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!
Wagyu beef is becoming increasingly popular in the States and you’ll find it at high end steak restaurants and butcher shops. 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 — rich in acids and is known for its savory flavor
4) Japanese Polled — has more of a game flavor
The majority of “Wagyu” beef in the U.S. 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.
Kobe Beef is a Type of Wagyu Steak
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!!!
Wagyu and Kobe beef are both expensive types of beef, much moreso than USDA Prime beef. Where a “prime” beef tenderloin can cost anywhere from $19.99/lb. and up, a Wagyu tenderloin can cost from $34.99/lb. and up. When you’re dropping big bucks on an expensive cut of meat, you want to be sure you’re getting the real thing.
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 delicious marbled steak.
Questions to Ask Your Server or Butcher
Source of the Cattle
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.”
Questions to ask Your Butcher or Server
If you want to try Wagyu, ask your butcher or server two specific questions:
- Is the beef 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, but are noted as Wagyu.
- Ask the BMS of the Wagyu: it should be between 6 – 12, or Grade 4 or 5. These rankings and groupings indicate the degree of tenderness due to marbling. The greater the marbling, the more texture and flavor.
Where to Buy Wagyu Beef
The American Wagyu Association offers a list of Wagyu breeders on their website. Here, you can learn about the ranchers, the types of Wagyu herds they manage, where they sell their beef and if they sell direct to the public. There are many certified Wagyu ranches in the States, from Indiana to Texas, so check out the list to find a breeder near you.
How to Cook Kobe or Wagyu Steak 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 125-128ºF 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!
If You’re Still Unsure
You can never go wrong with seafood;) treat yourself to a lobster or crab legs…and crème brûlée!
Now that you know the difference between Kobe and Wagyu steak, you can make a much more educated decision at your butcher shop or favorite steak restaurant. And don’t forget dessert! You can never go wrong with a traditional Wedge Salad, baked potato and a slice of Rum Glazed Scandinavian Almond Cake!