What is Wagyu beef?

A favorite of fine dining, Wagyu beef is the promise of an extraordinary taste experience . Also called “meat caviar”, its tender, tasty and marbled quality meat is one of the most expensive in the world. Moreover, it is more and more invited to the menu of the best restaurants to the delight of meat lovers and foodies. Nevertheless, to give added value to its tasting, knowing what you are eating is essential.

What is Wagyu Beef?

First of all, it should be noted that the word “wagyu” comes from the juxtaposition of two terms: “wa” (from Japan) and “gyu” (beef). The name Wagyu beef (or Japanese wagyu for some) is therefore a pleonasm since “wagyu” literally means Japanese beef.

Anyway, the term “wagyu” refers to all Japanese cattle breeds. Note that in 2019, wagyu breeds represented nearly 70% of cattle breeds raised in Japan. In addition, to verify the authenticity of its meat, this Japanese beef is subjected to a tracing system unique in the world. By tracing the beast from its birth to its sale, through its packaging, the quality of the breed is guaranteed.

Aside from tracing, a grading system has also been implemented to assess meat quality and yield. It is therefore up to the Japanese Meat Grading Association (JMGA) to rate each beef carcass. In this perspective, this organism is based on the piece of meat located between the sixth and the seventh rib. So if you buy Wagyu meat, you can find its rating on the packaging. Concretely, the yield is indicated in letter:

A (above average)

B (medium)

C (below average)

On the other hand, quality is expressed as a number on a scale of 1 to 5 and is rated according to several important points. Namely the level of marbling (marbling), color, shine, firmness and texture of the meat. Not to mention the color, shine and quality of the fat. From these two classifications, a category A5 meat then stands out as the best of the best.

Origin of Wagyu beef

Obviously native to the land of the rising sun, Wagyu beef was once bred for its strength and massiveness. Due to the mountainous terrain, but especially the constant wars during the time of feudal Japan, this breed of cattle was isolated from other breeds. This situation has thus allowed this breed to retain unparalleled genetic purity. Today, this typically Japanese bovine breed has several lines that bear the name of the region, from which they come:

Tajiri or Tajima in Hyōgo Prefecture

Fujiyoshi or Shimame in Okayama Prefecture

Tottori or Kedaka in Tottori Prefecture

Therefore, Wagyu is generally found in the Kansai and Chūgoku regions. As for its breeding outside the Japanese borders, it is gradually taking place in many countries. Like the United States, Australia, France, Canada, the Netherlands and New Zealand.

Morphology of this Japanese beef

Generally speaking, this Japanese beef exhibits the following traits:

An average size (around 600 kg)

A massive silhouette,

A strong neckline.

As for its other characteristics, they differ from breed to breed. Indeed, there are four races of Wagyu:

Kuroge Washu or Japanese Black (Japanese beef with black dress)

Akage Washu, Akaushi or Japanese Brown (Red-robed Wagyu)

Mukaku Washu or Japanese Polled (Wagyu without horns)

Nihon Tankaku Washu or Japanese Shorthorn (Japanese small horned beef)

Note that these last two breeds of cattle are found only in Japan. In addition, over 90% of the cattle herd in Japan are of the Japanese Black breed. On the other hand, if the Japanese red-coated oxen come from the crossing of a black Wagyu with the Simmental breed, those without horns come from a cross with the Scottish Aberdeen Angus.

A beef subject to special breeding

Recognized worldwide for its tenderness, its marbled flesh of fat, its buttery and nutty taste as well as its melting texture, this Japanese beef is undoubtedly one of the cattle breeds most appreciated by meat lovers. Moreover, to obtain this exceptional meat, Wagyu is raised under special conditions. In fact, its breeding respects rigorous specifications: specific diet, supervised feeding, observation of certain climatic conditions …

However, you should know that unlike Kobe beef, this mythical Japanese beef is not subject to special care:

Sake massages,

Listening to classical music,

Adding beer to the water.

For your information, Kobe beef is a variety of Wagyu. However, it is subject to stricter breeding conditions than other Japanese cows.

What are the main advantages of this exceptional meat?

If Wagyu beef is so popular with foodies and gourmets the world over, it is because it has many undeniable advantages. On the one hand, in the context of breeding, this bovine breed has the great advantage of being able to get fat quickly. It also displays a very interesting distribution of fat in its muscle mass. With a calm temperament, she adapts easily to her environment. In addition, its entire carcass can be offered for sale at the best price.

On the other hand, this Japanese beef is a real pleasure to discover, both visually and in terms of taste and aroma:

Meat with exceptional marbling thanks to its intramuscular marbling

Exceptional tenderness.

Inimitable taste (flavors of butter and hazelnut).

Fine texture that melts in the mouth.

Complex aromas of caramel and raw butter.

But that’s not all ! Wagyu meat is also found to be healthier than other beef meats. Indeed, it has a beneficial effect on bad cholesterol. In addition, its fat is rich in essential fatty acids and unsaturated fats.

In short, despite its high cost, Wagyu beef is a must-taste!

Spotlight on Cooking and Tasting Wagyu Beef

After hearing the praise for Japanese beef, do you want to eat it? Good news ! Wagyu is tasted in different ways. Thus, according to your tastes and desires, you can eat this meat raw or well cooked:

Sushi (nigiri-zushi)
Sashimi
Carpaccio
Tartar
Grill or barbecue (yakiniku)
Stew (sukiyaki)
Fondue (shabu-shabu)

In any case, it should be consumed in small quantities: a portion of 50 to 100 g in general. In addition, for a successful taste experience, it is better to take your time when tasting. So savor each bite as it should for an explosion of the most enjoyable flavors.

In addition, to accompany the Wagyu, several options are available to you. Lightly sautéed root vegetables, baked potatoes, au gratin or hash browns, green salad and garden vegetables, pan-fried mushrooms… It is according to your preferences. However, avoid heavy side dishes and enjoy this meat without the sauce. In fact, it could alter the taste of the meat and reduce its buttery flavor.

When it comes to drinks, again you have different choices like beer or sake. However, for a refined note, choose a deep red wine.

How to cook Wagyu beef?

Want to cook Wagyu beef for a special occasion? So here’s the instructions to follow:

Take meat out of the refrigerator long enough before cooking. Allow 1 hour for a steak weighing 100 to 200 g and 2 hours for a larger piece. The important thing is that it is at room temperature when you go to cook it. This allows for rapid and perfectly homogeneous cooking.

Prepare your utensil (pan, plancha, cast iron casserole dish…) and the meat (cutting and seasoning, marinade if necessary).

For cooking , sear each side of the meat without fat for a few seconds for thin slices of 4 to 5 mm and 1 to 2 minutes for roasts and steaks thinner than 2.5 cm. In this second case, cooking should be finished over medium heat for a steak or in a preheated oven at high temperature for a roast. The cooking time (8 to 15 minutes) varies depending on the thickness of the meat.

Remove the beef before it is completely cooked (at 118 ° C for a roast) and let stand. To do this, wrap it in aluminum foil and, optionally, put a tea towel on top. Then place it in a warm place or in the oven at less than 60 ° C. Do this for 5 minutes for steaks or 15 to 20 minutes for roast. In fact, allowing the meat to rest allows for a better distribution of the juice, which guarantees tender and juicy meat.

After resting, the meat should have protruding flesh and crispy fat.

It only remains to serve. Enjoy your meal !