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Meat Digest : The History of Kobe Beef Last Updated: Oct 18, 2010 - 11:53:30 AM

To Freeze or Not To Freeze Kobe Beef
By Craig W Walsh
Nov 4, 2004 - 6:47:00 PM

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According to the California BBQ Association, Kobe Beef is often ---perhaps even usually --- sold frozen. 

While other beef and meats may suffer from being frozen, the quality of Kobe Beef is not affected by freezing because it has such a high percentage of marbled fat.  Freezing Kobe Beef is more like freezing ice cream (because of its high fat content) than like freezing other meat.

The tenderloin of Kobe Beef has a texture that is more like pate or butter than USDA or Canada Prime tenderloin.  Kobe Beef has almost 10 times more marbled fat, so it must be prepared differently.

Here is how Tanith Tyrr describes the taste in her Wagyu/Kobe Beef FAQ:

How does Wagyu beef taste?  If it's cooked wrong, lousy.  Bland.  Not too flavorful.  Kind of boring.  If you cook it right? Awesome.  Beef foie gras.  Smooth, velvety, incomparably sweet with a subtle tang of savor that lingers on the palate like a rare perfume. . . . [A] Westerner used to eating a huge plate of aged beef . . . might not be able to fully appreciate the subtlety of Wagyu.

Kobe Beef steaks cannot be grilled over hot coals like other steaks, because the marbled flat will melt and flare-up.  Instead, it should be seared quickly, like tuna or foie gras, so that it is blackened on the surface but extremely rare inside.

Wagyu is a fragile creature under heat.  Treat it delicately and with the utmost care, and it will reward you with velvety perfection. . . . The physical structure of Wagyu beef is not unlike ice cream in that it can literally melt and change into something very different from its ideal form. 

Tyrr uses the ice cream analogy to compare cooking Kobe Beef with cooking Baked Alaska:  "you need to sear the outside, but if you let it sit under the heat too long, it will melt the ice cream inside, and you will have an unappetizing mess." 

Scottish | Kobe Beef Hamburger

When cooking a hamburger, Lucies Farm (and other Kobe beef ranchers) recommend grilling Kobe beef patties from the frozen state for the juiciest result with the most intense flavor. But whether you're cooking up veggie, beef, chicken or even big Portobello burgers, the urge to flatten them with the back of a spatula is a temptation most can't resist. Don't do it. You're squeezing out all the fat and juices that make a burger really great.

And what about packaging?  We do not use vacuum packaging.  From a practical stand-point we'd love to do so:  a vac-pack is durable and makes the meat much easier to store and ship.  But we follow the advice of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall in his River Cottage Meat Book:

Basically, meat likes to breathe.  The natural circulation of air around it carries away excess moisture.  In contrast, meat that sits in a pool of blood or, worse still, marinates in a coating of it (which is what happens when meat is tightly wrapped in plastic, or vac-packed) takes on a curious metallic tang, as well as a nasty grey-brown colour, from the oxidised blood that leaches out of it, then soaks back into it.

The worst kind of packaging for meat . . . is the vacuum pack. Yet I understand completely why so many small producers vacuum pack their butchered meat cuts for retail.  It's by far the easiest way to satisfy the rigorous health and hygiene requirements. . . . Vac-packed cuts are leakproof and 'clean.'  They can be slung in a cool box, bounced around down the farm track, unloaded at the other end, and they're still clean.  But the inevitable blood marinade does the meat no good at all.  And the longer the meat stays in the vac-pack, the grater the damage done.

The old-fashioned polystyrene or cardboard tray, much favoured by the supermarkets until recently, on which a cut of meat sits with a clingfilm stretched over it, at least keeps the meat relatively dry, if not exactly breathing hard.

Hugh also says, "Despite what some may tell you, freezing meat does not necessarily have dire consequences for its eating qualities -- particularly, and this is very important, if it has been properly hung."  He concludes, "the cardinal do, and the cardinal don't, of small-producer beef processing would be DO hang your beef for at least a full three weeks and DON'T vac-pack it."

Our beef is aged for 21 - 24 days, and is not vac-packed.  Most beef is shipped frozen.

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