Two emotions precede any fine dining experience– anticipation and excitement. With its magnificent taste and memorable quality, Wagyu beef is no exception. However, if the experience does not meet or exceed expectations, diners are left with a bad taste in their mouths both literally and figuratively. Wagyu beef is at the very top of league, leading the way when it comes to superior meat in both taste and experience, so if you have ever been led to believe otherwise, it is possible that you were not served real Wagyu. To ensure that you are indulging in the delicacy that you have anticipated and paid for, we have put together a guide to help you identify genuine Wagyu.
Take a look at your serving when eating in a restaurant
One of the most pleasurable aspects of dining out is that you do not need to concern yourself with the chaos of a kitchen, but when you are selecting your meal from a menu, you are also not privy to what goes on behind the scenes. Wagyu beef is primed to be the best from pasture to plate, and due to the care that goes into rearing and preparing the beef, it is usually priced higher than less superior cuts. In South Africa one is likely to pay, on average, around R400 for a 300g Wagyu steak in a restaurant, and slightly less if buying from a butcher, and if indicated otherwise, it would be worth enquiring as why this may be the case.
Before you give in to temptation, take a moment to appreciate what is being served to you. A sweet and fatty scent should be wafting from your Wagyu steak, and it should be prepared to your preferences.
After your first mouthful, a the smooth fat should trace your tongue, reminiscent of the marbling that makes this beef so naturally tender. Research has shown that there is a correlation between the fat content and the tenderness of the steak, so incredibly soft steak indicates a desired high fat content.
Looking at your Wagyu before it turns into a delicious cooked steak
When purchasing Wagyu to pan sear at home or sizzle on a braai, here are a few things to consider before selecting your steak.
- Marbling: a high percentage of monosaturated fat gives Wagyu its melt-in-the-mouth texture, and this should be evident in thin white veins coursing through the meat. In comparison to other breeds, Wagyu has a much higher percentage of this intramuscular fat so the more there is, the better.
- The colour of the fat: the marbling is a pale white rather than pale yellow as seen in other breeds.
- Wagyu beef will stand out from the crowd with an eye-catch colour, brighter than the dull reddish brown of its counterparts.
Be informed about the grading system
As outlined on the Wagyu Society South Africa website, Wagyu is graded across five tiers – F1-fullblood. The grading works as follows:
- F1: Wagyu Crossbred – this cow will have 50% or higher Wagyu genetic content.
- F2: Wagyu Crossbred – cow will have greater than 75% Wagyu genetic content.
- F3: Wagyu Crossbred – cow will have greater than 87% Wagyu genetic content.
- F4: Wagyu Purebred – this cow will have greater than 93% Wagyu genetic content. This is the result of at least four generations of upgrading using a Wagyu Full blood or Purebred sire.
- Wagyu Full blood – The offspring of a Wagyu Full blood sire and a Wagyu Full blood dam whose forebears can be traced back to Japan and no crossbreeding has taken place.
If you are interested or are invested in this industry, then your supplier of Wagyu should be able to provide you a full disclosure of the genetic traceability of their cows. A grading between F3 and F4 in South Africa is desirable.
If you want to find out more about why this is the ‘caviar of beef’, then contact us.