What’s the Right Way to Cook Real Japanese Wagyu Beef?
Jan 1, 2023
HOW TOWhat’s the Right Way to Cook Real Japanese Wagyu Beef?
Wagyu sirloin steaks, filet sandwiches, thin-pounded carpaccio and many more Wagyu dishes are now recognized by foodies and chefs around the world, and there’s always a new gastronomic sensation around the corner. But is there a “right” way to eat Wagyu?
The history of eating beef in Japan is surprisingly short. Japanese people began to eat Wagyu beef on a large scale around the early Meiji era (1868–1912). The menu at that time was similar to sukiyaki today, where beef was cut into thin slices and briefly simmered to be enjoyed fresh.
However, cattle in Japan at that time were largely service animals that weren’t intended to be eaten. As a result, the meat was less tender than today’s Wagyu and had less intramuscular fatty marbling, or sashi. This Wagyu of old was almost always thinly sliced, to make it softer and easier to eat.
The dominant way to Wagyu in Japan: Less is more
Wagyu beef should ideally be enjoyed for the pure taste of the product. In Japan, Wagyu is often eaten with salt only. Wagyu is also commonly enjoyed on tabletop BBQ grills, dipped in a soy-based sauce with other umami-rich ingredients like apple and onion.
Putting sea urchin and caviar on Wagyu beef is not Japanese
The uni (sea urchin) and caviar “surf and turf” take on Wagyu was first served by a famous chef in Hong Kong, according to legend. Around 2014, the number of countries that could import Wagyu beef from Japan rose considerably. The “surf and turf” idea inspired other chefs to conjure surprising recipes that combine the finest Wagyu beef with caviar, truffles and other ingredients considered upper echelon. But it’s not Japanese!
Wagyu beef is more than flavor – it’s high-quality fat
Many famous chefs have a negative view of the high fat content of Wagyu beef. This is partially due to overly fatty meat being disliked by some people. The first thing many chefs do is come up with ideas to counteract the fat. Acidic citrus and spicy wasabi are examples of this.
If a chef is aware of the sheer quality of the fat in Japanese Wagyu beef, they would be wise to find a way to make the most of it. Some chefs use raw Wagyu fat as a substitute for butter in their dessert menus – its silky texture literally melts in the mouth due to high oleic acid content. Japanese Wagyu beef has a similar oleic acid content compared to many quality olive oils.
Not all parts of Wagyu beef melt in the mouth
When most people think of A5 Japanese Wagyu, they imagine a texture that melts in the mouth. However, this is a characteristic of so-called high-end cuts such as sirloin and ribeye. However, there are many other fascinating parts of Wagyu beef. Ude cuts (upper foreleg) and thigh meat (round cuts), for example, are diverse, incredible cuts that include many different textures when divided into smaller pieces.
This requires knife skills and a physiological understanding of each part of Wagyu cattle. Each cut stipulates a required thickness and cooking method that best suits its characteristics. Even relatively tough cuts of Wagyu, like the shank, can be tenderized by melting the protein at high temperatures.
Once you understand that the melt-in-your-mouth texture is the most distinctive feature of Japanese Wagyu beef, and the most fascinating, we hope you’ll be even further captivated with this incredible product.