One of the things that I love about bbq is taking inexpensive cuts of meat, that take a low and slow approach to get the most out of, and turning them into something truly amazing. Cuts like brisket and a pork shoulder need gentle heat for hours to become tender, juicy and flavorful. If you were to cook them like a steak on the grill you would be horribly disappointed with an extremely tough piece of meat that you could hardly chew.
What if you took a premium grade of meat and cooked it low and slow for hours over a fire produced by burning a blend of cherry and hickory wood? Great question! We had done that very thing for our anniversary the last two years when we smoked Wagyu brisket from Snake River Farms. What makes Wagyu so special? Does it really make that much of a difference compared to anything else that I have tried? If it so good why don’t I see it around?
Before we get into the different grades, let’s talk about marbling and how that affects the quality of beef in the different grades. Marbling consists of the amount of fat in the lean sections of the beef, like a ribeye. It’s important because this marbled fat holds most of the flavor and once it heats up it renders down and makes the meat tender. If you see a steak at your meat counter and it’s bright red with little or no white “marbling”, then it would be safe to say that it won’t be as tender or as flavorful as the one that has speckled “marbling” throughout.
The USDA has three different grades: Select, Choice, Prime. Select has little or no marbling and makes up most of the beef that you see at your local grocery store. Choice has noticeable marbling, but not a lot and you will see a noticeable difference between select and choice with flavor and tenderness. Prime has significant marbling, and only 3% of the beef produced in the U.S. make up this grade. Usually, only restaurants have access to this grade and you hardly ever see this around.
Now we get to Wagyu, which is a grade higher than even prime. Wagyu is a type of cattle from Japan that have been imported to the U.S. and crossbred with Angus (a type of cattle found in the U.S.) to help it to adapt to our climate and thrive. Wagyu has more marbling than Prime and if you see a Wagyu steak it looks like it’s half fat and half meat making it the most tender, juicy, and flavorful steak that you have ever tried.
So what does all that mean for us at Saddleback? Well first off when we get these things delivered it’s like in the movies during those love scenes where it gets really quiet. Things move very slow and two people are “running” towards each other almost skipping with some sappy music playing. There is a slight glow around the delivery driver, wow things got weird. Needless to say, it’s a big deal around here. Anyways when you compare our CAB brisket to one of these bad boys, the first thing you notice is that fat cap on top. It’s so supple that you swear that you could use it as a pillow (yes I have had that very thought). Flip it over and you can see that it’s almost a 50/50 blend of fat and brisket.
Cutting one of these guys is so much fun. The juice just runs out of it and it’s so tender you barely have to use your knife. We only season the Wagyu with a salt/pepper/garlic powder blend to let the beef flavor really come through. I know that they cost more, but if you love our brisket, you have got to try the Wagyu. It’s like a slice of heaven on a plate.