When it comes to sourcing meat, the quality and history of the animal are important now more than ever. We had the chance to sit down with Gabriel LLaurado, co-founder of Meat N’ Bone (meatnbone.com) butchery and The Wagyu Bar restaurant, to learn all about the modern meat industry and his successful business.
Meat N’ Bone founders Luis Mata, Gabriel LLaurado, German Vollbracht
After launching an online butcher shop, shipping to over 40,000 clients nationwide, and soon after a brick and mortar restaurant, LLaurado and his team have learned all about sourcing the best beef, from the best programs. With a strong emphasis on where and how the cows were raised, Meat N’ Bone sources USDA Choice and USDA Prime beef from US MidWestern Farms, Domestic Wagyu Beef from the MidWest, Japanese beef from Miyazaki, Japan and the Wagyu-Angus Cross Beef (Prime+) from Australia.
Featuring more than 300 cuts of premium-quality meat, LLaurado has learned the ins and outs of the industry. From how to source the correct meat, to marketing buzz words commonly used in the industry, LLaurado gets real and gives us insight into all things wagyu and beef.
Meat N’ Bone A5 Japanese Wagyu Ribeye in Packages
What defines a piece of meat being wagyu?
The word "Wagyu" translates to "Japanese Cow" (Wa means Japanese and gyu means cow). It’s just a word used to define beef which comes from a particular breed of cow. In America we usually raise Angus cattle, in Japan they raise Wagyu.
The more Wagyu, the more expensive the steak is.
When shopping for meat the term, “grass-fed” comes up quite often, what does it really mean?
The term "grass-fed" doesn't mean much, it's not regulated by any government entity. As a result, the claim "grass-fed" is similar to the term "sashimi grade or sushi-grade" you will see in the supermarket. Basically, the claim of "grass-fed beef" is only as trustworthy as the market that makes it.
That being said, there are programs (like ours) that are 100% grass-fed, 100% grass-finished. But, they start getting expensive as animals may take up to a full extra year to reach maturity. That's an additional year of feeding and an additional year of labor. In theory, grass-fed beef will be leaner, grain-fed will be fattier and richer in flavor.
Meat N’ Bone Prime Rib
When purchasing steak from a butcher, what is the main thing to look for?
Ask questions: Where is the beef sourced from? How long has it been aged for? Is it Angus? What farm or program does it come from?
There are two types of butchers, those that know beef programs and have done their homework, then there are those who just buy from wholesalers and broadliners. You want your butcher to know their product, to make sure it's been wet-aged for long enough. You also usually will want either high-grade choice or Prime, or if going for Wagyu, the sourcing and grading are important.
Can you explain the two methodologies used to age beef?
Beef aging does not pertain to the age of the cattle but instead refers to the amount of time the meat has been stored and refrigerated.
Wet aging is the dominant mode of aging beef in the U.S. and UK today. It is popular with producers, wholesalers and retailers because it takes less time, typically only a few days and there is no moisture loss. So, any given piece of meat sold by weight will have a higher value than a dry-aged piece where moisture loss is desired for taste at the expense of final weight. Dry aging beef is a much more complex and expensive process. Unlike wet aging, not only does it add tenderness but it also enhances the flavor of the beef.
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Is there a secret to cooking the perfect steak?
Half the fun of cooking is trying different things and getting different results. There are so many ways to cook a steak that it would be unfair to say there is a proper way. The perfect way to cook a steak is that in which you will smile after the first bite.
The middle cuts (Ribeye, New York, Filet Mignon) are easy and simple to cook. We recommend cooking in indirect heat to a good medium-rare and then searing the steak. From there it gets a little bit trickier. Some will require high heat, such as a skirt, and others, like a brisket, are better low and slow.
Is there a proper way to defrost a steak?
Overnight in your fridge is the best way to do it. You can also grab a vacuum-sealed steak and leave it in cold water for half an hour and it will be just as good, but you cannot refreeze it. If you thaw it out underwater, you must eat it that day.
Do you have a favorite wine to pair with your steaks?
We like to keep our wine offering simple and unique! I am partial to Cattleya Cuvée Number One, it is a small production Pinot Noir that I find just perfect. But a good Turnbull or Caymus Cab always goes well with a steak.
EAT MORE WAGYU
LLaurado and the rest of the team at Meat N’ Bone prioritizes educating their customers and readers. Stay up to date on all things wagyu and beef through their The Clever Cleaver blog, giving many tips and tricks from the meat industry.
Photography by: Courtesy Meat N' Bone