What Is Japanese Wagyu Beef?
Known around the world for its tender and high-end beef, Japan produces over 200 types of “wagyu” raised in regions all across the country. Wagyu is a famous type of Japanese beef that costs almost three times as much as European beef and is known by many to be the most expensive beef in the world. Similar to how we categorize wine by its region and method of cultivation, each wagyu brand meets different standards according to the production area, bloodline, breed, grade, and method of rearing. The quality of Japanese wagyu steak depends on two characteristics, brand and grade.
The brand refers to where the cattle come from. Four breeds of Japanese cattle make up wagyu beef: Japanese black, Japanese brown, Shorthorn, and Polled. Japanese black makes up the vast majority of wagyu at over 70% of total production. The three most renowned wagyu brands are Kobe in Hyogo Prefecture, Matsusaka in Mie Prefecture, and Ohmi beef in Shiga Prefecture. The most elusive wagyu brand – even most beef connoisseurs in Japan haven’t had the chance to savor its rich flavor – is Ishigaki wagyu, raised on a tiny island to the far south of Japan’s main island and where only a few hundred heads of cattle are processed annually.
The grade of Japanese wagyu beef relies on a universal system that classifies how much high-quality meat one cow offers. The grades range from A to C and 1 to 5. Quality wagyu depends on the amount of marbling, color and brightness, firmness, texture, luster, and fat quality. Marbling gives the beef its tenderness and savory flavor. A5, the highest grade meat can attain, is known for its rich marbling and deep flavor.
Similar to other types of meat, Japanese wagyu comes in various cuts unique in their own flavor and aroma. One of the best ways to experience the unique flavors and cuts of wagyu is through “yakiniku” or Japanese barbeque. Yakiniku restaurants feature small grills right at your table so you can grill the meats to your preference and enjoy the grilled morsels immediately. Higher-end yakiniku restaurants in Japan serve cuts so rare, each Japanese cow only has one portion to offer.
Some of the more popular yakiniku cuts among Japanese gourmets include:
Gyutan: Also known as Japanese beef tongue, this cut is considered a delicacy in Japan. It comes very thinly slices and cooks quickly. The beef tongue should be grilled first or on a new grill to avoid the cross-contamination of flavors. Once grilled, gyutan is typically finished with a squeeze of fresh lemon and a sprinkling of salt before enjoying.
Karubi: A boneless short rib, karubi is one of the most popular cuts of beef for yakiniku. Karubi cuts have more marbling most cuts served at yakiniku restaurants. It is known for being extremely juicy and tender. For best flavor results, you should cook each piece 80 percent of the time on one side and 20 percent on the other.
Roast: Roast cuts come from the lean meat around the shoulders and back. Despite being lean, roast meat is still tender. Served in thicker cuts, each piece requires a little more time to cook. When cooking, wait until the bottom is browned nicely and juices rise to the surface, then proceed to cook on the other side.
Sirloin: Widely recognized as the most luxurious beef in the world, due to its intense marbling, lusciously smooth texture and profound flavors. Grill until the outside is nicely colored, leaving the center a little rare.
Zabuton: A flavorful cut of meat from the chuck area that is known to melt in your mouth. This cut of beef is rare due to the amount available compared to the other cuts.
With a selection of yakiniku cuts, you can recreate the experience of a yakiniku restaurant in your own home. All you need is a portable stove – which you can often find at Asian markets or camping supply stores – and some delicious sauces to dip your cuts into.
How To Cook Japanese Wagyu
We have a fantastic recipe from top chef Harvey Ayliffe on how to cook Wagyu steak to perfection. For further advice, here’s are a few grilling tips that you can apply to all cuts of beef mentioned above:
1. ALWAYS use a portable stove in a well-ventilated area.
2. Wait until your grilling surface is extremely hot to prevent the meat from sticking to the metal.
3. Consider the order that you would like the meat to be cooked in to avoid flavor contamination. It is recommended that thinly sliced cuts of meat be cooked before thicker cuts.
4. Grill and enjoy each piece of meat one at a time to ensure that the grill maintains a steady temperature. If you decide to cook multiple pieces at once keep in mind the order you placed them on the grill to avoid overcooking.
5. Pay attention to the thickness of your meat. Thinner pieces may only need to be cooked for a 3-5 seconds before being flipped, while thicker pieces, might require a few minutes to cook properly.
Japanese Wagyu Beef Dipping Sauce Recipes
We can’t forget the sauce! All these recipes are quick to whip up. Simply place everything in a bowl, stir, and enjoy!
Sesame Wagyu Dipping Sauce Recipe
- 100ml soy sauce
- 4 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon roasted sesame seeds
- ½ teaspoon sesame oil
- ½ teaspoon miso paste
- 1 teaspoon ginger paste
- 1 teaspoon garlic paste
- black pepper to taste
- cayenne pepper to taste
Lemon Wagyu Dipping Sauce Recipe
- 4 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon chicken bullion
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- ¼ teaspoon sesame oil
- black pepper to taste
Spicy Miso Japanese Wagyu Dipping Sauce Recipe
- 40 grams miso paste
- 1 tablespoon gochujang paste (if you don’t have available at your local market, sriracha makes a tasty alternative!)
- 1 teaspoon sugar
Now you know all about this world renowned meat, why not give it a try? We offer succulent cuts of Wagyu ribeye steak, Wagyu sirloin and Wagyu fillet steak, with some of the finest marbling for a truly superb taste that will not disappoint. Our Wagyu Beef is sourced from hand picked suppliers, allowing us to provide a superior range of mince, roasting joints, brisket, fillet and more.
Buy Wagyu Steak from Tom Hixson of Smithfield, your award winning online butcher.