Why has wagyu beef got tongues a-wagging?
What's the wagyu? Well, what was once the preserve of only the very finest of fine dining restaurants in the UK is now making its way onto our supermarket shelves. But like all good premium foods, wagyu beef is sparking a raging debate between those in the know and those really in the know about its true definition.
So, let’s boil it down to the bare facts.
Wagyu: what is it?
Wagyu simply means "Japanese cow". Japanese cows are naturally predisposed to high levels of fat which creates an intense marbling effect through the meat. It has a rich, buttery taste and really does melt in the mouth. Rumour has it that some Japanese cows are massaged and fed beer to give the meat a more intense flavour, which perhaps contributes to the high price tag.
Is that it, then?
Well, no. If you’re really splashing the cash, you’ll probably opt for the Kobe variety, aka the Champagne of wagyu. Kobe is from the Kobe region of the Hyogo prefecture and is subjected to mega-strict quality control. Each cut of meat is stringently checked before it can bear the special chrysanthemum stamp of Kobe beef, and this is the reason why it can retail for an eye-watering £200 a kilo.
Friendly warning: DO NOT refer to beef as Kobe UNLESS it is from the Kobe region, or some people will get very angry.
So what’s the stuff in the supermarkets?
Much of the wagyu beef sold in the UK is imported from Australia and New Zealand. It's considered to be good, but not as good as the Japanese stuff. Closer to home there's a farmer in Wales rearing his own wagyu-style cows from pure-bred foetuses and semen he bought from Japan (that’s got the taste buds going, eh?). Last we heard he was looking into inventing his own massage machine. Lucky cows.
How do you cook it?
Don’t be scared, it’s only steak. Remove it from the fridge about an hour before cooking (this will allow it to cook quickly and evenly). Pat it dry and season on both sides. To get the most of your wagyu, consider searing on a very high heat first to give it some colour, then cook on a moderate heat to your liking – most chefs would recommend keeping it rare.