Kobe-Style Beef: A Mouthwatering Marbled Masterpiece
Wagyu cattle produce highly marbled meat that’s extremely tender and flavorful and makes excellent burgers and steak recipes.
There is definitely something special about Kobe-style beef for steak and burgers. This well-marbled, tender beef comes from Japanese Wagyu (pronounced wa-GYOO) cattle, and is an increasingly popular niche product here in America.
A Brief History of Kobe Beef in Japan
Cattle were introduced to Japan in the second century to help early immigrants cultivate rice. Japan’s mountainous, isolated terrain kept the herds isolated and purebred, which would result in the beef having a distinct flavor profile…except the Japanese at that time were forbidden from eating beef or any animal flesh.
By the late 18th century, the ban on eating beef was lifted and native Japanese cattle from the Kobe region were bred with popular European breeds such as Brown Swiss, Shorthorn and Devon. After selective breeding, three distinct breeds of Wagyu cattle were officially recognized: Japanese Black, Japanese Brown and Japanese Poll.
Even though beef still was not widely consumed in Japan due to religious and cultural factors until after World War II, it was the mechanization of rice cultivation around 1955 that led to the increased opportunity to use Wagyu cattle as a major food source.
Kobe beef, a specific type of Wagyu beef, was known as the “white” beef due to the high amounts of marbling (white fat) running throughout the meat. This is mostly due to the diet and pampering these cattle receive: they are fed beer to stimulate their appetite and have sake (SAH-keh, a Japanese alcoholic beverage made from fermented rice) massaged into their skin to keep their coats healthy and to keep the cattle happy.
American Kobe-Style Beef
The first Wagyu cattle came to the United States in 1976. Four bulls were cross-bred with Angus cattle to produce a “less white” meat more suited to the American palate. American Wagyu cross-breeds are typically fed corn, barley, wheat straw and alfalfa. There is limited production of American Kobe-style beef, thus creating a higher price for the meat.
If you’re curious about Kobe-style beef, it is readily available as burger patties. This is a great way to do a taste test. You’ll be amazed at how flavorful and juicy the burgers are…just be sure to grill some extras because they will be gobbled up fast!
Cooking Kobe-Style Beef
With the extensive marbling in Kobe-style beef, do not add extra fat to the meat before cooking. In fact, this type of beef cooks best when seared in a hot pan on the stovetop to catch all the juices. Cast-iron pans work great for Kobe-style beef. Searing Kobe-style beef on the stovetop also applies to burgers, sirloin steaks, flat iron steaks, or other cuts you may find.
Some experts suggest cooking Kobe-style beef to medium doneness, as the fat needs plenty of time to melt into the meat. With any meat, it helps the cooking process to remove excess surface moisture, so pat it down with dry paper towels before cooking. That tip is actually more important than letting meat come to room temperature, a theory which has been debunked by science-curious chefs such as the authors of this article from The Food Lab at seriouseats.com.
Kobe-Style Beef Steak Recipes
Great steaks need little more than light seasoning before cooking: salt and cracked black pepper will suffice. However, if you are ambitious, and since you have spent a little more money on a Kobe-style steak or burger, here are some fantastic burger and steak recipes developed especially for this fine grade of beef: