When I read in a newspaper that Aldi was selling Wagyu beef for just £6.99 for an 8oz steak, I fell off my chair. This just couldn’t be true, could it? I am a devotee of the great black Japanese breed, as you can see from these archives.
It is, bar none, the best beef I’ve ever tasted, for a couple of reasons:
• The marbling of fat that runs through it like a cobweb makes it the most unctuous, juicy, mouth-fillingly gorgeous meat on the planet.
• Cooked properly, in a searing hot pan, for just a couple of minutes each side, a wagyu steak forms the crunchiest, sweetest, caramelised crust this side of honeycomb. It is stupendous.
But that deliciousness comes at a price. The first time I had Wagyu beef was for a special occasion in Jason Atherton’s Maze Grill. One rib-eye steak set my wife back £110 (well, it was her treat to me!) – a price topped only by a Wagyu striploin in Wolfgang Puck’s The Cut in London’s Mayfair, which set my wife back (again – she loves me very much!) £129.
After much hunting and tracking and scouring and searching, I eventually managed to find a source of my own: Australian Wagyu Beef – both striploin and fillet – for the still expensive, but not extortionate (for what it is) price of around £25 per steak (some butchers offer it for £30 per steak).
Now, not all Wagyu is created equal. It is graded from 1 to 12 depending on the amount of marbling running through the meat.
The best quality Wagyu you can buy in the UK is is grade 6-7. And this is what it looks like – a couple of fillet steaks and a couple of trimmed sirloins.
Which brings us to the Aldi Wagyu. How can they possibly be selling £25 steaks for £6.99?
The news release accompanying its sale declared: “For a limited time from Thursday 12th June, you will be able to enjoy the world’s finest Wagyu Rib Eye and Sirloin Steak from Aldi for just £6.99 a steak.
“Our fresh Wagyu Steaks are of the highest premium quality cuts, hailing from cows that are fed on a rich diet of grass in New Zealand.
“The marbling is a key indicator to how good this meat is. A good marble through the meat will tell you that the meat will be full of flavour and deliciously moist. Our steaks have been graded 3- 6, which indicates its’ high level of marbling.”
This is what it looks like, shorn of packaging.
And therein lies the difference – just those three little points.
But that difference isn’t just in the way it looks, but the way it tastes, and the way it chews.
The grade 6-7 Wagyu (let’s call it MY Wagyu) cuts like butter, chews like foie fras, floods the mouth with savoury, umami fat that causes you to drool so much you should never try eating in in public.
The Aldi Wagyu has nowhere near the amount of marbling, and this is reflected when it comes out of the pan: the meat is tighter, chewier; juicy, but not as much as mine. And with a slightly ‘iron’ aftertaste (perhaps because of the way it has been packaged? I don’t know).
In other words, a damn fine steak – for the price. As good a steak, I would argue, as any Aberdeen Angus you’d find in your local butcher.
But not as good as MY steak. In my humble opinion. But is MY steak worth £18.01 more than the Aldi Wagyu? Judge for yourself…(if you lick the screen, you can taste the beefy juices).
• Thank you to my dear friend Sara who, at great risk to her personal safety, tried to buy FOUR Aldi Wagyu steaks but was told in no uncertain terms she would be shot through the head if she didn’t adhere to the two steaks per person policy. She managed to wrestle a couple from the arms of a middle class meat-obsessed customer and kindly gave me this one for my review.