There are three ways to look at the most expensive steak in the world if you want to determine what steak is taking the crown for the priciest.
- What is the most expensive type of beef (Angus, Wagyu, etc)
- What is the most expensive cut of beef (sirloin, NY strip steak, etc)
- What is the most expensive individual steak (Papi Restaurant tomahawk steak, Old Homesteads A5+10 Japanese Wagyu, etc)
In general, the most expensive type of beef in the world is a Japanese A5 Kobe ribeye, New York strip steak, or, if you’re very hungry, a tomahawk which can get up to $1,000. The most expensive cut of any kind of beef is typically the filet mignon which often costs at least $20 per pound directly from the farmer and can reach as much as $300 per pound if it's a wagyu filet from a restaurant. Finally, the most expensive individual steak which may no longer even be available is the Vintage Cote De Boeuf ribeye which cost $3,200 per serving.
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What is the Difference Between Kobe and Wagyu?
Most people nowadays are well aware of Japanese Kobe beef and that it tends to be the most premium and expensive beef in the world. It has a rich marbling that gives it a standout taste and the cattle are raised in a very hands-on and luxurious way. Their feed is extremely high end and may even include beer and sake and some breeds even massage their cows. The meat produced from these cows is prized for its incredibly rich marbling. If you ever watch a Wagyu/Kobe beef steak cooking you can see the fat just melting away and making the finish produce an incredibly juicy and flavorful steak. You’ll see people using the word “buttery” to describe these steaks very often, and with good reason.
The words Kobe and Wagyu are often thrown around together in a way that makes it difficult to know the difference between the two, and there is a difference. The easiest way to differentiate Kobe beef and Wagyu beef is to remember that all Kobe beef is Wagyu but not all Wagyu beef is Kobe.
Wagyu more or less means “Japanese cattle” and there are actually four different breeds of cow that qualify as Wagyu.
- Japanese Black
- Japanese Brown
- Japanese Polled
- Japanese Shorthorn
Kobe beef is just one very specific type of Wagyu. The rules around what makes Kobe beef specifically Kobe beef are actually pretty strict. All Kobe beef is from the Tajima strain of the Japanese Black breed. They are raised in a place called Hyogo prefecture, which you could consider like a county in Japan. The capital of Kyogo is Kobe so that’s why the name is used. But if it was raised in a nearly identical style somewhere else, it couldn’t be called Kobe. It’s sort of like how people point out the distinction that true champagne literally has to come from the Champagne region, otherwise it’s sparkling wine. It may taste almost exactly the same, but it’s still not the same. What you’re paying for is the name, the history, and the skill that went into making the beef as much as the beef itself.
One thing worth knowing is that while Kobe is considered by many to be the best Wagyu, there are actually a lot of kinds of Wagyu out there named for different areas.
What is an A5 Steak?
A5 is a grading system used for beef in Japan. In much the same way American meat is grade A, AA or AAA, the Japanese system grades beef on a handful of factors. In order to qualify as A5, the highest rating, the beef is graded according to the following factors.
- Beef Marbling Score (BMS)
- Beef Color Standard (BCS)
- Beef Fat Standard (BFS)
A steak that achieves top marks in all five areas is an A5 and will be more expensive than lower grades.
What is American Kobe?
By definition, there is no actual American Kobe beef, not technically. Kobe is in Japan so only Japan can produce beef from Kobe. That said, America can and does produce Kobe “style” beef, or American Wagyu beef. The cattle can be raised and treated in 100% the exact same way as the beef in Japan, it’s just the American version.
You can get Japanese Wagyu in America, but the supplies are often very limited and, naturally, it’s more expensive. So those who want the experience can often find the American version at a slightly better price. But it’s still expensive.
At most restaurants if you’re looking for a Kobe steak dinner, be prepared to spend around $200. It will obviously vary from place to place, and restaurants with more of a reputation may charge more. Japanese Kobe is going to be the most expensive beef you’re likely to find. Lower grade meat, which is below the A5, is still going to cost you at least $250 per pound and probably a good deal more. Remember, when you talk about Kobe being lower grade, you’re still talking about beef that’s considered higher quality than almost any other steak out there.
An A5 Japanese Kobe steak is a bank breaker for sure, the most elevated Kobe beef steaks on the market, and could cost you $400 to start. At a restaurant, if you wanted a ribeye, you’d likely pay around $500.
Japanese Wagyu Beef
You can buy a 20 ounce steak that claims to be A5 Japanese Wagyu for $229 on Amazon. The price of Japanese Wagyu is around $150 to $200 per pound usually, so this is not all that unusual, especially with inflation boosting those numbers since the pandemic.
American Wagyu steaks, incidentally, can still get pricey but depending on the cut you can get good deals. A 10 oz American Wagyu top sirloin steak is under $30. American Wagyu is often leaner than authentic Kobe beef, however, and when directly prepared most diners prefer the Japanese.
Another kind of Wagyu that makes waves sometimes is the Olive Wagyu. This is from a small island in Japan that is known for olive groves and olive oil. Part of the process of raising their cattle involves feeding them the toasted olive pulp in their feed, alongside the usual barley and other grains. The cows really took to the new feed and the meat produced was incredibly unique and flavorful, with a yellowish marbling, making it a standout even among prized Wagyu.
Steak, or more specifically beef fat, contains something called oleic acid which is what really gives beef that umami flavor that makes it so popular and desirable. Olives also contain oleic acid. So beef fed a diet full of olive has a much higher oleic acid content. The result is that Olive Wagyu is more tender and flavorful than pretty much any other kind of beef.
A 16 ounce Olive Wagyu ribeye costs around $250. That said, at restaurant prices there is almost no difference between Olive and Kobe at this point in terms of pricing, so expect to pay $450 to $500 for an olive ribeye, assuming you can find a restaurant that carries the very rare meat.
Omi or Ohmi is another kind of Wagyu that comes from Shiga prefecture in Japan. It’s considered one of the top three kinds of Wagyu alongside Matsuzaka and, of course, Kobe. Omi is considered the oldest brand of beef and the region has been producing it since at least the 16th century. Omi ribeyes cost around $200 each.
Most Expensive Steak Cuts
Regardless of the type of beef, some cuts are going to be more expensive than others. Something like a flank steak is a very cost effective cut of meat that can still be delicious but is rarely going to be the headliner on the menu of a Michelin-star restaurant, and probably not what you want to hit the grill with to celebrate a special occasion. That said, these cuts are both popular and delicious, but also much pricier than something like a flank or a bottom sirloin.
The cream of the crop in terms of steak cuts, the filet mignon is still very often the most expensive cut you’ll find either from the butcher, a grocery store, or a restaurant.
The filet comes from the tenderloin and, obviously, is one of the most tender cuts of steak you can get. Its price reflects not only its desirability among diners but its rarity. A filet only accounts for a small percentage of all the meat available on a cow. You’re looking at around 2% of the yield. Because so little is available, the price is pushed to a premium.
If you’re buying your steaks directly from a butcher you can expect to pay around $20 to $30 per pound. Grocery store prices will up the ante some. You can get 8, 6 ounce American Wagyu filets at Costco for $400 which works out to about $133 per pound. Black Angus filets will cost about $42 per pound, however. A 12 ounce filet mignon from Bern’s Steakhouse in Florida will cost you $66.
Ribeye Cap Steak
Ribeye cap is a cut you don’t see that often on restaurant menus, but is one of the most delicious and more expensive cuts out there. As the name suggests, it’s the cap of a traditional ribeye and you can usually find these for anywhere between $55 per pound and $90 per pound at butchers and grocery stores. The rib cap is arguably the one cut that rivals a filet mignon in terms of luxury as well as flavor and tenderness. The ribeye cap has rich marbling so it’s full of flavor and very tender but it’s also pretty rare and the price does reflect this.
There are certainly some restaurants that will serve rib cap but not many since it’s such a hard to get cut.
New York Strip
New York Strip comes from the strip loin of the cow and is another favorite cut, hugely popular at restaurants. A ribeye or a filet tends to be more tender than a strip, but many people also feel the strip is a tastier cut. New York strip is usually a little cheaper than filet mignon but can still get up to $20 per pound or more depending on where you’re buying it
At a grocery store, you can get a good quality New York strip for around $12 per pound to $18 per pound. At a restaurant like Bern’s Steakhouse, a 16 ounce dry-aged strip is $67.
The ribeye is a very popular cut thanks to the fact it’s tender, juicy and flavorful, hitting all those points you want in a steak. It’s a primal cut from along the ribs of the beef and, because it’s not an overworked muscle, it’s very tender and has a good amount of marbling to give that flavor.
Ribeye steaks can cost you anywhere from $12 per pound to $20 per pound at a grocery store. Bern’s Steakhouse does a ribeye for two that will cost you $138, so a single serving would clock in at $69.
Technically speaking a tomahawk steak is just a bone-in ribeye which has the entire rib bone still attached. These steaks can be enormous and, with the added rib eye, part of what you’re paying for is actually the visual spectacle. Break out some tomahawks at a BBQ and you’re letting people know you’re serious about your beef.
Restaurants that like to create a visual feast may also offer up a tomahawk but these are often absolutely massive and the price reflects all of this. When you order a tomahawk at a restaurant, expect to be getting served a solid 40 ounces of beef at a price tag of around $180.
There’s a restaurant called Papi Steak in Miami Beach, Florida that sells something called the “Papi Steak Beef Case.” The restaurant literally brings a rhinestone-covered briefcase to your tableside, opens it to display a 55 ounce raw Wagyu tomahawk, then brands it in front of you while your choice of music plays. Weird? Sure. But then they take it back to cook it up for you and the whole experience costs $1,000 making it one of the most expensive steaks in America.
Not to be outdone, in 2021, the chef popularly known as Salt Bae (real name Nusret Gökçe), made headlines with a tomahawk steak that cost one patron, who posted the receipt online, £850 or just over $1000 US. The tomahawk steak is covered in 24k gold leaf which is edible and adds no flavor to the steak at all, so it’s essentially a useless ingredient.
There are various reports about Salt Bae’s restaurants and the golden steak, with some people allegedly paying significantly more for basically the same dish, so the price doesn’t seem to be consistent.
Vintage Cote de Boeuf
French butcher Polmard Eleveur Boucher made headlines in 2015 with their $3,200 vintage Cote De Boeuf Rib Steak. This was a single ribeye steak that qualified as one of the priciest in the world, head and shoulders above even an A5 Wagyu tomahawk. So what was the deal?
The steak comes from a very rare breed known as the Blonde Aquintaine. The cows are raised in a stress free environment, roaming the quiet fields and pastures of the French countryside where they are pampered and even talked to every day. Only four cattle are slaughtered per week and every effort is made to keep them 100% stress free in life as, if a cow experiences stress, various hormones and compounds like glycogen and lactic acid are released into the cow’s blood stream which can alter the meat’s flavor.
After the cow is slaughtered it’s preserved in a method devised by the butcher’s themselves which they refer to as hibernation. This is where the “vintage” part of the name comes into play because, according to the butcher, they can preserve meat literally forever this way. The steaks they were selling for $3,200 were actually 15 years old. How’s that for aged beef?
The meat is stored in a precision temperature controlled room. It’s held at -45 F while air is blown as a very strong 75 km per hour against it non-stop. It may sound odd but the butcher has been in business for nearly 200 years so you can’t question their skill and history with beef.
The beef is so rare and needs to be handled so precisely that chefs who are able to cook it have to be evaluated ahead of time, in much the same way a sushi chef needs to prove themselves capable of preparing fugu. Only a handful of chefs in the world are qualified to cook one of the rare steaks.
A Cote de Boeuf steak is only to be prepared blue or rare, and of course there are suggested wine pairings.
The Single Most Expensive Steak in the World
If there’s a more expensive steak out there it hasn’t made as much news as the one served up by Wally’s Wine and Spirits at Resorts World in Las Vegas, though there is a small catch. In 2021 the restaurant purchased a 195-day dry-aged 60 ounce porterhouse steak. So it was a big one. The steak was served up for a special dinner but, at 60 ounces, there was a lot of beef there so portions were made available for diners at $1,000 per three ounce sample. Do the math on that and this was a $20,000 steak.
The Bottom Line
Though there are several ways to define “most expensive steak,” it’s clear that Japanese A5 Kobe Wagyu is the most expensive kind of beef in the world with prices that go well above $400 per pound while the French Blonde Aquintaine clocking in at a very high price as well, though it’s also so incredibly rare few people will ever try it.
In terms of cut of steak, both the filet mignon and the rib cap are highly prized and expensive cuts with the latter sometimes costing as much as $90 per pound. Tomahawk steaks can also cost more but they tend to be sold as whole steaks rather than by the pound and can be well over $100 because they usually weigh at least 40 ounces.
The most expensive individual steak in the world varies based on the whims of restaurateurs with the Beef Case Tomahawk in Miami Beach costing $1,000 and one of Salt Bae’s gold-covered steaks costing even more. Wally’s in Las Vegas sold 3 ounce portions of a 195-day aged porterhouse for $1,000 each making the whole 60 ounce steak worth $20,000.