- At Sh20,000 a cut, mistakes would be very costly.
- Fortunately, cooking Wagyu is surprisingly quick and very easy.
With the town still buzzing from the recent Wagyu tasting event, I was excited to learn that this fashionable delicacy is now available at a Nairobi butchery. But how best to prepare this expensive cut of meat? And how should it best be served?
At Sh20,000 a cut, mistakes would be very costly. Fortunately, cooking Wagyu is surprisingly quick and very easy.
Doug Halkin of top London butchers Turner & George says the top cuts are around the loin— think ribeye, sirloin, rump and fillet (or, for the more adventurous, flat iron, bavette and flank). These are all tender cuts, varyingly marbled with rich, flavourful fat seduces your taste buds as it melts in your mouth.
Preparing the steak
Doug’s advice is to salt the steak lightly an hour before cooking and bringing it to room temperature at least 30 minutes before you start. “Cooking Wagyu straight out of the fridge would be a travesty,” he says. Salting the meat sparingly delicately teases out the flavour which is already inherently rich. With a normal non-Wagyu steak, salting before cooking can all-too-easily draw out the juices and potentially dry out the meat. But with Wagyu, the marbling ensures the steak stays juicy - provided you do not overcook it.
For most palettes, Doug says the intense flavour and marbling of the meat should be more than sufficient. No other seasoning is normally needed.
Cooking and serving
Heat the (cast iron / stainless steel) pan to medium-high heat. The heat should be sufficiently hot to sizzle the fat but not so intense that it burns. “The fat is where the flavour is,” says Doug, "so treat it with respect.” To begin with, trim a little of the fat from the edge of the steak - a small pea-size amount per steak should suffice. You will use this to lubricant the pan. Place your pea of fat in the pan and allow it to melt. When it starts to smoke, you are ready to cook the steak. Timings will depend on the thickness of the steak.
Unlike normal steak, which is best served either rare, saignant (even rarer) or even bleu (almost raw), Wagyu is best served medium-rare to medium so that the fat is melted sufficiently and evenly.
“Do not poke, squash or squish the steak whilst it's cooking,” advises Doug, “but a meat thermometer can be useful to test for readiness.”
Once the steak is cooked, you must allow it to rest for a few minutes, and add a little more salt if required. But be sparing as the meat will speak for itself.
One final tip: Resist the temptation to serve a slab of meat to each guest. Instead, slice it into one centimetre thick strips on a board and serve it up as a sharing platter in the centre of the table to your guests, maybe with some grilled tomatoes scattered with parsley on the side. With such a rich cut of meat, you only need one to two ounces per serving.
The intense flavours of the meat need to be accompanied by side dishes that are comfortable playing second fiddle. Doug recommends sautéed mushrooms, roasted broccoli sprouts or asparagus lightly seasoned with salt, pepper and olive oil, garden salad, potatoes as accompaniments.
Ms Sagonda manages a luxury lifestyle management business Sagonda and Company and YouTube channel So Anesu in London.