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"This was hands down the best beef I have ever had!"
— John O. of Albany, California
"That Wagyu was life changing. No joke."
— David A. of Seattle, Washington
“So many told me, 'you can't smoke butter.' I say, yes you can…” --Arturo Ramon II (@TexasGrillMaster)
Smoking a brisket is the holy grail for most experienced smokers. Smoking an A5 Wagyu Brisket--well that is just plain unheard of in the USA and maybe only even whispered about elsewhere. In fact, a quick Google search will tell you that it really hasn’t been done much at all. Until now. Crowd Cow is bringing the heat...and the smoke.
We met up with Arturo Ramon II, better known as @texasgrillmaster online, after he smoked one of these A5 Wagyu beauties for the first time to ask him how he did it, what surprised him the most, and what all the sizzle is about!
Q: When you first received the brisket what were your initial thoughts on how you would approach it?
A: I was pretty nervous and I didn’t want to veer too far from what I’ve normally done. I've been smoking meat for 20 years, but I also wanted to respect the uniqueness of this cut.
Q: How did you defrost the meat?
A: I defrosted it in the fridge for two days. You don’t want to thaw it on the counter because the fat starts to melt at room temperature.
Q: How did you trim the brisket? How was this different than how you usually trim a brisket?
A: I wouldn’t even use the term “trim.” I merely cleaned it up. The fat on this type of brisket is gold and I didn’t want to lose that. I did trim off an end that would have been too thin to smoke and grilled it on a salt block. It honestly cooked up like one of the best steaks I’ve ever had -- far more tender than your average brisket, which you could never cook like that. It was my appetizer while I waited for my entree to smoke.
Q: Did you season it at all?
A: I have all kinds of rubs that I normally use, but I wanted the natural integrity and flavor of the meat to shine through, so I kept it simply and used some fine sel gris (salt) and let that penetrate the meat for 4-5 hours before smoking.
Q: Let’s chat wood chips, etc. What did you use?
A: I didn’t want to overpower the meat so I started with oak chips and then added cherry and apple chunks every hour.
Q: How did the smoking go down? How often did you check on it? What temperatures were you using to gauge progress?
A: As I said, I was nervous. Who wouldn’t be? There aren’t many people who have ever smoked meat like this. However, I quickly learned that the meat is forgiving.
I placed the brisket in the smoker fat side up. When I began I set the temperature to 240°, but an hour later I decided to lower this to 220°.
Checking in every hour, I added more apple and cherry wood chips. The brisket stalled about 4 hours in at 162°(usually 140° for a normal brisket), which was my cue to wrap it. After 8 hours, it had that ‘wiggly’ feel and I pulled it off at 198°. If I did it again I would let it go until 202° (about 30-40 more minutes).
Q: Did you capture the drippings?
A: Sure did! I used them to saute veggies. Like butter, but way, way better.
Q: Did you dig right in?
A: No! I wrapped it in butcher paper and put it in a Yeti for about an hour to let the juices set.
Q: Okay, fine. But then you ate it right?!
A: Yes. It was like nothing I had ever tasted but also vaguely familiar. It's hard to explain. You just need to experience it for yourself.
Q: What shocked you about the whole experience?
A: I expected it to be too rich to consume like a normal brisket, but it wasn’t. You can still slam it down! It was a glorious, glorious, glorious piece of meat. Just amazing. Honestly, it was one of the best briskets I’ve ever tasted.
We’ve gone to great (and enormously fun) lengths to bring you this A5 Wagyu, sourced directly from farms in Kagoshima and Miyazaki, Japan.
We've visited producers across Japan, including Hyogo prefecture where we met with producers that raise animals for Kobe Beef and witnessed a carcass rating ceremony to rank A5 Wagyu (it was a nail-biter).
As is always our biggest priority at Crowd Cow, we sought out the very best beef producers and worked directly with them to bring more transparency and convenience than is offered anywhere else.
Read more about our journey to the inside of the Japanese beef world and about Kagoshima, the prefecture that this A5 Wagyu comes from. Check out our return to Kagoshima this year.
It's the Olympic Games you've never heard of. Since 1966, Japan's beef industry has held a nationwide competition every five years to crown the best beef in the country. It's called Zenkoku Wagyu Noryku Kyoshin-kai (全国和牛能力共進会) but it's known also as "The Wagyu Olympics."
There are 11 prize categories, one of the more interesting of which measures the quality of the fats (looking for things like the health-promoting and umami-generating oleic acid). There's also an overall winner, based on the average of scores across the categories.
Last year's event was held in September in Miyagi Prefecture and brought together over 400,000 people and scores of artisanal and craft beef producers from 39 prefectures. Who won? Kagoshima! Kagoshima is where Crowd Cow has sourced this A5 Wagyu and we're proud that Kagoshima beef took the top prize based on overall contest scores (総合得点による「団体賞」は、鹿児島県が１位). You could say that Kagoshima's A5 Wagyu is the best beef in Japanese beef right now!
You've probably heard of Kobe beef, or eaten a "Wagyu Burger." Thanks to mislabeling and almost no regulations in the US on the use of these labels, the terms are the subject of much confusion.
In order to be certified Kobe beef, the cattle must be Japanese Black Wagyu (Kuroge Washu) and pure Tajima. Also, the cows must be bred, raised and slaughtered in the Hyogo prefecture of Japan and the meat must reach a Body Marbling Score (BMS) of 6 or more. Since there are over 40 prefectures in Japan, this means that there are lots of other producers raising great quality Kuroge Washu (the breed of cattle that produces the amazing marbling you see in these pictures).
So what about "American Kobe?" The fact is, most of the beef marketed in the US as Wagyu or Kobe has only a very small percentage of wagyu genetics in it. That's not to say it won't be delicious or well-marbled, just that if you don't know the producer it came from, and they don't have a registered herd, you don't really know what you're buying. We're proud to also work with some American producers of Wagyu too and are very transparent about whether their herds are Wagyu-Angus cross-breeds or full-blood (100% genetically pure).