Wagyu Beef... Ahhh it truly is the Bentley of meats. Most people know or recognize this meat by its most popular name Kobe (Kobi) beef. Kobe beef refers to the Kobe Reagan of Japan that has made the style of caring for the cattle known as Wagyu so popular and exotic. (And yes there is a reason why it has such a high price tag.)
The most significant reason for both the price and rarity of the meat come down to one thing, marbling or in this case Wagyu marbling. If you where to take a cut of say... Top grade USDA prime meat, like a Ribeye. And place it next to the same cut of Wagyu beef the most noticeable difference is the marbling.
What is marbling? The best way to describe and understand it is to think of a sponge. The pours in the sponge allow it to be compressed or deflated. If submerged in a liquid and allowed to inflate it will take the said liquid with it. In this case the said liquid is fat and the sponge is the muscle tissue.
When it comes to cooking Wagyu you have to first understand the structure of the meat and how heat affects the outcome of your finished product. Depending on thickness, fat content, methods of heat introduction and surface area are going to be the key factors in arriving at the perfect steak; regardless of cut and quality. Now you could flame grill, broil, boil, microwave, or use a magnifying glass (which I’m not recommending) to cook your steak. But for a Wagyu Ribeye, (which in my opinion is the most affordable and prime cut available) I feel the use of the most fundamental and basic cooking tools should be implemented, Cast-Iron.
Cast-Iron will allow you to obtain the perfect crust and perfect doneness while keeping cooking time down, and allowing the true flavor and perfection of the meat to shine threw. The best part is, even if you don’t have a Cast-Iron skillet, you can pick one up at a Wal-Mart for ohhh 16 bucks, and you will have a skillet that will last you till the end of time. For my Wagyu, I use two different ways to introduce the heat; a quick sear and finish it in the oven.
1. Set your oven to 400, do this ahead of time to allow your oven to reach the high temp, while you prep and sear your steak. (Some Chefs would say to place the heat to as high as 500+, but I strongly feel that too high of a heat will cause the juices, in the case the fat, to cook out too quickly, not allowing the meat to come to the perfect doneness gently. Think sponge again squeeze it hard and fast the liquid goes everywhere leaving the sponge bone dry. Squeezing slower will leave more residual liquid behind. A great trade off for 4min. of added cook time.)
2. Place you Cast-iron skillet on the burner on high heat. (Yes you want it as hot as you can get it.)
3. With a dry, clean paper towel, pat down your steak. (Ensure there is not paper residue left on the meat.)
4. Add a few pinches of kosher salt to both sides. (Do not use regular table salt for this. If you’re paying top $ for the perfect cut of meat at least use a descent salt.) Lightly pat the salt onto the meat to ensure proper adhesion.
5. Repeat step 3 but with some fresh cracked black pepper.
6. In most cases Chefs would recommend adding a glaze of oil to the meat at this point to aid in crust development. I feel that due to its exceptional marbling this is overkill and not necessary. So skip it.
7. Thank the heavens for such a perfect slab of meat.
8. Place your steak to one side (left half or right half) of the skillet. (**** do not poke, prod, jiggle, shake, move telepathically, anything to the steak for 45 sec. ****)
9. With a pair of tongs, lift the steak from the skillet. (Allow approximately 30 sec. for the skillet to reheat.)
10. Flip the steak onto the uncooked side of the meat, onto the opposite side of the skillet that was used to sear the first half. Again do not touch for 45sec.
11. Remove the skillet from the burner.
12. With the tongs flip the steak again and place the skillet and steak into the 400 degree oven.
13. (Depending on how well done you like your meat the times may vary.) Cook in the oven for 4 min. Open the door flip the meat and cook again for 4 more min. (Again these times with vary; not by much time but some, depending on your oven and the desired doneness.)
14. Once the total 8 min cook time is done. Evacuate the steak to a plate or small cooling rack to rest. (I personally use a cooling rack. Even though the primary goal at this point is allow the internal liquids of the meat some time to settle; there is going to be some minor “juice” loss. Keeping the meat elevated will prevent the minute amount of liquid from dissolving the perfect crust. )
15. Cover with a piece of aluminum foil, and let rest for 5 min. (When you do this I tend to make a kind of dome shape ensuring that the foil is not touching the meat, and either poke a dime size hole in the top to allow steam a place to go, or make a taco shape with the ends open for the steam.)
If nothing else, do not skip the 5 min rest. Resting meat, especially high quality meat is one of the most important and overlooked steps in meat preparation. Additionally if your steak is a tad on the rare side, the 5 min. rest will provide carry over that will raise the internal temp approx. 5-10 degrees.
Here are a few quick notes.
• Use tongs to flip and move your meat, not only is it more secure then say a roasting fork. It doesn’t pierce the meat allowing a pipeline out for the internal fluids.
• If internal tempter is your cup of tea, make sure to use an instant read thermometer. Insert the probe into the thickest part of the meat and do so from the side to get a more accurate temp (125-135 Rare, 135-145 med. Rare, 145-155 Med. And anything higher, don’t even bother getting Wagyu beef.) And only check the temp after the resting period is over.
I hope this helps and gives a simple, effective way to enjoy a truly perfect steak.
Let me know if you would like a sauce idea as well. (Most people would gasp at the idea... At least purists would but with a side sauce you open up a whole new level of flavor.)
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