Question: If one is served a dish containing larger and smaller pieces of meat on Shabbat, may one remove the smaller pieces that he is not interested in eating or not?
Answer: In the previous Halachot, we have discussed the forbidden work of selecting on Shabbat. We have also mentioned that selecting is only permissible on Shabbat when three conditions are met: One must select by hand and not with the use of a utensil (such as a strainer), one must select the food from the waste and not the opposite, and one must do so in order to eat the food immediately (and not to leave it for a later time).
With regards to our question, if one is served larger and smaller pieces and one does not want the smaller ones, it would seem that if one were to remove the smaller pieces this would constitute selecting waste from food and would be prohibited on Shabbat. Indeed, the Turei Zahav rules that even when the mixture consists of one type of food, such as pomegranate seeds or smaller and larger pieces of meat, the prohibition to select on Shabbat applies here as well. This is indeed the inferred opinion of the Talmud Yerushalmi as well.
Nevertheless, it seems from the words of the Rambam, Magid Mishneh, Terumat Ha’Deshen, and several other great Poskim that the prohibition of selecting only applies to a mixture of two different foods, such as sunflower seeds and watermelon seeds; however, this prohibition does not apply to only one type of food, such as larger and smaller pieces of meat or vegetables. Based on this, if one does not want the smaller pieces of meat or the vegetable, one may remove them from the dish with the intention of eating whatever remains. Although it seems from the Talmud Yerushalmi that the prohibition of selecting applies to even one kind of food, it seems that our Babylonian Talmud disagrees in which case the Halacha is that there is no prohibition to select in our case. Indeed, the Rama rules likewise. This is indeed the correct opinion according to Halacha as Maran zt”l writes lengthily to prove that the prohibition of selecting only applies to two kinds of food and not to only one kind.
Summary: When two forms of the same kind of food, such as larger and smaller pieces of meat or a vegetable, are mixed together on a plate, one may select one from another with no concern whatsoever, as the prohibition of selecting applies only to two different kinds of food and not to only one kind. Nevertheless, regarding two kinds of fish, such as tuna and salmon, the Terumat Ha’Deshen (Chapter 57) writes in the name of the Ohr Zarua that since they each have separate names, they are considered two kinds of food and the prohibition to select would indeed apply here.