This Is Michael Symon's Budget-Friendly Alternative To Wagyu Beef

It's the time of year to splurge on fancy food gifts for the gourmands in the family. If you've got a group of hungry carnivores on your hand, you might have thought about treating everyone to some Japanese wagyu beef as part of a festive holiday dinner. But celebrity chef and restaurateur Michael Symon has a different idea, and it's one that could save you tons of money — wagyu is notoriously expensive.

A fan on Twitter recently asked Symon, "What do you think of the a5 wagyu ribeyes that are like $200 for one steak. Something you should try once?" They said that they were thinking about getting one, but that the price, $250 for 23 oz, was a little steep. Symon agrees. "I personally love a prime dry aged steak," the chef replied, "and obv it's significantly less money." But what's the difference between prime dry aged steak and wagyu, anyway? 

The difference between prime steak and wagyu beef

To be frank, a lot of the wagyu beef sold in the United States is fake, or at least a long way off from being real Japanese wagyu. In Japan, wagyu just means Japanese beef, and different types of wagyu come from different parts of Japan (like the famous Kobe beef). In general, though, wagyu is richly marbled with fat and prized for its decadence. In the United States, beef only needs to have 46.9% wagyu in its genetics to be labeled as such, and in restaurants, the USDA doesn't have any jurisdiction to say whether restaurants can call their beef wagyu or not. Basically, wagyu in the US isn't just pricey, it's also hard to guarantee that you're even getting what you paid for.

Prime, dry-aged beef, on the other hand, is a little easier to figure out. According to Clover Meadows Beef, only 2% of beef in the US is allowed to be called prime grade, which is the highest grading given out by the USDA. Prime beef is known for its marbling, which makes the meat more flavorful and juicy than "choice" and "select" grade beef. Dry-aged prime beef, Symon's wagyu alternative, is basically a really great cut of steak that's aged, which concentrates and develops the flavor of the meat. It's still expensive, and still makes a great gift, but you'll see significant savings, making it a great substitute according to Symon.