How to Grill Wagyu Beef
If you’ve read our article covering the basics of Wagyu beef — you read it, right? — then you already know this type of meat is widely considered a delicacy thanks to its extreme marbling, or intramuscular fat content. But all that flavorful fat has a downside as well: more fat means more potential flare-ups, so Wagyu must be grilled with care. Many home cooks avoid this issue altogether by searing Wagyu in a cast iron pan rather than directly over a fire, but that comes at the cost of the grilled flavor and flame-kissed crust we all love.
To each their own, but we were Born to Grill™. You were, too, so we’re going to show you how to grill Wagyu steaks and burgers without runaway flare-ups ruining the occasion. All you need is a basic grilling technique, a watchful eye, and (of course) some delicious Wagyu beef.
Grilling American Wagyu Beef
The vast majority of Wagyu beef sold in the US is actually American Wagyu, a crossbreed of Japanese Wagyu cattle and American Angus cattle that perfectly combines exquisite fattiness with beefy flavor. It’s not quite as highly marbled as purebred Japanese Wagyu beef, which is extremely expensive and often too rich for American palates, but is still fatty enough to cause serious problems on the grill if carelessly cooked. Thankfully, the solution is so simple that you might already have the answer in your arsenal.
Dual-zone grilling is the key to grilled Wagyu, much like it is for abundantly marbled USDA Prime steaks. Dual-zone setups are different depending on the type of grill you use, but the idea is always the same: create direct, high heat on one part of the grill, and indirect, lower heat on the other. Chef Tony recommends grilling Wagyu with a direct-heat zone around 600°F and an indirect-heat area between 350°F and 425°F. With those dual grilling zones, you can sear over the fire until flare-ups become an issue, at which point you’d move your beef to the indirect zone while the flames die down. Then it’s back to direct heat to finish grilling, continuing to switch between zones if necessary.
Of course, you must remain vigilant to take advantage of dual cooking zones. Walking away for even a minute could lead to massive flare-ups that’ll char your precious Wagyu. (If you think you’ve seen disappointed faces at a cookout before, try serving burned Wagyu and then get back to us.) Fortunately, this isn’t an all-day affair — you can grill Wagyu for the same amount of time it takes to grill steaks or grill burgers of any type, adjusting cook length for thickness as needed.
Grilling Japanese Wagyu Beef
You now know why dual-zone grilling is the way to go for American Wagyu, but what about the purebred beef from Japan? It’s so highly marbled that the traditional grilling method calls for cutting the Wagyu into small, thin cubes that can be cooked within seconds over extreme heat. Less time over the fire equals a decreased chance of flare-ups, and Japanese Wagyu is typically served in only 4 or 5 bite-sized pieces anyway because of its incredibly rich flavor. For as much hype as purebred Wagyu receives, it’s unwise to eat such a steak like you would a beefy ribeye or T-bone.
In Japanese steakhouses, Wagyu cubes are placed on a mesh wire rack above extruded charcoal, which produce intense heat for this flash-grilling technique. If you manage to get your hands on purebred Wagyu, you might want to try this grilling procedure for an authentic experience — otherwise, it’s probably best to stick to pan-searing these insanely marbled cuts from Japanese cattle.
How to Season Wagyu Beef for the Grill
The average cut of beef needs little more than salt and pepper to accentuate its natural flavors, so that’s all you should use on melt-in-your-mouth Wagyu. Most of its flavor comes from the fat, though American crossbreeds also pack the beefiness we prize in Angus cattle. Remember to hit all steaks with salt an hour or so ahead of time so the beef’s moisture can be drawn to the surface, dissolve the salt, and reabsorb it into the meat for flavor throughout. Once that’s done, your grilled Wagyu can handle the rest.