If there is one aspect of getting older that I have come to appreciate, it’s that life is too short for cheap beer and lousy food. While my younger years were spent guzzling domestic piss water from the Colorado Rockies and devouring any and all burgers sold under arches at a dollar a pop, I’m getting into the finer things these days. No, I’m not saying that I’ve done went and got all uppity fuckity and now I’m a super snob about the food and drink I dump into my body, but, yeah, I kind of am. And you should be too, for that matter. There’s nothing wrong with washing down the occasional McSkank with a case of Busch Light, but there comes a time in every man’s life when a really nice burger paired with a flavorful brew (perhaps one produced at home) hinges on spiritual. This meal can be a carnivorous break from the grind and help set a man up for greatness. Truly. But then again, maybe it’s not that deep. Perhaps it’s just that every swinging dick out there trying to make a go of it (regardless of whatever that “it” is) deserves to treat themselves, if for no other reason than to celebrate those ever-so elusive victories. More often than not, we are going to have to take those wherever we can get them, no matter how small.
When it comes to getting a real badass burger, there’s just nothing better, in my opinion, than one made with Wagyu (pronounced: wah-gyoo) beef. The Japanese, man, they must be holding the secrets to the universe or something. Because they have figured out how to tweak the genetics of the average moo-moo in a way that creates an intense marbling of fat for a buttery burger that should make other cows ashamed of themselves. Even though there is a lot of controversy over whether this ground cow is really better than other varieties, I’m here to tell you, it is. It’s akin to flying first class and then trying to go back to economy fare to save a little money. Anyone who has done this understands that it’s impossible, at least not without spending hours drowning in buyer’s remorse and suicidal tendencies. I would caution you this: If you do not have the cash to consistently fly among the champagne-sipping privileged traveler, do not dip your toe in those waters, not even once. It’s aeronautic heroin up there in the front.
But Wagyu burgers, while definitely more expensive than the craptastic skultch you’ll find in the supermarket, is something that Mr. Every Man can afford to do on occasion. Ground Wagyu beef can be purchased for as little as $12.11 per pound through local farms and meat membership platforms, like my go-to at the moment, Crowd Cow. They specialize in raising 100% full-blooded Wagyu cattle and their products are verified by the American Wagyu Association. Not every farm can say that. I mean, there are a lot of meat shops out there claiming that they’ve got the goods, but unless the customer knows the difference, they could easily end up on the business end of a beef bamboozle.
Part of what makes Wagyu beef better than others is the cows are provided with a happy, low-stress life where they are grass and mash-fed and free to roam in acres of pasture until their number is up. Hell, who wouldn’t be okay with moo-ving on to the great beyond between two buns and a slice of pepperjack cheese if they got to hang out in the hills of Vermont overlooking the Connecticut river? All I’m saying is these cows have a better life than most humans. So it makes sense that buying Wagyu beef from top-notch farms and not leaning on Walmart slaughterhouses is the way to go when wanting to procure a pound or two for a real-deal burger night.
And while this ground beef is more affordable than Wagyu steaks (some of that can hit three figures per pound), it’s still too costly to botch it once it lands in the kitchen. So, you’ll need some basic skills. Fortunately, however, there’s no need to get all fancy pants about the cooking process. Simplicity is the key to making delicious Wagyu burgers from the comforts of home. Just be careful who you invite over for dinner. This is baby-making fare and child support isn’t cheap.
Okay, so, cooking Wagyu is not done the same way as the typical burger. It’s even done differently than other grass-fed beef. So if you’re out there thinking that you can just toss a couple of patties on the grill like you always do, you need to wise up. We don’t have to summon the culinary genius of Anthony Bourdain or anything (though I really wish that we could) to do these suckers up right, but a little extra care, in the beginning, will undoubtedly bring us more flavor and enjoyment. Yet, we’re not dealing with rocket science, so there’s no need to be intimidated. Just follow these four, easy steps, and you’ll be making legendary Wagyu burgers in no time.
One: Pull the ground wagyu out of the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature. The reason we do this is to speed up the cooking time and deliver the best possible burger. While you’re at it, grab a beer. No, not the Busch Light, dummy. We need a fluffer for the old taste buds. Lots of flavor from start to finish. I’ve noticed that IPAs and Wagyu burgers pair well. I have a few homebrews that I’ve done recently using Citra, Cascade and Centennial hops that bring out the natural flavors of a good burger and just make life better. Whatever brew you enjoy though will work fine. My life is just going to be better than yours. But that’s okay. You’ll get there.
Two: Patty out the burgers to around an inch thick. A pound of ground Wagyu should make two of them. Now, it is important to understand that the meat is the real Rockstar here. There’s no need to start hitting it with every seasoning in the kitchen to try and make it better. In fact, that’s going to work against you. From my experience, a little salt and pepper is all that is needed. Sure, some people like to toss on a bit of garlic powder, as well. I don’t think it’s necessary. The fat in the beef is going to produce more flavor than anything you have in the seasoning cabinet.
Three: Wagyu burgers need to be cooked hot and fast. We want to heat a cast-iron skillet (if you don’t have one, they are super affordable, and a must-have) somewhere between medium and high. There’s so much fat in these burgers that it’s not necessary to add any extra oil. As soon as the skillet starts smoking up a storm, sear the patties for around 3-4 minutes per side – until browned. Whatever you do, no matter how much you are tempted to mess with them, don’t. Don’t do anything stupid like use a spatula to press down on the patties and squeeze all of the juices out. You’ll only be robbing yourself of flavor. And it’s even possible that the Wagyu gods will swoop down from the heavens and whoop your ass all over the kitchen. You’ll deserve it, too. Seriously, just let the patties do their thing and you won’t be disappointed. If you are adding cheese to your burger, toss it on in the final 30 seconds or so. Once they are finished, pull them out of the skillet and let rest for around 5 minutes. This will help lock in all of those juices that we worked so hard to contain. That’s the baby-making magic right there. So watch out!
Four: Put the patties on a quality roll (I like brioche, but any bun you want will work fine). From there, you can dress the burgers. Again, the meat is the star player, so I don’t find it necessary to drown it in condiments. That sort of defeats the purpose of buying high-quality Wagyu beef. The most I’ll add is a little lettuce and tomato. And that’s a big maybe. I want to taste the burger, and so will you. After all, the only burger condiment a man really needs is a cold beer by his side.
Alright, boys, let’s eat!