What the Heck Are They Doing to #4s?

So a while ago my wife brought home a #4. Well, some chunk of a #4. It seems that someone, somewhere had a good idea. They apparently cut down a very large #4 so that they could sell it in pieces, probably at a decent markup. Which then left me with the chore of trying to figure out how to deal with this piece of meat that is, frankly, sideways.

A number 4 is better known to us olim as a silver-tip roast. It comes from the shoulder, but is pretty tender if you can get it sliced thinly enough. Back in the US, if you order a roast beef sandwich at your local deli, you are going to get a beautifully pink (yes, well-done meat haters, pink), thinly sliced pile of silver tip sandwiched between two of Fink’s finest slices, with some Gulden’s smeared on each slice. You can read more about it on my article Preparing and Cooking A #4 Shoulder Roast. The problem is that for people who know this can be roasted, like my readers for instance, the logical way to slice this piece of meat is not the correct way to slice it. If you slice it on its side, which would make sense, you’re going to wind up slicing with the grain instead of against it, which is going to make it stringy and tough, not at all pleasant to eat. If you stand it properly upright you wind up working with what is a pretty narrow piece of meat. And that means you need a sharp knife and more than just basic knife skills. The meat in the article picture is laying on its side, facing up.

Now I’m sure many of my readers are saying, “okay so what’s the big deal?” Well, it is, especially for those who are new olim. It’s hard enough in the beginning with the language and the bureaucracy and schools and work and shopping and the rest of life. And, when all you want to do is sit down to a nice Shabbat meal that you splurged a little with food that should be marginally familiar (beef is beef, right?), you wind up with something that has the consistency of shoe leather? It should never be this hard. It’s bad aliyah marketing, and it reinforces negative stereotypes about Israel.

Obviously the intention of whoever is in charge [heh] of fabrication was to sell it as a pot roast. Okay, fine, you can pot roast a #4 with excellent results. And, if you do it correctly it comes out soft enough so that slicing it is less of an issue. But isn’t that my decision to make as a consumer? What they could do – for the same profit margin, mind you – is just… cut it into larger pieces. Really. If I say “a roast” you’re now picturing a piece of meat that is at least as long if not longer than it is tall. Which will be sliced properly because it lays properly on the cutting board.

Okay, I’m done ranting for now. I just needed to get this off my chest. My point? You are not alone. I feel your pain.