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When asked about the most common mistakes home cooks new to Japanese A5 Wagyu, Cameron Hughs, founder of Holy Grail Steak Co., says it has nothing to do with cooking ability. "Maybe it is a guy thing, but it basically comes down to not reading the instructions first."
In fact, Hughes, whose company is one of America's largest purveyors of Japanese A5 Wagyu, says it's easier to cook the high-priced Japanese beef than a grocery store ribeye. According to Hughes, the most common misstep is failing to recognize the differences between A5 beef and a standard cut.
Japanese A5 Wagyu requires little technical skill to cook properly, but it does demand that you check your standard steak knowledge at the door. This is how you cook the world's most coveted steak, the right way.
How to Cook Japanese A5 Wagyu Beef
Step 1: Salt 1 to 3 hours before cooking
Hughes says that because of the meat's fat content, it can take more salt than a standard steak. To capitalize, salt yours early and generously at least an hour before cooking so the salt has time to work its way into the muscle fibers, then return the beef to the refrigerator. Kenji López-Alt of Serious Eats goes further into why salt needs time to work here.
Step 2: Pre-heat your skillet in oven
Ten minutes before cooking time, throw your preferred skillet in the oven on 400 to preheat and do not take the steak out of the fridge. Hotspots are more problematic for quick sears, so we preheat our chosen pan in the oven to ensure it's heated all the way through (not just your burner's ring). Hughes says cast-iron, carbon steel or stainless steel skillets will all do the trick – the key is even, high heat.
The steak is left in the fridge because its fat has an extremely low melting point. Unlike standard cuts of beef, allowing it to come to room temperature is inarguably bad – all you'll have to show for it is a small puddle of expensive melted fat. For this reason, it's not uncommon for restaurants to cook them straight out of the freezer.
P.S. Don't cook this cut of beef on a grill. The huge fat content will cause dangerous flare-ups and you'll be sacrificing a lot of flavor by losing all of it to the flames.
Step 3: Put skillet over burner on high setting, sear steak on both sides
Place your cold cut of Japanese A5 wagyu on the hot skillet and let it rip. Hughes notes that, because the fat content, you can forgo oil altogether if you wish. If you opt for oil, he says it needs to be a neutral, high smoke point oil like safflower oil – not common cooking oils like olive or peanut oil.
Hughes says cooking A5 Wagyu, contrary to popular belief, is the easy part. Unlike a thick, marbly ribeye, it cooks quickly and rather evenly.
"To coax intense umami flavors from A5 steak, developing a caramelized crust is key. Allow the steak to cook for about three minutes on the first side and then flip and repeat for two minutes on the other side," Hughes says.
Step 4: Let it rest, slice (small) and serve
As with a regular steak, high-grade Wagyu needs to rest before serving and eating. When preparing Wagyu, the only significant departure in the post-cooking dinner prep is the size of the portions. Sure, it's expensive, but it's also the richest cut of meat you'll ever eat. Eating an entire steak of this stuff is a shortcut to an upset stomach. Slice and serve accordingly.