at a butcher’s counter, which means you actually need to talk to someone and tell them what you want. That may not be so easy if one, you don’t know that meat in Israel works by a number system, and two, you don’t know how much weight you need. So you begin telling the butcher the name of the meat you’re used to, like Delmonico roast, rib roast, skirt steak, London broil, brisket… and he looks at you with blank stares. Once you finally figure out the meat you want, you start helplessly signaling with your fingers the size you want… disaster. So let us get started.
Number 1 – אנטריקוט, סטייק עין
Rib roast, rib steak, entrecote roast (entrecote is French for ‘between the ribs’). These are types of steak meat, so meat #1 is probably the priciest cut of meat you can buy. At 120 shekel/kilo for frozen or 180/kilo for fresh steak meat cuts, you better know what you’re doing (buying it fresh is extremely recommended because you’re roasting it, and the freshness of the meat will definitely impact the result).
If you’re looking to have a steak dinner for 2, you’ll want to ask for 2 slices of mispar 1, each weighing 300 grams (1/2 kilo if you’re really hungry!). You’ll also need to decide if you want with the bone or not. Just remember the bone weighs (although sometimes with the bone costs less) so you’ll be getting less meat for your buck. Making steaks in simple, let the meat speak for itself. Just heat up your BBQ, or stovetop grill pan, sprinkle some salt and pepper on each side, and you’re good to go. If you’re using the grill pan, you may want to rub some vegetable oil on each side to prevent sticking.
Another delicious way to prepare #1 is by making a rib roast. A rib roast is just the steaks left as a large piece of meat. For that, you’ll need a meat thermometer (see here) to ensure proper doneness. Just ask for mispar #1, about 1.5kg for 4 people. When you’re ready to prepare it, rub some vegetable oil on it, and sprinkle some coarse salt and pepper all over. Use your hands to rub it in well. Use this chart to see how much time you need for the desired doneness. That, together with the meat thermometer, will give you the most accurate measure for when your meat is ready to come out from the oven. You can’t cut into it when it comes out (that will ruin the juiciness of the meat) until 20 minutes after its out, and by that time you can’t roast it more, so using the timetable and the meat thermometer will give you an accurate reading. I prefer my meat to be medium-rare, which leads to pink, juicy inside. When reheating this meat for Friday night, make sure not to place directly on the hot plate, because then the heat from the hot plate will create steam which will cook the roast more, effectively drying it out and make it tough.
Tip: Don’t listen to most recipes that talk about rib roast. They tell you to put all sorts of spices and sauces on the meat. Rib roast is meat that speaks for itself. To maximize the experience, you want to enhance its own flavor, not add other ones.
Tip: The best pan to use is a broiler pan, which will ensure the meat will only be cooked by the heat and not its own liquid. After it’s done, put the liquid into a frying pan, add some vegetable oil, and fry some pre-cooked potatoes. They will absorb the taste from the meat and will be a delicious side for your meat!
Other common uses for #1: Pepper steak! Getting the right meat for pepper steak can be tricky. Why do I say so? Just to preface with a little science lesson about meat, when meat is cooked in liquid, its muscle tissues begin to tighten, and the meat becomes very tough. After cooking it for a long time, the tissue begins to fade away and the meat becomes succulent. So the tricky part with pepper steak it, the meat is being cooked in liquid, but not for a very long time. So, it’s common to yield pepper steak that’s tough to eat. To avoid this, we buy the entricote ‘dak dak’, which is sold in the freezer section of many stores. Its effectively just steaks cut super thin. It’s thin enough that it won’t be tough and makes a really delicious pepper steak.
Number 3 – חזה בקר
This is brisket. There are really 2 types of brisket. 1st and 2nd cut. The first is a lean piece, perfect for cooking brisket, and the second is fatty, better for curing and making corned beef. In Israel, not many butchers know the difference. You just need to look at the piece you’re buying to tell if its fatty or not. We’ll delve into both here.
The most common way to prepare brisket is by cooking it. As mentioned earlier, whenever you cook meat, it gets tougher, until it’s cooked for a long time. So to cook brisket, simply cut onions into large rounds, line the bottom of the pan with them, put the brisket on top, and pour ¾ of a bottle of dry red wine on top. Make sure all the meat is submerged. Tip: Sear the meat in a frying pan with basic spices and create a very delicious crust on the meat. This is a great way to change up your Friday night meal when you get tired of chicken. At about 80/kilo frozen or 120/kilo fresh, it really is an affordable way to enhance your Shabbos table. It’s not all that important to buy it fresh, because it is being cooked, so you won’t be able to tell much anyway.
A question that is often asked is, “what cut of meat is corned beef?”
Here’s your answer! Another way to prepare #3 is by making your own corned beef. I started this when I lived in Israel enough time that I was tired of the 1 or 2 options (and their prices!) that the stores had to offer. It’s really very simple.
How do I make corned beef?
Purchase curing salt #1, also known as pink salt, sodium nitrate, prague powder, (available here on amazon, ask your LOR if it needs a hechsher). In a large pot, pour about 4-6 gallons of water, place a tsp of the pink salt, 1 cup brown sugar, ½ cup kosher salt, ½ cup pickling spice (you can make your own or buy ready-made here), whisk it all together, place meat in the liquid, fully submerged, for 1 week in the fridge. After the week, rinse the meat well, place in a pot, and cook in water for about 1.5-2.5 hours. The meat will be ready to eat just like that! To serves, either cut very thinly using a chef’s carving knife (I have this one), or make a sauce, heat it up together, and cut larger slices. For this, I like to buy fresh brisket, second cut, so I can freeze the corned beef after they are cured before they are cooked. After you make corned beef enough times, you’ll get a feel for what spices you like better in the pickling process (I like heavy on the mustard seed and cinnamon), and you’ll tweak the recipe to your preferences.
Numbers 4 (כתף מרכזי) & 5 (צלי כתף)
I commonly pair these two types of meat because they are both from the shoulder. The #4 is known as silvertip and the #5 as minute steak. People often wonder what cut of meat is roast beef – well, silvertip (#4) is commonly known as roast beef in the U.S. deli. Minute steaks are great to cut finely and throw on the BBQ or grill pan. To make as a roast, simply make a paste (I use my mother’s recipe salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika, oil) and rub it on the meat. Using the chart from above, put the meat in a broiler pan, and roast until the desired doneness. Some people like this cut cooked in liquid, so you can do a similar recipe of that from the brisket. Some people also putting coffee in the rub, whatever tickles your fancy. This meat prices between 90-140 shekel/kilo. I would not buy it frozen, because usually, they are too big for my liking. If you shop at Hackers, they will cut any frozen piece of meat to whatever size you want.
Number 6 פילה מדומה
Known in the U.S. as Petit Tender, this is a great piece of meat for a roast. Just simply treat like silvertip, make a rub, or even cut into thick pieces and prepare like steak.
Number 7 – מכסה הצלע
Another common question: “What cut of meat is London broil”? Meat #7 is London Broil. With this cut, you need to be careful. If you’re buying it from a fresh meat butcher, such as yesh, then there’s nothing to worry about. If you buy it from Hackers, or the frozen section at yesh, than be aware, there’s a layer of silver skin that you may confuse with fat on the meat. If you prepare the meat with this layer, it will not be enjoyable. The silver skin in unchewable and will really put you off. So, take a very sharp pairing knife, and cut away at the silver skin. Some meat will come off with it, but trust me, it’s worth it.
How to cook London Broil / Meat #7
The perfect way to make this meat is grilling it after sitting in a marinade. What I like to do with marinades is follow a simple sharp to sweet formula. One sharp sauce, one sweet sauce. For example, honey-mustard, brown sugar-soy sauce, olive oil red wine vinegar. Lay the meat flat of the counter on plastic wrap, pour desired sauces, basic spices, olive oil, flip and repeat, then using your hands, rub it all it. Wrap the meat in the plastic wrap, place in the fridge for 2-3 hours (at least) then grill or broil in the oven, about 5-6 minutes on each side. Perfect meat to cut thinly and top salad with for an impressive appetizer.
This meat is priced at 80/kilo frozen but 150/kilo fresh. But note, the advantage of buying it fresh is having the silver skin carved away for you in advance.
Other Types of Meat
This meat has become available at the fresh meat counter at yesh in Ramat Eshkol and Bet Shemesh. It’s the perfect type of meat for braising low and slow until the meat is falling of the bone. The reason being is its fat/meat/bone placement. The way it’s shape is a circle, the bone on the inside, then the meat, then the fat. The fat isn’t mixed into the meat the way it is with Asado meat, commonly used for cholent, so the meat is a pleasure to eat. It’s a perfect meat for cholent.
Asado meat cuts (also known as #9)
As mentioned before, Asado is a very fatty piece of meat, which is why it’s also sold as basar lchamin, meat for cholent, because the fat imparts a delicious depth of taste to the cholent. It also sometimes has bones, excellent for those who enjoy sucking on those bones at the seuda. I find it to be the right cut for sticky short ribs.
This is sold as cubed meat, good for people who don’t like fatty cholent. It’s perfect for a meat soup, such as mushroom barley meat soup that can be a perfect substitute for chicken soup on Friday night when you’re looking to change things up a bit.
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