Cooking wagyu steak is an art like no other, requiring patience and technical skill that only the most experienced home cooks can master. If you’re looking for tips on how to make melt-in-your-mouth steaks every time, then look no further — our comprehensive guide to cooking wagyu steak will give you all the information you need. Learn exactly which cuts are best for grilling, roasting, or searing; what ingredients add flavor and moisture; as well as step-by-step instructions on how to cook wagyu steak. So read on and sharpen your culinary skills with our handy advice.
Overview of Wagyu Beef: Origin, Characteristics, and What Sets It Apart
Wagyu refers to four Japanese cattle breeds: Japanese Black, Japanese Brown, Japanese Shorthorn, and Japanese Polled. While ‘Wa’ means Japanese and ‘gyu’ means cow, the term ‘Wagyu’ has become internationally synonymous with the genetics of these breeds. Their signature heavy marbling and extensive fat cap are the products of meticulous breeding and rearing practices over centuries in Japan.
The rich marbling is comprised of monounsaturated fatty acids and oleic acids. This high percentage of unsaturated fats gives the beef a lower melting point. Consequently, the marbling starts melting at a lower temperature, keeping the meat tender during cooking. The fat also enables enhanced distribution of flavor across the meat.
In several grading systems, Wagyu can achieve the highest classifications due to the abundance, fineness, and distribution of marbling. While the beef is prized for this attribute, it still contains high-quality protein and delivers essential amino acids.
When cooked skillfully, the characteristic marbling ensures a silky, buttery texture and delivers an intensely concentrated, beefy flavor. No other steak compares to the mouthfeel and taste that perfectly cooked Wagyu delivers. It is a phenomenally enriching culinary experience unmatched by conventional beef.
The Significance of Marbling in Wagyu Beef
The abundant marbling is key to the distinctive taste and texture of Wagyu steaks. Visible as white fat woven through the pink meat, marbling essentially creates fat infused beef. This has several advantages:
- Flavor – The fat carries a lot of beefy, nutty, umami richness. As it melts during cooking, it permeates the meat with flavor.
- Tenderness – The fat makes the meat tender by lubricating the muscle fibers. This creates a smooth, ultra-soft bite.
- Juiciness – All the dispersed fat melts during cooking keeping the meat succulent and moist.
- Mouthfeel – The luscious marbling gives Wagyu a unique velvety texture.
Managing the high fat content properly during cooking is essential to get the best eating experience from this exceptionally marbled beef.
Selection and Preparation of Wagyu Beef
To fully enjoy premium quality Wagyu steak, sourcing and handling are key steps before cooking ever begins.
Grading Scale and Quality Indicators for Purchasing Wagyu
Wagyu beef is graded on a scale from A1 to A5 based on marbling, color, texture, and fat color. A5 is the top grade, with the highest percentage of fat running through the meat. For the ultimate Wagyu experience, look for grades A3, A4, or A5.
When selecting individual steaks, ideal indicators of quality include:
- Generous, fine white marbling
- Bright red meat
- Smooth, velvety texture
- Fat rim around the edge that is white or yellowish, not grey
- Firm shape that rebounds slightly when pressed
Recommended Handling and Storage Prior to Cooking
- Store wrapped in butcher paper instead of plastic which can cause condensation.
- Keep refrigerated at 34-40°F up until 2 hours before cooking.
- Do not freeze Wagyu steak or it can damage the fat content and texture. Thaw frozen Wagyu completely in the refrigerator before cooking.
Importance of Letting the Steak Reach Room Temperature
Wagyu beef needs to come fully to room temperature before cooking to prevent uneven cooking and cold spots. Take steaks out of the refrigerator at least 2 hours before grilling or pan frying. The fat needs to warm gradually to render slowly and evenly.
Cooking Methods for Wagyu Steak
Wagyu’s lavish marbling and tenderness make quick, hot cooking ideal to develop flavor without overcooking. The two most popular techniques are grilling and pan frying.
Grilling American Wagyu Steak
Grilling over live fire adds wonderful smoky undertones to Wagyu steak. Managing the plentiful fat while cooking directly over the heat takes some care.
Preparations for Grilling: Grill Maintenance and Temperature Control
- Keep the grates pristinely clean without burnt on residue so the steak doesn’t stick.
- Create zones of direct and indirect heat using charcoal or gas burners. Direct high heat to sear and indirect lower heat to cook through without burning.
- Heat the grill to 400-450°F measured by a grill thermometer.
Techniques to Manage Flare-Ups from the High-Fat Content
- Choose leaner steak cuts like filet mignon with less extensive marbling.
- Trim thick outer fat layers to prevent excessive flare ups.
- Oil the grates just before grilling.
- Flip frequently, every 45-60 seconds. Move to indirect heat if needed.
Tools and Utensils Best Suited for Grilling Wagyu
- Long handled tongs for gripping and flipping.
- Instant read digital meat thermometer for monitoring doneness.
- Water spray bottle for taming random flares.
Charcoal vs Gas Grilling Considerations
Charcoal provides better flavor from the licking flames but gas gives more control for precise temperature modifications. Good options include:
- Charcoal – Natural lump charcoal over briquettes. Use various heat zones.
- Gas – Multiple burners allow creating direct and indirect heat. Add smoke with wood chips.
Pan-Frying American Wagyu Steak
Pan frying in a cast iron skillet gives phenomenal caramelized crust in the coveted butter baste method.
Choosing the Right Fats and Oils for Pan-Frying
- Butter and beef tallow are ideal for flavor. Clarified butter has a higher smoke point.
- Avocado oil has the high smoke point needed for searing.
- Always use high quality fats so the flavor enhances the steak.
Managing Pan Temperature to Prevent Burning
- Use a thick, heavy pan that maintains heat evenly. Cast iron or stainless steel work best.
- Heat the empty pan over medium-high heat until water flicked on the surface sizzles.
- Add oil and heat until shimmering right before adding steak.
Creating Complementary Pan Sauces
Sear the steak first on both sides, then add butter, garlic, herbs and baste the steak as it finishes cooking. The browned butter sauce absorbs into the meat as you baste. Fantastic flavor combinations include:
- Compound butter – Garlic, rosemary, thyme
- Gorgonzola butter
- Balsamic glazed shallots
- Port wine reduction
Alternative Cooking Methods
While grilling and pan-frying are ideal, Wagyu can be prepared using other techniques with care:
|Precise temperature control, tender and flavorful result
Cut of Wagyu
|Rich, marbled, great for steaks
|Leaner, flavorful, good for grilling
|Tenderest cut, melt-in-your-mouth texture
|Optimal for even cooking and searing
|Enhances natural flavors
|Freshly Ground Black Pepper
|Complements richness of Wagyu
|Garlic, Rosemary, Thyme
|Adds subtle depth of flavor
|Tender, slightly cool center
|Medium Rare: 130-135°F
|Slightly firmer, pink center
|More cooked, slight pinkness
|Allows juices to redistribute for optimal flavor
After Cooking Wagyu Steak
Proper resting and temperature monitoring are vital finishing steps for serving sublime Wagyu steak.
Resting the Meat
Allowing the steak to rest after cooking enables juices redistribution for tenderness. Rest on a plate or board for 5 minutes for 1-inch steaks and 10 minutes for bone-in or thicker cuts. After resting, dot with butter for added richness.
Use an instant-read digital thermometer to test doneness, not visual appearance. Rare = 120-125°F, Medium Rare = 130-135°F, Medium = 135-145°F, Medium Well = 150°F. Avoid overcooking above 155°F.
Serving and Enjoying Wagyu Steak
Beautiful presentation and considered pairing will make the Wagyu dining experience extraordinary.
Slice across the grain of the meat in thin strips for tenderness. Trim off excess fat before serving. Hold the knife at a 45° angle and cut through the steak with gentle sawing motions. Resist the urge to rush slicing so the texture remains intact.
Complementary Side Dishes
Simple roasted or steamed vegetables prevent distracting from the star. Asparagus, mushrooms, potatoes, or heirloom carrots accented with olive oil or butter make ideal pairings. A crispy green salad balances the richness.
Keep plating clean and elegant to showcase the steak. Place the carved slices slightly overlapping across the plate. Spoon the juice accumulated during resting over the top. Garnish minimally with herbs like thyme or rosemary. Allow the beauty of the marbling to be the highlight.
Conclusion: How To Cook Wagyu Steak
Cooking Wagyu beef properly allows full appreciation of its sublime eating quality. Respect the craftsmanship and care involved in raising these specialty cattle by using cooking methods suited to the signature marbling. Experiment with various techniques to find your personal preferences for preparing Wagyu. Pursue the highest quality graded cuts, like A5 Japanese Wagyu or Prime American Wagyu. Cook them gently using lower heat for remarkable tenderness and flavor. The unrivaled experience of superbly cooked Wagyu steak makes it a pinnacle of indulgence. By following these guidelines, you can achieve restaurant-quality results in your own kitchen. Wagyu prepared skillfully delivers an unparalleled richness and taste that every beef lover should have the opportunity to savor.
Bobby Kelly is a bartender at Molly Magees, an Irish pub in Mountain View. He’s been working there for two years and has developed a following among the regulars. Bobby is known for his friendly demeanor and great drink specials. He loves interacting with customers and making them feel welcome. When he’s not at work, Bobby enjoys spending time with his friends and family.