HOW TOCutting Wagyu Beef with a Famous Japanese Knife
Wagyu beef is one of the most expensive meats in the world, and for good reason. However, when breaking down this product, chefs and consumers need proper hardware to sample the world-famous beef at its best.
Japanese Wagyu beef has garnered a reputation worldwide as some of the very best. It’s a chef’s dream, as the quality of the meat requires minimal seasoning and speaks for itself as long as you cut it correctly.
Wagyu is revered for its high-fat content that is evenly distributed throughout the meat. This proliferation of tasty fat gives Wagyu beef an intense marbling and locks in flavor. The meat must only be cooked at a very low temperature to melt the fat so it stays incredibly tender. However, this unique beef requires a unique approach to preparation.
To understand the true character of Wagyu beef and its nuanced flavor, it should be sliced in ways that allow it to be enjoyed in moderation. Then there is its unique structure to navigate. A wagyu steak isn’t just a slab of protein.
The gyuto: A Japanese chef’s best friend
The gyuto is to Japan what the chef’s knife is to the West. It is an essential tool in any kitchen, especially where butchery will take place. While the gyuto is a versatile knife used in various kitchen tasks, it is particularly well suited to meat preparation.
The gyuto has a thinner and lighter blade than Western-style knives, which means it is well adapted to the precise cutting techniques required in butchery. The gyuto knife is produced in various lengths. However, a longer blade is better for slicing delicate cuts of Wagyu.
The art of Wagyu slicing explained
The first consideration when slicing Wagyu is to make sure you are cutting against the grain. With Wagyu, the grain is the direction of the muscle fibers. If you cut against them, they are shorter and easier to chew, making the meat more tender. This also reveals the stunning marbling patterns of Wagyu beef’s intramuscular fat, called sashi or shimo-furo in Japanese. (The latter means “cascading frost” and is a poetic term for Wagyu’s aesthetic beauty.)
While many international diners may be used to tucking into thick beef steaks, Wagyu is typically served thin. This is because the meat’s richness can be overwhelming if it isn’t cut into small bite-size pieces.
Some chefs choose to cut the steaks down further into smaller pieces. In Japan these are often used in yakiniku BBQ, accompanied by different sauces, salts and of course, wasabi (our personal favorite).
Other Japanese knives useful for Wagyu cuts
The Gyuto isn’t the only well-known Japanese knife used in preparing Wagyu. Some other useful blades include the sujihiki and the petty knife. The sujihiki is great for making thinner slices, or cutting through sinew and removing silverskin. Its narrow design makes it the ideal solution for slicing through larger Wagyu cuts to shape them up.
Lastly, the petty knife – also known as a utility knife – is a short, useful blade, generally 4.5–6 inches long. In Japan, some chefs use a petty knife for carving or improving the appearance of a large block of Wagyu beef. There is a wide world of difference between butchering and sectioning Wagyu beef versus cattle in the West. Choosing the best tool for the job is step number one!