What is the Zabuton?

The zabuton is a rich and delicious steak sourced from the chuck primal. Although cuts from the chuck, or shoulder, tend to be lean and fibrous, the zabuton is abundant with intramuscular fat and has a buttery texture and flavor. In fact, meat scientists have found this is the 4th most tender of all beef cuts.

At Snake River Farms we cut the zabuton as a variation on NAMP 116E with the addition of the neck end of the 116D. It can also be described as the extension of the chuck tail flap underblade. This area is made up of three muscles, the primary being the serratus ventralis. Also known as the Beef Chuck, Under Blade Roast, it is located below the shoulder blade. Many cuts from the underblade area are tough and used for ground beef or stew meat, but the highly marbled zabuton is a shining exception.

The shoulder muscles get a lot more use than other areas which makes them tough, but the zabuton is a support muscle that is less used and contains a high level of marbling. Removing this prized cut requires superior butchery skills to extract, which is one reason it is difficult to find at your local grocery store.

The Snake River Farms zabuton is cut to about 8.5” x 2.25” x 1.5” (this is a natural product and the size varies). It can be prepared as a single steak and we have seen premier chefs, like award-winning Napa Valley Chef Phillip Tessier, cut these steaks into even sized rectangles for a better plate appearance.

In Japan, the zabuton is sometimes served as a full-sized steak, but is more frequently cut into bite-sized steaks, sliced thin for shabu shabu (hot pot) orseared directly on a hot grill for yakiniku, which is similar to Korean BBQ.

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WHAT DOES ZABUTON MEAN IN JAPANESE?

In the Japanese language, the word ‘zabuton’ means pillow. It’s a square, thin cushion placed on tatami mats and used for sitting on the floor. Our team in Japan says this is a customary piece that is only found in very traditional places or at an older person like a grandparent’s home. When this particularly rare cut of Japanese Wagyu beef is cut and served in small, neat squares or rectangles it resembles these sitting pillows.

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WHEN EAST MEETS WEST

In our early visits to Japan, we experienced first hand the way chefs prepared Wagyu beef. There were cuts similar to those in the U.S. but one particular item, the zabuton, caught our attention. We were inspired by this unique Japanese cut and in 2003, took this newfound knowledge back to Idaho and introduced the zabuton in our product line. After chefs tried this unique and deeply marbled cut, there was strong demand for our limited supply of zabuton.

In about 2008, a similar cut known as the Denver steak entered the market. This was a result of the Beef Checkoff program, established by a Farm Bill and overseen by the USDA. A goal of the program was to identify innovative new cuts of beef. This included the zabuton/Denver, as well as the flat iron and teres major (or petite tender) which were introduced in 2004.

HOW DOES THE ZABUTON TASTE?

One look at the intense marbling of the American Wagyu zabuton gives you a hint at how it will taste. This high level intramuscular fat translates to plentiful flavor and juiciness. Most cuts from the chuck are extremely robust and beefy, but the zabuton has a more subdued profile that is savory and buttery in both flavor and texture.

WHAT'S THE BEST WAY TO COOK A ZABUTON?

The zabuton can be prepared using your preferred steak cooking technique, but our favorite method is the reverse sear. Since the SRF American Wagyu zabuton contains a high level of marbling, it’s important to heat it to the point that the intramuscular fat melts and liquifies. This will give you the best flavor and texture.

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With that in mind, we recommend serving this cut in a range from medium rare to medium or 125 to 130 for the finished internal temperature. If you enjoy a rare steak, keep in mind we’ve found it’s difficult to get the full juicy flavor at a lower temperature. As with all our steaks, we never recommend a well done steak.

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REVERSE SEAR

This method cooks a steak at low temp, then adds a nice crust as the finishing step. This is a good technique for thicker steaks like the zabuton which we cut to 1.5 inches. You can do this indoors in the oven and finish on the stovetop or outside on a gas or charcoal grill.

PREPARE THE OVEN OR GRILL

Heat oven to 275°F. (You can also use a temp as low as 225°F, but the cook time will be slightly longer). If using a grill, prepare it for two-zone cooking with a hot side with all the coals and a cool side with no coals. For a gas grill, turn on one burner and leave the other one off.

Cover a baking sheet with foil and place a metal rack in the middle. The idea is to elevate the steak from the pan. You can skip this step of using a grill.

SEASON

Season zabuton liberally with kosher salt. You can do this up to 24 hours in advance for optimal salinity and tenderness, but if you’re in a time crunch simply do this step before cooking.

COOK

Place the pan, grill and steak in the oven. For grills, place the steak directly on the cool side. Leave in the oven or grill until the steak reaches the temperature that matches your preference. For medium-rare, cook until 125°F or 130°F for medium. This can take up to 60 minutes, but begin checking the internal temperature at 30 minutes to avoid overcooking.

REST

When your desired internal temp is reached, remove steak from oven or grill, loosely cover with foil and allow to rest for 10 to 15 minutes.

SEAR
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Indoors, add a light coating of vegetable oil to a heavy skillet and heat over high heat until hot. Sear steak on each side for 60 to 90 seconds to form a beautiful crust. Serve.

Outdoors, check to see the grill is as hot as possible. Place the steak on the hot side of the grill and sear on each side for 60 to 90 seconds to char and brown the exterior. Serve

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GET STARTED

The zabuton is a special cut that every beef lover must try. It’s deep marbling and unique flavor will delight your palate. We recommend trying it as a steak and in more traditional Japanese styles like yakiniku and shabu shabu. Create your own culinary experience of East Meets West with the zabuton, or any of the savory American Wagyu cuts, from Snake River Farms.