This is a story about me and a steak. A 24-oz. A5 Wagyu ribeye steak, to be more specific. If you’re unaware of the hierarchy of beef, this is the part where I tell you that A5 wagyu is the finest quality beef in the world. The name “Wagyu” (and its cousin “Kobe”) has been co-opted to the point where you’ll see it tacked onto the description of the sliders at your local airport Chili’s. That is… (most foodie voice possible)… not real Wagyu. The true prize-winning shit comes from cattle that are raised in Japan and tended to with an ancient fastidiousness. They are not crammed into some pen in the middle of Kansas and forced to eat each other’s hooves. These cattle roam free in perfectly manicured pastures, eat a high-grain diet, drink the occasional beer, watch only the finest Kurosawa films, and in the process their flesh develops a fatty marbling that can only otherwise be found in your average Pittsburgh Steelers fan.
It goes without saying this shit is expensive, and it should only be prepared by experienced chefs who know how to cook something like this without fucking it up. The story with this particular steak is that the folks at The Takeout sent me this ribeye—which retails for a painful $250—to me because 1) They charged it to Univision because Fuck Univision, and 2) They wanted to see how I’d Morimoto the world’s most expensive steak if cost and discretion wasn’t a factor. And reader, I was more than happy to take them up on the offer. Over the course of three days, I prepared this steak five different ways and, in the process, I developed a relationship with the steak. It became my secret lover. It even caused legitimate tension between my wife and me.
But did I fuck the steak up? You’ll just have to be the judge of that for yourself.
This is what the steak looked like when it came in the mail:
Goddamn. Takeout editor Kevin Pang told me that when he ordered the steak online, the woman at the butcher called him within five minutes, just to warn him to not grill the steak, because that would ruin it. Little did she know that was exactly what we had in mind for this gigantic slab of meat butter. Fun fact: When you bring a piece of Wagyu to room temperature, it actually sweats out fat. So I took the steak out of package, tempered it by letting it sit out for an hour, and then I wiped a piece of bread right on the steak and ate it. It tasted like fat bread. I probably should have put more thought into how to prepare the fat bread. But no time for tiddlywinks. I had smokeboying to do.
That’s my smoker. Yes, that’s bird shit. I should probably clean it off, but it’s not like the poop got inside the smoker. Seems harmless enough. After getting the coals all hot and white, I went back to the kitchen and sliced the ribeye in half:
Loogit that beef. Wagyu is the answer to the question, “What if we massage a cow until it’s a pig?” I was very horny for this beef. My wife could see it in my eyes. I tended to this steak with more attentiveness and care than the rest of my family, and it was starkly evident. But I was more than justified. This was Wagyu, people.
I seasoned half of the steak with salt and pepper, and then put it on a foil tray so that I could preserve every last drop of fat. I had plans for that fat. I had visions of fat-infused butters, and eggs cooked in tallow, and ribeye-scented candles during the holidays. I vowed to let nothing go to waste. Then I put the tray on the grill, closed the smoker, shut down the dampers, and waited (prayed) for roughly an hour as the hickory smoke perfumed the meat, hopefully without cooking it into oblivion. The standard cooking instructions for Wagyu are to get a pan very hot, sear it on both sides for roughly a minute, and then let it rest. An hour on a smoker is probably some kind of foodie war crime. But fuck it, it wasn’t my money. Haim Saban probably chews this shit like gum between meetings.
I took the steak off the smoker, seared it on both sides, and let it rest. Letting it rest was agony. It was worse than watch food cook in a microwave. I could barely hold myself back. I stared at the clock like I was timing an Olympic swim meet. Finally, I sliced it:
[Cherubs encircle my head while playing very small trumpets]
There was still pink inside and that was good enough for me. I didn’t even need a knife to cut off a piece. It was just that tender, folks. I took a bite and was enveloped in pure, melting rhapsody, until my kids started yelling at each other and I realized that I was a fool to eat this with a bunch of people milling around the house at noon on a Saturday. I needed to be alone with the beef. I needed to build a fucking temple to accommodate the eating of the beef. I gave some to my wife and she politely told me it was well cooked and well seasoned, and then she spat it out into the garbage because she thought it was too heavy to eat at lunch time. I don’t know why she put it directly into the garbage when I would have gladly eaten her pre-chewed bits for her, like a baby sparrow. I was aghast she didn’t finish the bite. I was insulted on behalf of the beef. How dare you, woman.
My oldest kid buried her nose into the steak and I shooed her away because I didn’t want her to get snot all over it. Then she took a bite and said it was too greasy. I LIVE WITH PHILISTINES. At one point I flee the house and go outside with my plate and the beef, so I can hear the flavors better.
I ended up eating the entire half-steak myself, occasionally dabbing it in wasabi to cut the fattiness. Please note that Wagyu is so rich and expensive that you usually only eat it in small portions. You’re not supposed to eat it like a normal steak, but I did. I am so full now. I’m not sure I ever need to eat again. I may die. It was worth it.
One of the hottest trends in rich asshole food right now is the Wagyu katsu sandwich, in which a high end restaurant fries up a wagyu cutlet in panko crumbs, slaps it on some bread, and then charges you $75 for it. Given that I had half a ribeye left to play with, I figured I may as well try to replicate it myself.
These are two breaded-and-fried logs of Wagyu. When I cut into the cutlets, they kind of shattered a bit and I cursed myself for not finding a Hattori Hanzo steel saber to laser through the crust to preserve its integrity. Whatever, fried beef rules. This was the best version of the wagyu that I prepared.
I know I said I’d never eat again after eating half a Wagyu ribeye the day before, but it turns out that half a ribeye only helped bloat my body to the point where I could accommodate additional foodstuff: ribs, fish, entire battleships, etc. I dunked the fried cubes in soy and, again, I was in heaven… for roughly seven seconds. Then my kids started screaming and I again yearned for a beef temple. My wife politely declined a bite. She was clearly jealous of the steak. Hateful. The steak would be the end of us, especially since I sliced it up raw that same night and served it as a carpaccio to dinner guests:
That’s raw wagyu drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice, finished off with salt and pepper. My kid tried it and didn’t like it, but I gave her a dollar for daring to eat it anyway. As for me, I was again in a fatty, beefy rapture. In raw form, the layered fat takes on the qualities of a prized fish belly. It was like magic. The wagyu could do no wrong by me. The Takeout tasked me with fucking up this piece of meat, but it turns out it’s basically impossible to fuck up because it’s such high quality. Like a rich private equity asshole breaking up media companies and ruining lives on a whim, it can do no wrong. And I know this because I subjected the remaining portion of the beef to the sternest test of all…
By now, the Wagyu had to go. There was still a quarter of the steak in the fridge and the rest of my family had had enough of me obsessing over a stupid piece of beef. They were right to be annoyed, of course. Like a cursed artifact, the Wagyu had poisoned my mind, turning me against anyone that I perceived as a threat to the wagyu. No one appreciated the Wagyu as I did. No one loved it as I did. No one was happy for us. Why couldn’t they be happy for me finding true beef love?
I was sick with beef. I had to finish the fucker off. So I made a wagyu cheesesteak for lunch, complete with sautéed onions and jalapenos:
That looks like a god awful mess, but I assure you it was tasty. And then, in a final betrayal, I took the final piece of the ribeye and cooked it into oblivion. My goal was to have it rocking on the plate, just the way the President likes it. But again, this was not an ordinary piece of meat. Turns out that when you overcook Wagyu, it doesn’t toughen up. It simply disappears. When I was done overcooking it and filling the kitchen with acrid smoke, this was all that was left of my beloved:
Yes, that’s ketchup. I’d like to tell you that this tasted bad, and that anyone who eats such a nice cut of beef this way is truly deranged. But yeah, it still tasted awesome. Tasted like the burger I’ve always wanted to eat. Oh Wagyu, is there nothing you cannot do? I am helpless to resist you. You’ve ruined my home and you’ve ruined me for ordinary steak forever. You made me into a monster. Curse your stupid sexy unctuousness.
Anyway, I give Wagyu five stars. The five is for A5!