Kobe beef: is it the best steak in the world?

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Do you think your regular steak is enough to satisfy you fully? Well, I guess you haven’t heard about Kobe beef that hails from Japan yet!

Kobe beef: is it the best steak in the world?

Kobe beef is a type of Wagyu cattle that originated in Japan. The meat is considered to be very high quality, with intense marbling and flavor. And it is often used in fine dining restaurants and can be very expensive.

Not only that, Kobe beef is even considered to be the best beef steak in the world! Well, what could be the reason? Is it worthy of such praise?

First thing’s first, there are a few things you should know about it—its history and importance, what it tastes like, and where you can buy it (even if it seems like there’s only an 80% chance that you can find it).

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Kobe beef: a unique story about special beef

Kobe beef is a type of Wagyu beef that comes from Japan. It is prized for its intense marbling, which gives it amazing flavor, tenderness, and juiciness.

Kobe beef is raised using traditional methods that have been passed down for generations, resulting in a product of unparalleled quality.

History of kobe beef

Japan Kobe beef has a long history dating back to the 1800s.

When cattle first came to Japan from China, there was no significant meat production development yet, let alone eating it.

The cows were originally used to assist mankind for purposes like agriculture, mining, forestry, and any other livelihood activities.

From 1635 to 1854, Japan was isolated from the rest of the world, and there was no cow breeding, therefore preserving its original cattle genes.

However, during the Meiji restoration, from 1868 to 1887, approximately 2,600 foreign cattle, including Braunvieh, Shorthorn, and Devon, were brought in.

These were heavily crossed with the native stock between 1900 and 1910.

Many regional populations created by this brief era of cross-breeding were recognized and designated as “Improved Japanese Cattle” starting in 1919.

Different breeds

Moving forward to our time travel, in 1944, four distinct strains were already identified as breeds based primarily on the kinds of foreign cattle that had the greatest influence on the hybrids.

The four breeds were the Japanese Black, Japanese Brown, Japanese Polled, and Japanese Shorthorn.

Among the most popular breeds is the Tajima, a kind of Japanese Black (which Kobe beef is made from).

Global promotion and fame

Although beef consumption and production were introduced to the masses, it didn’t gain popularity right away, not until the 1980s and 1990s, around the same time it reached global markets.

So, yes. The cattle were originally used for work purposes but later became known for their high-quality meat.

The Kobe Beef Marketing & Distribution Promotion Association was formed in 1983 in order to promote and protect the Kobe beef brand.

Kobe beef vs Wagyu beef: what’s the difference?

Although these two terms are used interchangeably, they’re actually different.

Simply put, all Kobe beef is Wagyu beef, but not all Wagyu is Kobe beef.

The main reason for this is that all Kobe beef comes from Wagyu beef, which literally means “Japanese cow.”

In order for a cow to become a certified Kobe beef, it must be purebred Tajima-Gyu (a specific strain of Japanese black cattle).

It must also be born, raised, and slaughtered in the Hyogo prefecture, and the cattle must be fed a diet of grains, hay, and other roughage.

The capital of the Hyogo prefecture is Kobe, hence the name of the meat.

Japanese Wagyu, on the other hand, can refer to any Japanese breed of beef cattle.

There are four different types of Wagyu cattle: Japanese Black, Japanese Brown, Japanese Polled, and Japanese Shorthorn.

Out of these four, Japanese black cattle make up 90% of all Wagyu cattle.

If that all sounds a bit complicated, have a look here to learn more:

Now that you know the difference between Kobe beef and Wagyu beef, you might be wondering: what’s the difference in taste?

The answer is a lot! Kobe beef has even more abundant marbling than wagyu beef,

Marbling means the fat is evenly distributed throughout the meat. This results in a melt-in-your-mouth texture that is incredibly tender and juicy.

Wagyu beef, on the other hand, although still high quality, has slightly less marbling than Kobe beef.

This results in a steak that is not quite as tender and juicy as Kobe beef.

Although, truth be told, it might take a connoisseur to really sense the difference in a blind taste test.

But if you’re looking for the best possible taste, Kobe beef is the way to go!

What makes Kobe beef so special?

If I can describe what makes it very special in two phrases, it will be strictness in beef processing, and the cattle are almost natural. With that, I mean no preservatives are used in their raising.

There are certain conditions that the cattle must meet in order to be classified as true Kobe beef, such as:

  • The cattle must be purebred. Japanese Black
  • They must be born and raised in the Hyogo Prefecture
  • They must be fed a special diet of grain, hay, and beer
  • They must be slaughtered at specific slaughterhouses
  • The carcasses must pass a rigorous quality inspection
  • They must pass a Japanese grading system specifically designed for Kobe beef

These guidelines ensure that only the highest quality beef is classified as Kobe beef.

The result is a product that is incredibly tender, juicy, and flavorful. Kobe beef is often considered to be the highest quality beef in the world.

While Kobe beef is prized for its flavor and quality, it is also not quite pocket-friendly.

So, what do you say? Dare to try it?

Why is Kobe beef so expensive?

As I said earlier, Kobe beef is expensive. In fact, a single steak can cost $200 or more.

The reasons for this are manyfold. First, the quality of Kobe beef is unrivaled.

The cattle are raised using traditional methods that have been passed down for generations and are fed a special diet of grain, hay, and beer.

In addition, Kobe beef is rare.

There are strict guidelines that the cattle must meet in order to be classified as Kobe beef, such as being purebred Japanese Black, and being born and raised in the Hyogo Prefecture.

As a result, there are only a limited number of Kobe beef cattle in the world.

Finally, the demand for Kobe beef is quite high. Due to its flavor and quality, Kobe beef is prized by chefs and foodies alike.

This combination of factors has resulted in the high price tag that is associated with Kobe beef.

So, if you’re looking for an unforgettable culinary experience, Kobe beef is definitely worth trying. Just be prepared to open your wallet!

How to cook Kobe beef

Kobe beef is best cooked using methods that preserve its flavor and quality, such as grilling, broiling, or pan-frying.

You can also make sushi, teppanyaki, toban yaki, sukiyaki or shabu-shabu using Kobe beef.

When cooking Kobe style beef, use a cooking fat that has a high smoke point, such as soy bean oil, vegetable oil, or peanut oil, for the best results.

Kobe beef should also be cooked to medium-rare or rare doneness in order to preserve its flavor and quality.

Cooking it any further will result in a dry, tough steak. Using a meat thermometer to ensure its tenderness surely helps a lot.

Tips for cooking the perfect Kobe steak

Here’s a further guide to cooking your own Kobe beef:

  • Although the beef can be safely thawed overnight in your refrigerator, allow it to come to room temperature before cooking by leaving it out on the counter.
  • Trim the fat off the edges of the meat, and then, when you skillet is brought to a medium heat, use the trimmed fat to lubricate the pan.
  • Cooking the steak begins after the oil begins to smoke. By using the additional trim fat, you can prevent the fat on your piece of beef from melting onto the pan. This results in a steak that is juicier.
  • Just before cooking, season the steak with a tiny bit of salt. All the necessary flavor is present in the strong umami that Japanese Kobe wagyu is renowned for.
  • At medium-high heat, quickly cook it and sear the outside of this very thin, Japanese-cut steak. The internal fats aren’t actually being cooked; you’re just warming and melting them.
  • Finally, let the meat rest for twice as long as you cooked it.

This whole Kobe beef cooking could take up to 3 minutes to cook on both sides, depending on the size of your cut and the heat of your pan.

Add 6 minutes of rest afterward, then you are ready to serve the delicious morsels of meat.

Kobe beef health benefits

If you’re on a diet and concerned about the health benefits you’re getting from eating Kobe beef, here are some of the health benefits you can get:

  • Healthy omega-3 fatty acids
  • A good amount of protein
  • Iron
  • High levels of conjugated linoleic acid

This last one can contribute to weight loss, improve the immune system, help to fight cancer, and reduce the risk of horrible diseases such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Besides its health benefits, it’s also important to note that Kobe beef still contains a significant amount of fat, but if eaten moderately, then you’re on the right track to a proper diet.

Where to buy Kobe beef

If you’re looking to buy Kobe beef, your best bet is to find a reputable butcher from a Wagyu shop or specialty grocer that carries it.

You can also purchase it online from a number of different sources.

When purchasing Kobe beef, look for cuts that are well-marbled and have a bright red color. The fat should be firm, white, and well-distributed throughout the meat.

Another thing is that the cuts should be at least four inches thick, as thinner cuts will not have the same flavor or quality.

On the other hand, when buying Kobe beef online, make sure to purchase it from a reputable source.

There are a number of scams in which sites will sell you lower-quality beef and pass it off as Kobe beef.

So, do your research and only purchase from sources that you trust.

Kobe beef is definitely a splurge-worthy item. But if you’re looking for an unforgettable culinary experience, it’s definitely worth trying.

Just be sure to follow the tips above so that you can get the most out of your purchase!

Final thoughts

If you’re looking for the best possible beef dining experience, Kobe beef should be at the top of your list!

This unique meat is prized for its intense flavor and unparalleled tenderness, making it a truly special treat.

While Kobe beef is relatively rare and thus comes with a high price tag, its quality is unmatched.

So if you have the chance to try Kobe beef, don’t hesitate – you won’t be disappointed!

The best Kobe beef steak can arguably be found in Osaka, if you follow my ultimate Osaka food guide

Check out our new cookbook

Bitemybun's family recipes with complete meal planner and recipe guide.

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Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.