By Rabbi Yair Hoffman
When Americans travel to Israel for yom tov, they often do one of two things:
A. They either bring their choice cuts of meats from the United States with them (as at least two local people do every year); or
B. they purchase their meats there.
If they opt for the latter choice, they will not be told a name, but they will be given a number. The conversation will usually go something like this:
“Yes, I would like a top of the rib, please.”
“Geveret, beretzinut . . . eizeh mispar?”
“Selichah? Ani rotzah top of the rib or, selichah oh, brisket. Ken brisket yehiyeh tov.”
“Geveret, vat number do you vant?”
“Well, I don’t know . . .”
“Call me back ven you know the number please. Click.”
Taken aback that the butcher is refusing her business, the American will usually try to call someone with a bit more familiarity with the topic at hand. Often she will get the response that brisket is #3. She then sends her spouse to go purchase the #3 cut.
The American woman will cook the brisket, and half the time it will work out. A bit dryer and less marbled, but still it is brisket. But half the time it may taste more like skirt steak. Why? What is going on here, exactly?
The discerning shopper should be aware that often there is no exact equivalent to the cuts of meat that we normally would find in America. This is due to a number of factors:
A. The cow is cut up quite differently in Israel than it is here.
B. In Israel they utilize a lot more of the animal than they do here. They cut the animal up into 19 different parts. Here in America, we don’t even process the hindquarters of the cow at all. Even the forequarters of the cow are cut and processed in a vastly different way than in Israel.
C. What would be considered two different parts of the cow in America is often considered the same part in Israel. For example, the #3 is both the brisket as well as the plate (the source of skirt steaks).
Below is the list of the 19 different cuts that are available in Israel and their rough American equivalents, culled from the Israeleasy blogspot site.
1. Entrecote, Steak Ayin, Vered Hatzela. Steaks and roast beef, suitable for roasting and grilling. U.S. rib, rib eye, Delmonico.
2. Rifaan, Tzlaot. Suitable for slow-roasting, e.g. pot roast, goulash and braising. U.S. chuck or blade.
3. Brust, Chazeh. The favorite cut for salt/corned beef. Cheap, lean, and delicious after being roasted in a slow oven for a few hours. U.S brisket or front poitrine.
4. Katef, Katef Mercazi. Pot roast and braising. U.S. and U.K. rib or back rib, some say shoulder.
5. Tzli, Tzli Katef. Pot roast, cooking in sauce, slow roasting. Sliced for minute steak (blade). Have the butcher “devein” it for two beautiful pieces for your flank steak and london broil recipes.
6. Falshe, Fillet Medumeh. Braising, pot roast, cooking in sauce, slow roasting. Chuck calachel.
7. Polo, Shrir Hazroa, Shrir. For goulash, soup, cholent; with a bone. Osso bucco top rib.
8. Shrir Hazroa. Shoulder calachel. For goulash, soup, cholent with a bone. Osso bucco.
9. Shpundra, Kashtit. Cholent, goulash, and soup; with a bone. Assado and spare ribs. Aka: short plate, flank, flanken (boneless). (Short ribs that are cut across the rib bones are known as flanken).
10. Tzavar. Soup and grinding.
11. Sinta, Moten. Roast beef and steaks suitable for roasting and grilling from along the spine, around the waist. U.S. and U.K. sirloin or porterhouse.
12. Fillet steaks and carpaccio. Suitable for roasting and grilling.
13. Shaitel, Kanaf Haoketz. Shnitzel, steak. Skewering and oven roasting. Suitable for roasting and grilling. U.S. round, U.K. rump.
14. Katchke, Ozit. Braising, goulash, pot roast, and grinding.
15. Yarcha. Chuck. Braising.
16. Kaf. Braising, steak, schnitzel, and roast.
17. Plada, Kislayim. Rolada, goulash, and grinding.
18. Poli, Shrir Achori. Goulash, soup, and cholent.
19. Weisbraten, Rosh Yarcha. Braising. v
The author can be reached at Yairhoffman2@gmail.com.