The popularity of Japanese cuisine has grown exponentially in the past few decades. Many people in the United States and other western countries love eating food like sushi and ramen but there’s much more to Japanese food beyond these two dishes. Another aspect that’s become quite popular over the years is high-quality Japanese beef.
In particular, Kobe and Wagyu beef, are world-renowned as top-of-the-line delicacy meats. But despite their popularity, many people might know little about what makes these two types of beef special. Not only that, but for many, it is also hard to tell the differences between the two. So, this article is here to help you answer these questions and more including:
- Which type of beef is best for you
- How to prepare Wagyu and Kobe beef
- Where you can buy Wagyu and Kobe beef
- Types of beef similar to Wagyu and Kobe
What Makes Wagyu and Kobe Beef Special?
The primary qualities that set Wagyu and Kobe beef apart from other types of beef are their pronounced flavor and their tender texture that results from being very well marbled and high in fat content.
These unique qualities come from the way the cows which Kobe and Wagyu beef come are raised. First, the farmers make sure to provide the cows with a free-roaming and stress-free environment to ensure their muscles stay relaxed and loose.
Second, they are kept free of any kind of steroids or growth hormones so that they grow naturally and without any synthetic additives. Third, they are also fed well with three mails a day from high-quality hays and grains.
One other thing that sets Wagyu and Kobe beef apart is that the cows are only bred and sold by a small and select number of Japanese breeders. Contrary to popular belief, however, these cows are not regularly fed beer or massaged daily.
What is the Difference Between Wagyu and Kobe Beef?
This question is one that’s often asked by people looking to purchase either of these two types of beef. In truth, they are actually very similar because Kobe beef is a specific variety of Wagyu beef.
Wagyu beef itself refers to beef raised from several different cattle breeds found in Japan. In fact, the term Wagyu in English means Japanese cattle. Kobe refers specifically to a specific breed of cattle that’s bred around the area of Kobe city in southern Japan. In addition to the specific location and breed, Kobe cattle are also raised with even stricter standards than some other types of Wagyu.
So in general, if you buy either Wagyu or Kobe beef, you’re going to get a relatively similar product. And although the term Wagyu does not have as high of a reputation or the recognition of Kobe beef, most other strains of Wagyu will be of similarly high quality.
Ways to Prepare Wagyu and Kobe Beef
There are a number of different ways in which you can prepare your Wagyu or Kobe beef. In terms of the method of preparation, the two main methods you should use however are:
- Sautéing it in a pan
Generally, this is the same way as preparing any kind of average American steak. However, professional chefs recommend you Wagyu or Kobe beef only to rare or medium-rare in order to preserve the fat content throughout the meat.
In Japan itself, there are many different ways you can cook Wagyu or Kobe beef. But the most common and some might consider the tastiest way to prepare it is as follows:
First salt your cut of beef in order to tenderize it. You can either do this a couple days in advance or a couple hours in advance. Either way will work
- Cut the beef into strips about an inch thick or less
- Using a cast iron pan, heat up a bit of animal fat until it’s hot enough to cook the meat
- Once the pan is hot, place the strips of meat one by one onto the pan
- Cook one side of the steak strips for about one minute, then turn them over to cook the other side for about one minute as well
- Once both sides are done, take the strips out of the pan and set aside for a couple minutes to cool and let the juices ferment
Many prefer to use this method because it helps preserve the flavor of the meat while being relatively simple to cook. By contrast, some other recipes might call to use the beef in a soup or stew, or be used in a hot pot. Others still might prefer to cook or eat the meat with sauce or even as part of a sandwich.
There are even some sauces specifically made for Wagyu beef use and one more eclectic way to prepare it is to combine the meat with a raw egg.
Ultimately you can prepare your beef in whichever way you prefer. This is just to illustrate that there are a number of different ways you can prepare it if you so choose.
Wagyu vs Kobe Beef: Which is Best?
As discussed before, Kobe and other types of Wagyu beef are generally pretty similar. Probably the biggest difference when it comes to which you decide to buy is the price.
Because of its world-renown and the fact that it is restricted to a small amount of breeders in a small region of Japan, Kobe beef tends to be much more expensive than other types of Wagyu. While it also does have stricter breeding standards and a slightly higher grade of marbling, connoisseurs and experts note that the difference is often not staggering enough to justify the higher prices of Kobe.
Therefore, if you want to have a good quality Japanese steak, using any kind of Wagyu beef is sure to be a good choice while saving you a bit of money. However, if you are willing to spend more for a bit higher quality, you can go ahead and go for the Kobe.
Main Differences Between Wagyu vs Kobe
So, to reiterate, the main differences between Wagyu vs Kobe are:
- Wagyu is bred all over Japan, whereas Kobe is only bred in the Kobe area
- Wagyu is less expensive due to greater supply, whereas Kobe is more expensive due to scarcity
- Wagyu tends to have a slightly lower grade of marbling and fat, whereas Kobe has a slightly higher marbling and fat content
- Wagyu is a bit more common, whereas authentic Kobe is harder to find
Buying Wagyu Beef: A Warning
One thing you need to look out for if you do want to buy Kobe or Wagyu beef is to make sure that the cut you’re buying is in fact authentic. Many sellers outside of Japan have taken to selling inauthentic beef and selling it as Wagyu or Kobe.
In order to avoid this, there are a number of things you can check. First, you need to make sure the cow the meat came from was actually born and raised in Japan, this is partially because by definition Wagyu can only come from specific Japanese cattle breeds and also because they are raised by the Japanese farmers in a very specific way. Second, Wagyu has a very specific grade of marbling and fat that it needs to be considered authentic.
To make sure the Wagyu you intend on buying is authentic, first, check the price. Due to scarcity, demand, and importation costs, real Wagyu tends to cost at least $20 an ounce. The next thing you should do is examine the marbling of the meat. Real Wagyu will have a high amount of fat so make sure the one you’re looking at does too.
Perhaps the most important criterion in determining authenticity however is whether or not the meat has a certificate of authenticity. Any seller offering authentic Wagyu should be able to detail the origin of the meat.
Where to Buy Wagyu and Kobe Beef
There are a number of places you can buy either kind of beef. If you live outside Japan, however, it’s going to be much harder to find in a brick-and-mortar store. But still, a select few high-quality butchers or meat shops throughout the US may be selling Wagyu or Kobe.
For those who live close to a butcher that advertises selling either one, make sure you check them out in person and ask for the details of the meat to ensure that it’s authentic.
Luckily, shopping online gives you more options when it comes to buying Wagyu and Kobe. The first place you may want to try shopping is Amazon since it has such a large collection of sellers to choose from. Be careful though as this might make it harder to determine which sellers are authentic or not.
Thankfully though, there are also a number of websites that specialize in selling beef, steak, or Wagyu beef specifically. Some of these include the following:
Holy Grail Steak Company
If you want to order Kobe beef then look no further than Holy Grail. This site is the only US retailer licensed to sell authentic Kobe over the web.
Crowd Cow offers the best of both worlds offering both authentic Japanese Wagyu and American imitation Wagyu for those who want to try that instead. It also gives you information on the origin and authentication of the Wagyu being offered.
The Wagyu Shop
Much like Crowd Cow, The Wagyu Shop offers a wide selection of both authentic Japanese and American Wagyu, in addition to Wagyu raised in other countries such as Australia. In addition to this, The Wagyu Shop gives you even more info on the source of the beef and its shipping information.
There are a number of other retailers you can find online beyond these three but if you’re looking for authentic Japanese Wagyu you’ll want to check out these sites first.
For those looking for even more information on where you can buy Wagyu, you can check out the website of the American Wagyu Association which offers downloadable up-to-date breeders guides.
Alternatives to Wagyu and Kobe
As mentioned before, there are a number of other varieties of Wagyu beef available besides Kobe. Like Kobe, they are named for the region of Japan in which they are bred. Other types of Wagyu include:
- Matsusaka: Said by some to be of even high quality than Kobe and bred on the coast between Tokyo and Osaka
- Yonezawa: Bred on the north of the main Japanese island of Honshu
- Mishima: Is bred only on a small island off the far southern coast of Japan
- Omi: Found in the region around the historic capital of Kyoto
As far as alternative options to any kind of Wagyu, that might be a bit harder to find as the growth and preparation of it is very unique to Japan and is not found in any other countries. However, if you don’t want to spend all your money on actual Wagyu, you can try finding a well-marbled, fatty piece of rib-eye steak that may share some qualities with it.
Answer: Yes, in addition to lots of protein and iron, Wagyu beef also contains high amounts of essential acids and little cholesterol making it a healthier option for beef lovers everywhere.
Answer: There have been a couple of times in the recent past where Kobe beef was temporarily banned from the US due to disease outbreaks in Japan but most times Kobe is safe and legal to import.
Answer: Wagyu is scored on a numbered grading scale going from 1 to 5 with 1 being the lowest grade and 5 being the highest. This score is based on marbling, texture, and color of the meat.
Wagyu and its better-known variant Kobe are unique, well cared for, and expensive cuts of Japanese beef with amazing flavor and texture. When it comes to the differences between the two, remember that Kobe is simply considered by some to be the highest quality type of Wagyu. When it comes to choosing which is better depends largely on your budget.
You can buy Wagyu or Kobe at a variety of online retailers but remember to do thorough research to make sure it’s authentic Japanese-raised beef. Once you’ve bought your Wagyu you’re free to cook, eat, and enjoy it in whichever way you please.
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