Learn the difference between Kobe and Wagyu Steak before you enter the steakhouse or butcher!
If you’re planning on ordering a big juicy steak for dinner, you’ll want to know the difference between Kobe and Wagyu steaks. After much research, I’ve tried to simplify it for you!
For simplicity sake, Wagyu means “Japanese cattle” and refers to any cattle bred in Japan or in the Japanese method.
There are four types of Wagyu beef:
1) Japanese Black — known for its excessive marbling
2) Japanese Brown/Red — leaner and noted for its mild flavor
3) Japanese Shorthorn is rich in acids and is known for its savory flavor
4) Japanese Polled which has more of a game flavor
The majority of “Wagyu” beef are Japanese Black, and what makes Wagyu steak so expensive is its unparalleled level of marbling. The marbling in a steak is indicative of the texture and flavor.
So where does Kobe Beef come into play here?
Kobe beef is a type of Wagyu that is comprised of a particular strain of Wagyu called Tajima-Gyu. Kobe steak is raised to strict standards in the district of Hyogo, Japan.. guess what the capital of Hyogo is? You got it….Kobe!!!
Imported vs. Domestic Wagyu
Wagyu cattle have been imported from Japan in recent years and are bred under strict rules to ensure the Wagyu quality. About 90% of domestic Wagyu is rated as USDA Prime; however, cuts from these cattle generally exceed other cuts of prime due to the strict breeding regulations.
At the Restaurant
Many fine dining establishments offer Kobe and/or Wagyu on their menus, however, “Wagyu-style” isn’t Wagyu because Wagyu beef comes only from specific breeds of cattle and there is no way to make a non-Wagyu steak “Wagyu-style”–it’s like being pregnant; either you are or you aren’t. So at the restaurant, ask your server a few pointed questions to determine whether or not you’re willing to shell out a lot of money for this steak.
Ask Your Server or Butcher
When ordering a Kobe steak, ask your server or butcher the source of the cattle. You want to hear “Hyogo Prefecture”, which is a district in Japan. Next, ask your server what strain it comes from. The answer you want to hear is “Tajima.” Finally, ask the BMS (Beef Marbling Score). The answer you want to hear is “between 6 and 12.”
If you’re wanting to try Wagyu, you’ll want to ask some questions as well. First, domestic or imported? Unless you’re planning on dropping $200 on a piece of steak, chances are it’s a domestic Wagyu and there’s nothing wrong with that. 90% of authentic domestic Wagyu are rated as USDA Prime. Ask the BMS of the Wagyu; again, it should be between 6 – 12, or Grade 4 or 5. These rankings and groupings indicate the degree of tenderness due to marbling.
If You’re Still Unsure
You can never go wrong with seafood;) treat yourself to a lobster or crab legs…and crème brûlée!
Cooking Steaks at Home?
For best results, season your steak lightly with a little oil, salt and pepper. Place room temperature steaks in a piping hot, dry skillet and sear both sides about 3 minutes each. Then, place the steaks and skillet in an oven @ 350ºF. Cook till internal temperature reaches 125-128 for medium rare. Remove skillet from oven and cover with foil. Allow steaks to rest about 8 minutes; the temperature will go up about 10 degrees, the moisture and oils will redistribute, and you’ll have the best steak in town!