Last Updated on April 22, 2022 by Carne Diem
Origin: Asian, Japanese
Method: Grill or Cast IronJump to Recipe
A5 wagyu beef is considered the best beef in the world and is one of our favorite splurge worthy meals. With mind blowing marbling these endulgent steaks have beome ever popular at high end steak houses. For our Japanese A5 Wagyu with Yakiniku Sauce we let the beef be the star of the dish. A quick sear in a cast iron pan or on a traditonal Yakitori grill is all this elegant beef needs. Served along side a simple Yakiniku Sauce, this is steak perfection.
History of Wagyu Beef
What is Wagyu?
By definition Wagyu literally translates into "Japanese Cow." More specifically, wagyu refers to 4 specific Japanese cattle breeds (Japanese Black, Japanese Brown, Japanese Shorthorn, and Japanese Polled). Prized for their genetics, these breeds have better marbling and healthier ratios of mono-unsaturated to saturated fat. This means that not only are they more delicious, but they are better for you too. In 1997, Japan realized the unique qualities of their cattle and declared them a national treasure. This also resulted in the end of exporting of Japanese cattle outside of Japan. Wagyu cattle farms found today in the U.S. and Australia are a result of a lineage of Japanese cattle (mostly Japanese Black) that were exported prior to this ban.
Japanese vs. Australian vs. American Wagyu: Not all Wagyu is created equal
Today, especially in America, there still seems to be a great deal of confusion as to what wagyu is. Wagyu is becoming more and more popular. Availablibity is also on the rise, with even stores like Wal Mart touting wagyu steaks and burgers. Not all wagyu is created equally, however, so buyer beware. For the most part, wagyu beef typically falls into 3 major categories: Japanese, Australian, and American. Japanese wagyu is highly regulated and still remains, by far, the most sought after (and expensive) wagyu on the market. Expect to pay upwards of $200 a pound for high quality Japanese wagyu. The most well known of this Japanese wagyu is Kobe, which comes from the Hyōgo Prefecture.
As mentioned, Australian and American wagyu beef originates from cattle lineage of the just over 200 cattle exported from Japan prior to 1997. That is were things get a little messy and you need to be an informed consumer. In general, Australian wagyu tends to be considered higher quality than American wagyu as it is more strictly regulated and graded.
American wagyu, tends to be a bit of a free for all, which can range from high quality wagyu (Snake River Farms) to inferior beef products that are labeled as wagyu despite having minimal wagyu genetics in the cattle. In fact, nearly all American wagyu at this point has been crossbred with other cattle such as Black Angus. This is not to say this beef is bad, it is just not Japanese style wagyu. The majority of wagyu genetics in American wagyu tends to be from Japanese Black Cattle, while a minority is from Japanese Brown which you may see labeled as Red Wagyu or Akaushi.
Grading of Japanese Wagyu
Japanese wagyu is further evaluated and grated according to appearance and yield and then given a score. A5 wagyu is considered the best of the best, with the highest marbeling and appearance and the greatest yield. The numerical score given represents the Meat Quality Grade and is determined by four factors of meat quality: marbling, color, texture, and fat. The beef marbling score (BMS) is also commonly shown, with a score of 12 being the best. A marbling score of at least 8 is required to be rated as A5. For reference U.S. prime beef would typically fall into a marbling score of 3-4, meaning A3 would be the highest possible score it could achieve. The A, B, C score is the yield with B being standard, C substandard, and A an above standard yield.
Making the A5 Japanese Wagyu with Yakiniku Sauce
Now that we have a little bit of history out of the way lets cook some wagyu!
For our A5 Japanese wagyu we choose a strip steak from the Kagoshima prefecture. This prefecture has won the "Wagyu Olympics" in the past and we have always been happy with it. It also just happens to be the A5 wagyu that you may occasionally find at Costco.
Due to it's richness, A5 wagyu is not eaten in the same way as we typically eat steaks in the U.S. You definitely do not want to go and attempt to eat a 16 ounce piece of wagyu by yourself. Japanese wagyu is best shared among a group of people almost as an appetizer or as part of a larger meal. Roughly 3-4 ounces of A5 wagyu per person tends to be a pretty good portion.
Prep your steak
A5 wagyu requires very little prep. Most steaks are on the thin side and go directly from the fridge to your pan or grill. If you have a thicker steak you may choose to let your steak sit at room temp or about 30-40 minutes prior to cooking since the steak is only going to hit the heat for a brief time.
A5 wagyu should require little to no seasoning. The steak is the star here, so let it shine.
Cooking your A5 Japanese Wagyu
When cooking the A5 Japanese wagyu we find it best to cook it hot and fast. This is not the cut to try a reverse sear method on. You want to cook it at as high a heat and as quickly as possible. This is the perfect steak to cook in a raging hot cast iron pan or a super hot plancha. For those like me that also like using traditional methods, cooking strips of A5 on a Yakatori style grill is also a lot of fun, though not necessary.
For this steak we elected to cook the beef on a traditional Yakitori style grill. A5 is also cooked perfetly in a hot cast iron pan if you don't happen to have a Yakitori grill just sitting around. We do not recommend cooking A5 wagyu on a tradtional grill unless it is in a pan, unless you enjoy a lot of flare ups and grease fires.
Cooking on a Yakitori or hibachi grill with binchotan
When cooking on a Yakitori we like to slice the steak into individual strips and then sear them individually. This enables you to get a feel for how quickly the steak is cooking. It also enables you to try cooking to different doneness to see which is your favorite.
What is binchotan charcoal?
Binchotan charcoal is typically used in Yakitori and hibachi grills and that is what we used here. Binchotan is a Japanese charcoal that burns at a very high heat and lasts longer than other charcoals. It is also nearly smokeless and scentless which is why many even use it indoors. Prices can be steep, but hey we are cooking A5 so we rolled with the punches.
Binchotan can take longer to light, but once you have it going it burns hot and for a long time. A piece or two is all you will need. We find it easiest to light the charcoal in a chimney or with a torch and then carefully move the lit binchotan to the Yakitori with tongs.
For more great recipes using Japanese cooking techniques, be sure to try Japanese Teppanyaki On Your Grill. It is both fun and delicious.
Cooking A5 Japanese Wagyu in a cast iron pan
To cook wagyu steak in a cast iron pan you are going to want to get your pan about as hot as you can get it. There is enough fat in the steak that you do not typically need to oil the pan. Once the pan is heated sear the steak for about 30-45 seconds a side. The goal is to cook it very hot, very quick. Cooking at a low temp will result in to much time in the pan and losing a lot of your perfectly marbled fat.
We love A5 wagyu medium rare, but ironically, it is one of the few steaks I am ok with eating cooked medium. You want the fat in the interior to render and start to melt a little, without all melting away. As always, check your steak with an instant read thermometer, because you really do not want to ruin a steak this good (and expensive).
Once your A5 Japanese Wagyu is cooked you can season with a little Maldon sea salt and enjoy. You can also serve it up with some Yakiniku Sauce as described below.
Making the Yakiniku Sauce
To make the Yakiniku Sauce you will need the following:
- 3 Tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 Tablespoons each of sake and mirin
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 garlic clove, chopped
- 2 teaspoons white sesame seeds
- ½ teaspoon miso
Combine all of the ingredients, except the sesame seeds, in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 5 minutes then turn off the heat.
Strain the garlic from the sauce and discard.
Finally, stir in the sesame seeds and enjoy with your A5 wagyu.
Not quite ready to make the splurge on Japanese Wagyu? Check out our steak recipes for Deconstructed Beef Wellington, Sous Vide Florentine Style Porterhouse, or Filet Mignon with Goat Cheese Sauce and Grand Marnier Sautéed Peppers.
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Japanese A5 Wagyu with Yakiniku Sauce
- 1 A5 Wagyu Strip Steak
- Maldon Sea Salt
- 3 Tab Soy Sauce
- 2 Tab Sake
- 2 Tab Mirin
- 2 tea Sugar
- 2 tea White Sesame Seeds
- 1 Garlic Clove chopped
- ½ tea Miso
Making the Yakitori Sauce
- Combine all of the sauce ingredients, except the sesame seeds, in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 5 minutes then turn off the heat.
- Strain the garlic from the sauce and discard. Place the sauce in a serving bowl.
- Add the sesame seeds to the sauce and reserve for serving.
Cooking the A5 wagyu
- Heat a cast iron pan or plancha style grill over very high heat. Sear the steak steak for about 30-45 seconds per side. You may need to flip a couple extra times if you want your steak more done or have a thicker cut of wagyu.