WAGYU BEEF: Fact vs Fiction

wagyu_beef_fact_vs_fiction

 

In Alberta, we often take our high quality beef for granted– or we may even be so proud that we would not dare to try anything from outside our borders. In reality, we have so much in common with places like the U.S.A., Argentina and Japan because our industries, cultures and environments help promote ethical farmers to raise happy, healthy cows. For more information, read on for D’Arcy’s Meat Market’s guide to Wagyu beef fact versus Wagyu beef fiction.

 

FICTION: “Wagyu beef is outside of Japan.”

FACT: Wagyu beef cattle may not be exported outside of Japan, but both their meat and DNA are widely distributed. Many markets breed Wagyu-certified DNA into their cattle to improve the quality, as well as the marketability. Cuts of Wagyu beef are specially shipped to high-end customers including Michelin-star restaurants, luxury hotels and private chefs.

FICTION: “Kobe beef and Wagyu beef are the same thing.”

FACT: Kobe and Wagyu standards have different specifications, many of which control what can and cannot be called officially certified Kobe beef or Wagyu beef. North American Kobe is common and still a high quality cut of beef, but true Kobe and Wagyu products come only from Japan. As mentioned above, there are also many North American breeds crossed with Japanese cow DNA in an effort to improve its quality and marketability.

FICTION: “All beef labeled ‘wagyu’ is of the same quality.”

FACT: Translated from Japanese, “wagyu” means “Japanese cow”– unless properly certified, this may be normal-grade beef from Japan. Always check the source of any food you buy, as it is the only way to be sure you are getting the product for which you paid. Specialty food like Wagyu beef is particularly important to verify, as unethical vendors will charge you a premium no matter what.

FICTION: Wagyu beef cows are massaged and force-fed sake (Japanese rice wine).

FACT: These are common rumours, but they are misconceptions popularized outside of Japan. While it is true that certified Wagyu farmers keep many close secrets developed over centuries of expertise, the effects of the rumoured treatments would have little effect on the beef’s quality– it could even reduce the quality! Much like Alberta beef and other major cattle production areas, the Wagyu industry self-regulates and is overseen by government agencies.

The above myths are only a sampling of the many assumptions people make about Wagyu beef an other international delicacies. For a comprehensive understanding of Wagyu beef, its production and its features, bring your questions and concerns to D’Arcy’s today!

CAN I DRY-AGE BEEF AT HOME?

dry-aged-beef-at-homeWhether you have seen it on a restaurant’s menu, a cooking show or in your favourite barbecue bible– dry-aged beef is becoming more popular and widely understood. Here in the heartland of Alberta, many of us have easy access to fresh, top-quality beef that is a prime candidate for dry-aging. Once you taste the difference, it can be difficult to imagine eating a cut of beef that has not been dry-aged. If it sounds too good to be true, never fear: dry-aging has been practiced for as long as humans have prepared meat and modern science has proved its methods. You only need your taste buds to be convinced by the results! Read on for a quick introduction to dry-aged beef, brought to you by D’Arcy’s Meat Market.

What is “dry-aging?”

Beef that has been “dry-aged” was hung in large pieces– up to many months in temperature- and humidity-controlled conditions– prior to trimming and portioning the cuts. On the microscopic level, certain enzymes and good bacteria cause the flesh to tenderize and concentrate the meat’s natural taste. This saturation happens because the cut of beef loses moisture and size, while retaining its inherent flavour.

Is dry-aging safe to do at home?

Once upon a time, a home refrigerator would never be capable of dry-aging a cut of beef within food safety standards. Technological innovations mean your fridge likely keeps temperature and humidity levels more stable than older models, but unless equipped with an accurate thermometer and barometer– you may be taking an unnecessary risk by attempting the dry-age process at home. If you are equipped the appropriate tools and knowledge, you may be a good candidate to try dry-aging beef at home.

What are the benefits of home dry-aging?

A dry-aged cut of beef from a butcher or a steakhouse has gone through rigorous observation and quality assurance. Dry-aging at home means you can reproduce some of this environment, but it also means you can experiment to find what works best for your tastes. While your conditions may not be food-safe enough to age the beef as long as the professionals, short-term aging has shown to improve browning in steaks. Unfortunately, industrial equipment and culinary knowledge is required to achieve the deep, concentrated flavour of beef aged long-term (while avoiding any staleness or transfer of taste from the contents of a consumer-grade fridge).

Does D’Arcy’s carry dry-aged meat?

Desperate for that dry-aged taste, but let down by your do-it-yourself options? D’Arcy’s Meat Market not only carries a wide-range of dry-aged beef products cut-to-order, but our experts can help explain the dry-aging process and guide you to the right choice for you. We can offer advice on home dry-aging, but we can also produce custom orders by special request.

Questions about dry-aged beef? Curious about trying to dry-age beef at home? Contact or visit D’Arcy’s today!

Smoking Meats at Home

smoking meat at homeCooking food with indirect heat is an ancient practice, but you don’t have to follow sacred texts or carved tablets to make delicious smoked meats at home. More than just adding a smokey flavour– when done correctly, this type of cooking can tenderize even the toughest of cuts. Brisket? Ribs? Pulled or shredded meat? If you want fall-apart, fork-tender results… the only choice is smoking! D’Arcy’s guide will walk you through traditional smoking, as well as do-it-yourself methods for cooking with indirect heat.

TRADITIONAL SMOKING

There are as many smoking methods as there are cultures that practice this type of cooking, but most of them agree on using charcoal as the fuel source. Whether you use lumps, briquettes or a mixture, your meat should be placed above and away from the hottest coals in your smoker. Water-soaked wood chips or chunks are then added to create fragrant smoke as they smoulder slowly– you can experiment with different varieties such as hickory, apple or cherry. Smoke should be allowed to circulate and escape the cooking chamber, so the meat neither cooks too fast nor too slowly.

**NOTE** Traditional or not– smoking meat can take up the better part of 24 hours, depending on the quantity, size and fat-distribution of each cut. Professional smokers will always advise amateurs to allow plenty of time and to be patient. Remember: slow and steady wins the race… of deliciousness!

NO-SMOKER SMOKING

If you don’t have a fancy, dedicated device for smoking– don’t worry, you can still achieve amazing results with non-traditional methods. Some of the best barbecue comes from brick ovens, converted oil drums or even literal holes in the ground. Considering this, converting your standard backyard grill to an indirect heat smoker is easy by comparison.

  • For a gas grill, simply turn on one side of the burners to low and place a pie tin full of soaked wood chips over the heat– with the meat on the other side, keep the hood closed and the temperature steady.
  • For charcoal grills, push your hot coals to one side and follow the same practice as the gas grill.
  • Smoking can be even done in the kitchen! You need good ventilation and a reliable oven with racks that can be separated to upper and lower positions. Place the wood chips at the bottom on one side, place the meat at the bottom on the other side and keep it slow and low– allow for a long cooking time at a low heat setting.

The methods above– both traditional and D.I.Y.– only summarize the many nuances and intricacies of cooking with indirect heat. Commonly known in North America as smoking or barbecuing, there are few other techniques that result in such tender, flavourful meat. While the learning curve may seem steep, the first step is trying and D’Arcy’s Meat Market is here to help guide you with our own tips and answers to any questions you might have. Contact or visit us today!

BBQ BATTLE ROYALE: Dry Rub vs. Marinade vs. BBQ Sauce

dry rub vs marinade vs bbq sauceWhether you are dining on meat or vegetables, there are countless ways to season them– especially if they are headed for the grill! Since cooking over open flame is volatile, it is important to seal in flavours as thoroughly as possible. With that in mind, world famous chefs and pitmasters have settled on three methods of preparation: dry rubs, marinades and barbecue sauces. You may know some of the differences, but do you know how each should be used? Read on for D’Arcy’s BBQ Battle Royale and settle the score once and for all!

DRY RUB

The term “dry rub” is simply an umbrella that covers an infinite number of spice blends. These mixtures contain no liquid (“dry”) and they are worked into the raw ingredients by hand (“rub”). The hands-on approach means every crevice is coated with your chosen flavours; keeping the seasoning dry means less liquids will drip onto your cooking surface. An intense first-bite and blackened crust are some of the biggest attractions of meat or veg cooked with a dry rub.

MARINADE

Originally from the Spanish mar for sea, the term “marinade” was introduced into French cuisine at the start of the 18th-century– it meant to be pickled in a salty brine. Since then, marinade has evolved into a modern home cooking term to describe any seasoning (containing at least one liquid ingredient) used to infuse flavours into meat or vegetables. The key behind using a marinade is including a vinegar or another fluid with a chemical property that breaks down and softens food. A well-made marinade will produce fork-tender results while imparting a rich flavour and depth to the dish.

BBQ SAUCE

For many of us, the first time we encountered barbecue sauce may have been as a dipping sauce for chicken fingers… But of course, BBQ sauce is best used: on the barbecue! While suitable for a marinade, BBQ sauce typically has high sugar content– so it can burn easily if left over an open flame for an extended period. Ideally, you should apply your chosen BBQ sauce right at the end of high-temperature grilling. Alternatively, you may use BBQ sauce as a basting liquid if you are cooking for an extended period over a long temperature. Another tip is to boil down or reduce BBQ sauce to create a glaze!

AND THE WINNER IS…

…Your tastebuds! All of these methods are delicious on their own, but they can even be combined for mouthwatering results. The only limits is your imagination and the Laws of Thermodynamics– any questions and concerns can be answered by the experts at D’Arcy’s Meat Market. Contact or visit us today!

BIB-WORTHY: 4 Different Ways to Cook Ribs

4 different ways to cook ribsFor many home cooks, the barbecue is synonymous with ribs! Yet many versions of the “ideal” barbecue ribs exist– especially now that we have unlimited access to food shows, cooking blogs, online recipes and many other sources of inspiration. Here in Alberta, we are fortunate to be exposed to a wide selection of open-flame cuisines that reflects our cultural mosaic. Also, our access to top-quality beef means that beef ribs are just as popular for some dishes as pork ribs, the reigning champ of backyard BBQ.

 

#1: Marinate before grilling.

A technique as old as cooking itself: dressing a cut of meat in bold flavours is a surefire way to infuse taste and tenderness– and the longer it sits… the better! (Within food safety standards, of course). There are as many marinades as your imagination will allow, spanning all cultures and tastes. Certain ingredients can help synthesize the tougher proteins and fats of ribs into a fall-off-the-bone experience. For this reason, always be aware if you are grilling meat that is especially tender or has been marinated for a long time.

#2: Boil or roast, then grill or fry.

Start slow, finish fast– this is a mantra applied to many ways of preparing meat. Whether it be boiling, roasting or anything else, cooking ribs slowly over time will guarantee a fork- or tooth-tender experience. If you bring the ribs to just shy of tenderness, you can finish them on open flame or even deep fry them to perfection. Brush the finished product with its own cooked juices or your favorite sauce.

#3: Apply a dry rub, then grill or smoke.

Many barbecue experts south of the border swear by two concepts: an application of dry seasoning, followed by a day spent cooking over indirect heat. While this process provides an undeniable taste and texture, many Albertans enjoy the results of ribs with a dry rub over open flame. No matter how you cook it, all of the control comes when you choose or create your seasoning. Typical dry rubs feature salt, spice, sweetness with bold amounts of powdered flavours such as garlic and onion. A dry rub is also usually a great base for a barbecue sauce!

#4: Braise in the oven.

Steeping ribs in boldly-flavoured, complementary liquids, then cooking it a long time over a low heat– usually known as braising or stewing, this preparation spans all types of cuisines and cultures. Not only are you left with extremely tender ribs, but the cooking liquid can and is often reduced to an accompanying sauce or glaze. Pressure cookers, dutch ovens and slow-cookers can also offer stove top alternatives for braising ribs.

**TIP: When cooking over an open flame, whether it is smoking or grilling, your dish can change wildly just by choosing a different heat source. Cooking with smoke may be indirect, but the food is infused with the odor of the burning wood. Varietals such as mesquite, hickory, apple and countless others are widely available and each boasts their own subtle differences. If you are grilling, opting for a tasteless gas like propane or natural gas is a good way to highlight the taste of the food. Instead, burning wood or charcoal under a grill can add the sear and char unique to that type of open flame.

Of course there are dozens of other ways to cook ribs, if not hundreds. If you want to try a new recipe or method for pork or beef ribs, contact or visit D’Arcy’s today! Our helpful staff is always happy to offer advice and guidance for your next backyard barbecue project.