I consider Beef as a boring ingredient.
The better the beef you get, the tastier your dishes become. The skill of the chef is relevant, but the quality of the beef is the decisive factor.
The word Wagyu (和牛) stands for Japanese beef. It doesn’t necessarily mean that these cows are born in Japan. As long as they have spent a significant proportion of their life in Japan, they could be called Wagyu.
Japanese people rank their beef carefully. From C5 to A5, there are 15 different ranks. A5 is the highest rank, and people tend to consider A5 as the most delicious as well.
Yield grade: The proportion of beef that is eatable from a certain cow. In other words, A means that more beef could be yielded from a certain cow than average. C means below average.
Marbling: The intramuscular fat on the beef makes a marble-like pattern, which is called marbling. From 5 to 1, the marbling goes from high to low. This considers not only the fat level but also the texture and color etc.
A5 rank != most delicious beef
A5 rank doesn’t necessarily represent the most delicious beef. The actual “most delicious beef” depends on one’s taste. As I mentioned before, A5 is very high in intramuscular fat, so it gives a satisfactory but oily taste. Just 100~150g of A5 steak would be enough for the main course. For people who aren’t big fans of fat or oil, A3 beef could also be very delicious. A3 is also significantly cheaper — if you are not grilling a steak or cooking shabushabu (hot pot), A5 might be a waste of money since its advantages are marginal in other types of cuisine.
Wagyu also comes with different “brands,” as some brands are known to be more delicious than the others. For example, the Wagyu “big three” are Kobe Beef, Matsusaka Beef, and Omi/Yonezawa/Maesawa Beef. You might find a place that serves “Kobe Beef” for a low price, but now you can guess the reason. Even within Kobe Beef, the Wagyu ranking system is used. B4 Kobe Beef is served in many restaurants to save the cost.
This summer in Japan, I was lucky to try some of the most delicious beef brands in the world. I will show you some pictures.
Not from Big Three, but also famous and delicious.
You don’t always want to become that A5, but if you do, be the Kobe Beef.
It is important to know that food in Japan is delicious, especially Japanese Beef Wagyu. It is also important to understand why they are delicious. A clear ranking system allows the best to stand out. Such ranking technics are used not only in the food industry but also in all the other areas. To succeed in Japan, you’d better understand the “ranking” criteria to reach the top. Feel free to interpret this sentence in the way you want. A5 is the most expensive beef, but not necessarily the most delicious one. You don’t always want to be that A5, but if you do, be the Kobe Beef :)
Knowing the basics of wagyu could hopefully provide you with more fun while eating beef next time. Please also don’t overpay without knowing the actual ranks!