Even though Beef For Yakiniku is not a part of my “regular” rotation of restaurants, I was there recently as we were celebrating a special event with friends. It was a chance to give it another try Are you looking for the perfect BBQ Beef Recipe? We’re sure that you will love our recipe for Japanese BBQ Beef. It’s simple, delicious, and won’t disappoint! Our family has been making this recipe for years. Try it soon and let us know what you think!
Beginner’s Guide to Yakiniku: How to Cook Wagyu Beef
Beginner’s Guide to Yakiniku: How to Cook Wagyu Beef
Nothing is more American than steak and potatoes, or more English than roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. But while beef is easy to come by in these countries, finding a cut so sublime that it melts in your mouth is nearly impossible. To find such a cut you need to travel to Japan where special breeds of cattle, called wagyu, elevate the flavor and texture of grilled steak to an art form. For any epicurean traveling to Japan who makes beef a regularly addition to their weekly diet, be sure to read this article before your first foray into yakiniku.
What Is Wagyu Beef?
Japan is known around the world for its tender, high-end beef, yet the ins-and-outs of Wagyu beef still remain something of a mystery to people outside of the country. The term “Wagyu”, which means Japanese (“wa”) and cow (“gyu”), essentially refers to several breeds of Japanese cattle that have been domesticated from wild oxen. The most common breed is the Japanese Black, which makes up around 70 percent of cattle in Japan and includes the famous Kobe beef brand.
Beef in Japan is graded by both yields—the proportion of meat available, rated from A class (the highest) to C class (the lowest)—and marbling. It’s also rated on its color, texture, and the quality of fat, then given a marbling grade from 1–5. A5 Wagyu is the highest class of Japanese beef and has superior marbling. This intense marbling is what gives the beef its unique tenderness and “umami”, or savory flavor.
In Japan, Kobe beef is always at least grade A4–5 or B4–5. Another highly prized Japanese beef is Matsusaka beef, which can be considered Kobe beef’s rival and is often described as having a more intense beef flavor. To give a good idea of the richness of Wagyu beef, a highly graded non-Japanese steak usually contains around 6% marbling, whereas an A5 Wagyu steak can contain as much as 25% marbling. For the record, the “Kobe beef” sold outside of Japan is typically beef that comes from a cross between Wagyu cattle and a domestic cattle. So if you’re dining on Kobe beef (especially in your home country), you’ll want to make sure you’re getting the real deal.
How to Cook Japanese Yakiniku
Yakiniku is the name for barbecue in Japan. Because it focuses on drawing out the natural flavor of the meat, many cuts of beef do not come marinated or pre-seasoned. Additional seasoning is often no more than a bit of salt, a squeeze of lemon, or a splash of “tare” (dipping sauce) after the meat has been grilled. Because of the focus on the flavor of the beef, yakiniku requires high-quality ingredients as well as extra care so as not to overcook it and ruin the beef’s intricate flavor and texture. Here are four general tips that should be applied with any cut of meat.
･To start with, whether you’re cooking over a traditional charcoal grill or a flat teppan cook surface, you’ll want to wait until the grilling surface becomes very hot or else the meat can stick to the metal.
･It’s also important to consider the order of grilling meat in order to avoid any flavor contamination.
･Make sure to grill and enjoy each piece one at a time to prevent the temperature of the grill from falling, or if you’re cooking several pieces together, remember the order that you placed them on the grill so that none of the pieces are overcooked.
･Thinner, more marbled slices of beef may require only 3–5 seconds of grilling, while thicker or leaner pieces may need a couple of minutes to cook properly.
If you’re wondering how to cook yakiniku, here’s a breakdown of some of the most popular cuts of Wagyu beef, as well as how and when to prepare them:
Different Types of Japanese Yakiniku Beef Cuts
Gyutan, or Japanese beef tongue, is considered a delicacy in Japan. It’s sliced very thinly and cooks fast, so as soon as the meat starts to curl, you’ll want to flip it over quickly. It’s popular to grill one side of gyutan well while leaving the other side a bit rarer. Beef tongue should be grilled before other cuts or on a newly replaced grill so that its distinct flavor is not contaminated by anything else.
After gyutan, it’s common to follow up with lighter flavored muscle cuts such as rib roast and then proceed to heavier marinated cuts and organ meats, like harami.
Karubi, or boneless short rib / flanken-cut rib, is one of the most popular cuts of beef for yakiniku. Tender and very juicy, karubi has more marbling than roast cuts do. Go for “sankaku karubi” or “jo-karubi” if you want an especially marbled piece. For the best flavor, cook for 80 percent of the time on one side until the meat has a nice grilled color, and only 20 percent on the other side. Because of its heavy marbling, a slice of karubi around 3 mm (1/8 inch) thick can be ready to flip in as little as 10 seconds.
Roast (ロース) and Rib Roast (リブロース)
These are the lean cuts of meat from around the shoulder and back. Roast refers to the leaner shoulder meat, while rib roast is adjacent to the sirloin and has a bit more marbling. Despite being leaner, roast meat is still quite tender. It’s usually served in thicker cuts, so it takes a bit longer to cook. Once it’s on the grill, wait until the bottom is nicely browned and the juices come up to the surface before flipping it over. You may also see “jo-rōsu” (上ロース), or “special roast”, on some menus, which indicates even more marbling for a richer and tenderer cut of meat.
Sirloin comes from the back area and is one of the highest quality cuts of beef. Steaks are cut from the sirloin area due to its excellent flavor, tenderness, and juiciness. To cook wagyu steak, you’ll want to grill it until the outside has a nice color while making sure that the center is still rare.
Zabuton, or chuck, is a flavorful cut of meat from the ribcage area that’s known to melt in your mouth. It’s a rarer cut of beef because there’s not as much zabuton meat compared to other cuts, so it’s sometimes sold as “jo-rōsu”.
Misuji, or brisket, is the cut of beef that’s under the shoulder blades. Like zabuton, it’s also a rare cut because there is not much misuji meat compared to other cuts of beef, so it often comes at a premium price.
Makura, or shank, comes from the lower leg area. It has a deep flavor due to the leg being a heavily exercised muscle.
Harami, or skirt steak, comes from the diaphragm area so it has a bolder flavor than other cuts of meat. These cuts often come marinated in miso or soy sauce due to their strong flavor. Harami should be cooked for a bit longer until it’s well grilled on the outside but still tender on the inside. Extra marbled and tender harami is sometimes sold as “jo-harami” or “special harami”.
This cut is a good source of iron and has a distinct flavor. Because it’s organ meat, you’ll want to make sure that it’s well cooked before eating.
Maruchou (丸長・まるちょう) / Horumon (ホルモン)
These are the small intestines, which may not sound appetizing at first, but they’re a popular yakiniku item to have with alcohol due to its strong, distinct flavor. Maruchou can be a bit chewy, so you’ll want to grill it over a medium flame to cook it longer without burning.
Popular Items to Order When Going to Eat Yakiniku
If you’re not certain what to order from the list above, the two most popular cuts of beef to order in Japan are probably kalbi and rōsu (roast). Kalbi can be a little fatty, but it’s incredibly tender, while roast is prized for being lean and tender. If you want to enjoy more of the rich marbling that Wagyu beef is known for, splurge a little on the “jo-” or “special class” cuts that tend to have more marbling than usual.
How To Make Japanese Barbecue (Yakiniku) at Home: Everything You Need To Know
For many Japanese people, a night out isn’t complete without a trip to their favorite yakiniku restaurant. Bite-sized pieces of meat grilled table-side and consumed with plenty of rice and icy alcoholic beverages, yakiniku is a meat feast of flavors and textures. Meaning simply “grilled meat” in Japanese, yakiniku is a beloved food that can found everywhere in Japan from busy restaurants to dinner parties.
Yakiniku would not exist in Japan without the culinary influence of Korean immigrants. A Japanese colony from 1910 to 1945, Korean migrants in Japan were historically treated as second-class citizens and faced tremendous amounts of persecution. As a result, they were often regulated to the lower-class work of Japanese society. One of these jobs was meat butchery. Because of the Buddhist influence in Japan, meat eating was taboo for centuries and it wasn’t until the late 19th century that meat started to enter the mainstream Japanese diet.
Yakiniku started to gain steam in the late 20th century, particularly after World War II. Meat consumption was rising in postwar Japan and yakiniku restaurants took advantage, proliferating in large numbers and becoming an essential part of the country’s nightlife. In Japan, meat and strong flavors like spices or garlic are known as “stamina food.” Yakiniku, with its combination of bite-sized meats and flavors were a perfect fit for postwar Japanese tastes.
Like Korean barbecue, Japanese yakiniku features small, bite-sized pieces of meat meant to be eaten in single bites. Many cuts, such as short ribs (galbi in Korean), have crossover status in both barbecue styles. A key difference between yakiniku and Korean barbecue is the prevalence of beef. Although beef is common in modern Korean barbecue, traditional Korean barbecue is heavily pork-based. In comparison, while pork and other meats can be found in yakiniku, the Japanese barbecue style places a premium on beef cuts.
Many of the popular yakiniku cuts will seem familiar to fans of Korean barbecue. Thinly sliced ribeye, short ribs, and skirt steak are all sought-after cuts in yakiniku. The beef in yakiniku will usually be served unseasoned or marinated in a sweet soy sauce akin to the marinades found in Korean barbecue. Many Japanese yakiniku restaurants will also specialize in butchering unique cuts of beef in an effort to obtain the most interesting flavors and textures. Items like knuckle or heel meat are examples of this creativity.
An important element of yakiniku is horumon. Meaning “discarded goods” in Japanese, horumon refers to organ meats such as small or large intestines, heart, and liver. In yakiniku, every part of the cow is used, including unique items like windpipe, sweetbreads, or aorta. Traditionally, these animal parts were undesirable and were only eaten by the underclass of Japanese society. These days, horumon have become a delicacy and for most yakiniku fans, more interesting in flavor and texture than standard meat.
One of the most beloved horumon items in yakiniku is beef tongue. This cut will be served sliced very thin or thick, with cross marks carved into the pieces for texture and tenderness. Tongue is usually served with a touch of salt and a squeeze of lemon. Some restaurants will break down the tongue into smaller cuts: the tan-saki (tip), tan-naka (middle), tan-moto or shin-tan (root), and tan-shita (bottom).
While Korean barbecue is served with an abundance of side dishes known as banchan, yakiniku sides tends to be simpler. Because of the Korean influence, vegetable kimchis are common side dishes along with Japanese-style pickles and rice. Yakiniku will often be served with a sweet, sometimes spicy soy-based dipping sauce consisting of garlic, miso, sesame oil, and sugar. This is meant to be eaten with a variety of meats. Besides meat, vegetables like cabbage, mushrooms, and kabocha squash are popular grilling items.
For many Japanese people, alcohol is an important part of the yakiniku experience. Drinks like ice cold beer or lemon sours — shochu liquor mixed with soda water and plenty of fresh lemon juice — are popular beverages to have with yakiniku.
Umamicart is an online grocery store that specializes in delivering Asian products and ingredients in the Northeast region. From fresh produce to meats and sauces, Umamicart sources the best items and conveniently delivers them straight to your door. Looking to make Chinese hot pot or Japanese yakiniku? Umamicart has you covered without a trip to the store.
For this yakiniku sauce recipe, Umamicart has also crafted a yakiniku landing page with a curated selection of all the ingredients and sauces you’ll need to create your own yakiniku dinner party. This salty and flavorful dipping sauce is versatile and can be eaten with both meat and vegetables. Remember, this sauce is quite potent — a little bit goes a long way.
- 4 tbsp cooking sake
- 4 tbsp mirin
- 4 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- 2 tsp mild white miso
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tsp roasted white sesame seeds
- Combine sake, mirin, soy sauce, sesame oil, miso, and garlic in a small saucepan and simmer for about 2 minutes.
- Whisk well while simmering to dissolve the miso paste.
- Transfer sauce into a heatproof bowl and stir in sesame seeds. Serve as dipping sauce for your yakiniku meats and vegetables! Leftover sauce can be stored in the fridge, and is best used within three days.
“I love Japanese food since I was a kid. I used to buy beef yakiniku at Japanese restaurants. My comfort food! Now it’s time to make my own. Easy peasy and happy tummy 😊”Read more
light soy sauce
sweet soy sauce
white sesame seed
food processor, frying pan, spatula, bowl
- Step 1/5
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 g ginger
- food processorChop garlic and ginger in food processor
- Step 2/5
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- frying panHeat vegetable oil over medium heat. Sauté garlic and ginger until fragrant.
- Step 3/5
- 200 g sliced beef
- 1 tbsp oyster sauce
- 1 tbsp light soy sauce
- 1 tbsp sweet soy sauce
- 30 ml water
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 pinch sugar
- ½ tsp pepper
- spatulaAdd sliced beef for 3 minutes or until the color changed to brown. Add oyster sauce, light soy sauce, sweet soy sauce, pepper, salt and sugar. Mix for 1 minutes. Add water.
- Step 4/5
- ½ bulb yellow onionAdd onion. Mix well for 5 minutes.
- Step 5/5
- 1 pinch white sesame seed
- bowlSprinkle with sesame seed. Best serve with warm rice. Enjoy!
- Enjoy your meal!