What is a Wagyu Burger?

Japan is a nation that is known for producing quality goods, and this also extends to their food and drink. You’ve likely heard of A5 wagyu beef, which is widely considered to be the best in the world, but have you ever heard of a burger made out of it?

So, what is a wagyu burger? A wagyu burger is a burger that is made out of ground wagyu beef. Wagyu beef is known for its high quality and marbling, so it makes for an excellent choice to put on top of a bun in a burger.

While you’ll find wagyu burgers in the United States, there is no guarantee that these burgers are made out of real Japanese wagyu.

While a wagyu burger may sound like the epitome of lavish eating, you have to be sure that you’re getting the real thing when you go out and buy one. I’m going to explore what separates a real wagyu burger from a fake one and also answer a few burning questions that people tend to have about these burgers.

What is a Wagyu Burger?

I’m going to take a look at what goes into making a wagyu burger.

From the outside, this question may seem like a relatively simple one. It stands to reason that a wagyu burger is one that is made using wagyu beef, but there’s a lot more that goes into a wagyu burger than that. The first thing to consider is that the definition of wagyu beef can be relatively flexible, depending on where you are.

For example, if you’re in Japan, then you can be reasonably assured that you’re consuming real wagyu beef in your burger when it’s advertised as such. Be sure to pay close attention to the grade of the beef, as most people looking for the best possible wagyu beef will want a burger that is made of A5 wagyu, which is the highest grade.

This means that the wagyu beef had the best possible level of marbling according to the Japanese grading system. This kind of grade would typically be off the charts if the USDA was grading the beef, since A5 wagyu features about twice as much marbling as even the best cuts of Angus in the US.

True A5 wagyu beef is notoriously difficult to import into the USA, and American wagyu beef is typically born and bred in the United States. Unfortunately, the USA has very lax definitions of what constitutes wagyu beef, and you may be misled into thinking that you’re having the world’s best beef when it isn’t really comparable to it.

This is because the Japanese Meat Grading Association (JMGA) only operates in Japan, as you’d expect them to, and they’re the only ones that hold wagyu beef to such high standards. Since wagyu beef is literally off the charts of other bodies that govern food grades, it’s only natural that wagyu in other countries will be held to less exacting standards.

Unfortunately, the exacting standards in Japan are exactly what makes it so that their wagyu beef is the best in the world. Think of it as the difference between a huge, beautifully cut and clear diamond being compared to a diamond of equal size that has poor refractive qualities and is rough.

This may have you wondering whether a real wagyu burger even exists, and you’ll be happy to hear that the large number of American tourists in Japan has led to many Japanese restaurants and hotels offering a wagyu burger. In fact, one hotel even offers a burger that weighs three kilos and is worth $946!

Does Turning Wagyu into a Burger Ruin It?

While wagyu burgers are certainly possible, many culinary experts doubt whether or not they’re even worth the money because of how ground beef diminishes the advantages of a cut of wagyu steak. The main advantage of wagyu is how perfectly the meat is marbled, but does this matter when you grind it up?

Making ground beef out of wagyu meat means that it loses the natural distribution of fat throughout the meat, detracting from one of the main reasons why people love it. Since the marbling in a wagyu steak is responsible for its juiciness and tenderness, this diminishes the quality of the burger, relative to wagyu in steak form.

When you grind up wagyu beef, it also means that the burger patty will become a lot more saturated with fat than your typical burger, meaning that it may not be quite as suitable for cooking burgers in the first place.

If you were to grind up genuine A5 wagyu into burger meat, you’d end up with a patty that is so filled with fat that it would literally break into pieces the moment that you tried to cook it. This is because the fat holding the meat together would essentially liquify and break down the meat.

Another thing to consider is that the maximum allowable amount of fat in ground beef is capped at 30%, and even that’s considered above the reasonable limit for the meat used in a burger. Even the fattiest of ground beef that is typically used in burgers is around 25%.

Yet another issue is that wagyu beef is cooked with the intent of tasting the meat itself, especially due to how flavorful it is compared to your typical beef. When you place it in a burger, you diminish your experience of the flavors due to the toppings that are typically on burgers.

Even if you have a plain wagyu beef burger, the inclusion of the bun will only add unnecessary blandness to the palate, making the wagyu taste less prevalent. 

Of course, it’s still possible to make a quality wagyu beef burger. You have to be sure not to season the meat too heavily to ensure that its flavor remains in it. You’ll also want to be sure that you cook your burger to the point that it’s medium rare, as cooking it until it’s well-done will eliminate many of the best flavors in the meat.

There is much debate between chefs and cooks when it comes to whether or not wagyu burgers are worth the money and effort of preparation.