Battle of the Wagyu: American vs. Australian
In this episode I dig deep into Wagyu, a Japanese cattle breed known for its amazing marbling and flavor. Over the past few decades, it has increased in popularity, so much so that international breeders have been mixing their cattle with Wagyu and trying their best to imitate one of the world’s greatest.
Wagyu literally translates to ‘Japanese Cow’, this breed of cow was traditionally known for their high energy and endurance, this was all thanks to their high percentage of fat and therefore making them the perfect draft animal for agricultural work. Not only is Wagyu a delicious and mouthwatering treat, but it is also one of the healthiest steak you can have, it has very low cholesterol and its fat is also aligned with the health benefits of the fat in salmon and olive oil.
Given to all of its amazing traits, you can imagine that other countries wanted to get a piece of the Wagyu pie, and as such they tried to bring the breed to their own markets. The most successful being Australia and the US, which are the ones we are trying on this episode.
The Wagyu cow was introduced to the US market in the middle of the 70’s, it all started with the only four bulls that survived the trip over. At the end of the 90’s Japan decided to name their cattle a national treasure and put a ban on their export, with the US only have imported about 200 Wagyu in total. So fast forward to today, there are now around 30,000 crossbred Wagyu, and a little less than 5,000 full-blood Wagyu in the US. Full-blood meaning that there was no cross-breeding and that the cattle can be traced back to its Japanese origins through DNA testing. Now, the crossbred Wagyu are those cows that have at least 50% Wagyu blood in them, which is the most common domestically and is usually a mix of Wagyu and the most common US breed, the Angus.
Australia has the biggest Wagyu herd outside Japan and it all started back in 1988 when farmers brought in Wagyu genetics (embryos and semen) to crossbreed with their own cattle. They have become one of the best in Wagyu and it's all because of their attention to detail, and many farmers praise the great rainfall, springs and grass provided by Australia. In order to get high-quality meat and the great marbling, it takes an approximate of 2.5 years before the cattle is ready. The first 6 to 10 months of their lives are feeding with their mothers and for the next 400 to 500 days they are fed under Japanese standards. In the present, 100,000 Wagyu cattle are joined every year in Australia, 18% being full-blooded.
Enough of Wagyu History class, let’s get to my favorite part: the cooking and tasting!
The best way to cook a Wagyu steak in a grill, is by using a cast iron pan. Due to its high amount of fat you want to avoid fat dripping on your fire to avoid any flare ups; plus the fat is what gives it that amazing flavor, so what better way than to cook it in it. Only salt is needed, as we want to enhance the flavor but not overwhelm with rubs and spices.
- Season the Wagyu Ribeye with some coarse salt
- Set your charcoal at medium/high, that’s around 400°F and place your cast iron pan on top.
- Place your ribeye and flip often to have an even crust on both sides.
- It should take around 4-5 mins per steak
- Remove the Ribeye from the pan and let it rest for 5 -10 mins, depending on its size
Great marbling, great flavor…
In this video we looked at three different types of Wagyu Ribeyes:
Australian Wagyu and Angus Cross Bred:
This ribeye was a 5-6 on the BMS*, and it really surprised me with the amount of flavor it had. It was not as tender as I expected but I found it to be an incredible piece of meat. This type of Wagyu cross, will usually cost you around a third of the price of what a full blooded Wagyu would be, so at the end of the day it does have great value for your money.
This one is rated 6-7 on the BMS, and I was not able to get the same amount of flavor as the Australian cross bred. German was explaining as to how a higher BMS score does not directly relate to the amount of marbling, due to the fact that these cows are raised differently in terms of environment, food and water. But don’t get me wrong, it was still a delicious steak!
This one is one of the highest rated Wagyu’s outside of Japan with a 8-9 on the BMS, and of course it did not disappoint. It had great flavor and the buttery fat, that Wagyu is so famously known for, just explodes as soon as you put it in your mouth. Truly this is the food of the gods.
It is so hard for anyone to really compare three different Wagyu steaks side to side, they all have amazing traits and once you understand that they have been raised in very different environments you appreciate them individually. So when you are seeking to have a great piece of Wagyu beef, try to learn as to where its coming from, what was it fed on, etc as it can tell you a story of what you’re eating and why it tastes the way it does.
For those of you wondering: Wagyu vs. Kobe
Kobe is a branch of Wagyu cattle which really means that all Kobe beef is Wagyu, but not all Wagyu is Kobe. In the US there has been a craze on Kobe beef and people got familiar with the word Kobe, and so it has been a tool to market any type of Wagyu, but unfortunately it does not mean its all the real deal. If you see Kobe in a menu or at store there is a high chance that it’ll be an American or Australian crossbred Wagyu. In this case, the price is always a good indicator, if the price is anything short of $50 per ounce then most likely it's not Kobe.
I learned so much doing this video, and I hope you did too! Let me know in the comments if you’ve ever had a great piece of Wagyu beef and was it as good as you expected?
*For reference, the BMS scale grades the marbling on a rubric of 1 to 12, with 12 being the highest and most difficult score to get.
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