Kimbo's Blog - June 09
Someone asked me the other day if cooking a Wagyu steak was any different from cooking any other steak on the barbie. My answer was ‘yes and no’.
For those who have missed the ruckus, Wagyu comes from several breeds of cattle developed in Japan. We have had access to Wagyu in Australia since 1990. Part of the story is the genetics; the other part is how they’re fed. Most Wagyu in Australia uses a Japanese style system where the cattle graze for about 12 months before being grain fed for up to 450 days on a special mixture. Famously in Japan, legend has it that the cattle are fed sake and beer and massaged regularly- not a bad life! The appeal of Wagyu is the texture and the flavour. The flavour is distinctive and succulent and the texture is buttery with amazing tenderness when well cooked (see below). The meat has very high level of intra muscular fat or marbling that is graded from 1 to 12; a #1 looks like a normal slice of steak a #9 looks like as pale as your hand. It is expensive to raise, expensive to feed and expensive to buy at your butcher; think nudging three figures a kilo for the very best cuts to grill, though the cheaper secondary cuts are fantastic for braising and the high fat levels mean that cuts like topside, tri-tip or rump cap will grill wonderfully. Back to cooking it. The basics of bringing meat back to room temperature and resting it after cooking are the same but probably even more important than a ‘normal’ steak.
I reckon that I screwed up cooking Wagyu the first couple of times that I tried by being too clever by half. Surely a horrendously expensive piece needed to be barely cooked to show off its quality? Wrong! Seriously under–cooking a high grade piece of Wagyu which has such a high fat content, quickly over very high heat means that the fat doesn’t melt so it is pretty well indigestible, should you actually finish chewing it. Cooking it through to medium over a lesser heat, so that the fat has dissolved into the still pink meat then resting it for five minutes and we are talking nirvana in the steak department; the texture is literally melt in your mouth but more importantly, the flavour is sublime. Because of the richness of the meat, there is no way that even a garbage guts like me could eat a 300gram high grade Wagyu steak. I would rather go for the quality and pay for the high score, buy a great cut like sirloin then cook it simply and slice it across the grain a do no more than sprinkle a little sea salt over the top - 100 to 150 grams would be heaven. If you have some carnivore chums, try liberating a very good, very old bottle of red and simply BBQing even thickness pieces of, say, Grades 2, 5 or 6 and 10 Wagyu and compare the results. Bugger the science of it; you’ll have a mile of fun. As good as it is I think it’s something to enjoy every now and again so it’s special. It’s hardly a problem eating a great piece of Certified Angus that has been well cooked with another very good bottle of red in between Wagyu spoils. I think there’s a theme emerging here…