1. What is Wagyu ?
It simply means Japanese Beef (Wa means Japanese and Gyu means cow).
2. Why Wagyu is special ?
Wagyu cattle’s genetic predisposition enables significantly more marbling and increases fat content.
3. More fat ? Is that good ?
Since the fat is in the form of marbling it gives the beef extra tenderness and flavor.
4. But still, more fat ?
It is, but Wagyu beef usually have a higher percentage of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. This is a kind of monounsaturated fat known for collestrol reducing qualities and usually referred as good fat or good lipids. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you can replace your fish intake with Wagyu beef – that would be expensive – but it gives some peace of mind that the added fat might not be that harmful.
5. What is all about massaging and beer (or sake) diet ?
Wagyu cows are periodically massaged and given beer (or sake) – yes you read correctly. These are commonly thought to give Wagyu its special flavor however it appears that they have no direct effect according to the Wikipedia article.
6. What is Kobe beef ?
Kobe beef refers to Wagyu from Hyogo Prefecture of Japan, the capital of which is Kobe. It is specifically refers to the beef from Tajima cattle. Kobe Beef is a regional brand similar to Champagne, and in an ideal world only the Wagyu from Hyogo can be named as Kobe Beef. However due to limited regulations, it is possible to find Wagyu being mis-sold in other geographies under the name Kobe Beef. If you are about to buy some, don’t forget to question its origin.
7. How much does it cost ?
Be prepared to pay something between £125-£200 per kg in the UK.
8. Why it is so expensive ?
Number of factors, but mainly due more time consuming and expensive methods involved in production. Genuine Kobe Beef (which comes from Japan) is obviously more expensive due to cost of transportation and limited supplies in Japan. It is worth mentioning that there is usually an added premium due to Wagyu usually being considered as the best beef money can buy. Increasing Wagyu production in Europe and US is gradually bringing the prices down. But remember, more marbling does not make a beef Wagyu. Again, choose a reputable butcher, and question origins if in doubt.
9. How to cook Wagyu ?
And the important bit, how to cook your Wagyu after investing a substantial sum in ? I guess the important point is being aware of the difference in the fat content. Monounsaturated marbling in Wagyu melts much quicker than usual saturated steak fat and you don’t really want to lose the beautiful marbling which gives an extra tenderness and flavor. So although it is usually recommended to cook fatty cuts up to medium, I suggest Wagyu to be eaten rare or medium-rare. It is a good idea to let it wait less in room temperature (15-20 mins instead of usual 1 hour) before cooking. I came across at least one article suggesting to cook it right from the refrigerator to maintain marbling, this might be an option if you are looking for a strictly blue or rare results.
For more details on achieving the perfect steak see How to cook the perfect steak ?
10. Is it really that different ?
Depends your personal taste really. I prefer my steak on a medium tenderness, almost like expecting to feel some resistance while I am cutting and chewing. Although I have tasted some really nice Wagyu dishes, I guess I can live without it.