It may sound a little pretentious, but yes, Wagyu is the gourmet meat among meats. Wagyu is the most sophisticated and revered type of meat in Japanese cuisine due to its unique flavour, juiciness and textural characteristics that argue why it is one of the most sought-after meats on the market. And you may wonder… Is it really worth it? To help you find out, here are all the details and characteristics of this Japanese relic, considered by many to be “the best meat in the world”.
What is Wagyu beef?
Until relatively recently, very few people, except true lovers of meat and Japanese cuisine, were familiar with Wagyu. However, it was more common to know about kobe beef, a type of meat with a designation of origin and very strict quality standards. Due to the confusion that these two terms can generate, it is necessary to emphasise that these two meats are NOT the same.
Wagyu beef (pronounced as “guayu”) is a type of beef breed indigenous to Japan. Not all Japanese breeds are Wagyu, only four: Kuroge washu (Japanese black), Mukaku Washu (Japanese mocha), Nihon Tankakushu (Japanese horned) and Akage Washu (Japanese brown).
The error and confusion between the terms lies in referring to Wagyu beef as kobe. Actually, kobe is a designation of origin, i.e. a meat cannot be considered kobe until the animal has been slaughtered. Therefore, we can say that kobe is a type of Wagyu. However, not all Wagyu meat can be considered kobe because not all Wagyu meat meets the Japanese standards for kobe. Only some specific types of Wagyu are kobe.
And if you travel to Japan and want to try this animal delicacy, which places can’t you miss? Undoubtedly, the city of Kobe, where you can taste the best dishes with this ingredient in its already renowned Japanese cuisine restaurants. In addition, the Japanese government awards an official Wagyu seal every year to the best animals in the country.
What distinguishes this meat as one of the most exquisite and juicy in the world, also known as the ‘caviar of meats’, is its culinary versatility along with its flavour and tenderness. Wagyu beef is valued so highly over other beef breeds for its genetic ability to generate large amounts of marbling, also known as marbling, a fatty fibre found between the muscles. This fat is the defining characteristic of this meat because it is what gives it its melt-in-the-mouth texture. Moreover, the greater the amount of fat infiltrated into the meat, the more tender the meat is. Wagyu is also a meat rich in amino acids and unsaturated fats, which adds to its quality. In short: a tasty, high quality and protein-rich food, perfect to include as a treat in any diet.
However, cooking this meat requires knowledge and experience so as not to interfere with the properties of this indescribably delicate delicacy.
How to cook it?
As we have already underlined, fat is of particular importance in this type of meat. Therefore, it is the fat that will define the best technique for preparing it. The most common ways of preparation are as follows:
Grilled. This is apparently the easiest technique that anyone can use at any time. Of course, always respecting the point of the meat and avoiding too much cooking.
Double cooking. In this technique, the meat is first cooked at a suitable temperature to obtain the desired doneness and then marked on the griddle to brown it.
Barbecued or grilled. The best pieces to prepare are the sirloin and the tenderloin, as they are the most tender parts. If you want to be crowned with the result, leave it to cool for a few hours before cooking and add a few flakes of salt just after cooking. In Oriental Market we recommend this type of cooking and the use of traditional japanese barbecues that you can find in our shop.
Steak Tartar or Carpaccio. For the most avant-garde, Wagyu beef allows you to experiment in the kitchen and create recipes with it in the style of the well-known Steak Tartar, as well as in the form of carpaccio.