Basic Beef Tataki

Basic Beef Tataki Recipe

You could probably call this a Japanese Carpaccio, but the proper appellation is Beef Tataki, where the ‘Tataki’ is actually the name of the specific cookery technique involved.  This technique was originally used specifically for steaks of Bonito Tuna but has now been widely adapted for beef as well.

Essentially, the technique involves grilling beef very briefly over high heat to sear the outside and then cooling it rapidly to prevent further cooking. This results in an umami rich dark surface with an interior that is almost raw. The result is most commonly served sashimi style, much as you see pictured above, but a prepared pieces of Beef prepared this way be easily put to other uses as well. In either event, the technique is one well worth having in your repertoire…

The Beef for a Basic Beef Tataki Recipe

A piece of Beef destined to be prepared Tataki style
A piece of Beef destined to be prepared Tataki style

Generally, fairly small pieces of meat are used for Tataki, often in the form of thin steaks which may be skewered for grilling. Here, though, I am using a pretty large piece for this preparation. I purchased a small oven roast and trimmed it to leave a rectangular piece (on the right) of about a pound or so. The trimmed pieces will be used elsewhere. It is not critical that you make a rectangle, but this makes grilling easier and, depending upon the finished dish, helps result in nicer slices for presentation.

The Basic Grilling Method

Searing Beef
Searing a piece of Beef for Beef Tataki

Grilling is very straightforward and simply requires searing the meat on all sides, including the ends for about a minute or so (or as little as 30 seconds for very small pieces). This can be done on a barbecue but, if you do this (and want to be very traditionally Japanese) avoid leaving ‘grill-marks’ on the surfaces if possible. Outside barbecue season, you can instead pan-sear at maximum heat, using just a little oil to prevent sticking.

Some preparations involve marinating the meat before searing (many Japanese versions use Miso for this, and one can also use a dry ‘rub’ as well. Here, however, I have used nothing other than a light sprinkling of salt.

Cooling Seared Beef in an Ice bath
Cooling Seared Beef in an Ice bath

As soon as the meat has been browned on all sides, immediately plunge it into a bath of ice-water to prevent further cooking and leave to sit for a few minutes. When the meat is cool, pat it well to dry and remove any excess oil.

Preparing Beef Tataki for Use

Beef Tataki ready to be used
Beef Tataki ready to be used

t this point, many recipes call for the meat to be marinated, usually in a soy-based marinade. Really, this is only useful for very small pieces as any marinade will barely penetrate anything larger and any additional flavoring can easily be added once everything is sliced for service.

Alternatively, instead of a liquid marinade, many preparations give the beef a ‘crust’ of various aromatics such as cracked pepper, roasted, crushed sesame seed, sansho, or… well, whatever you like. Once again, though, I am keeping this particular as simple as possible, leaving a Tataki that is not ‘locked-in’ to a flavor profile and can be used a wide range of dishes, with any added flavoring being added at that time.

In any event, it is recommended that you wrap the piece tightly in plastic film and chill it until ready to use. If you have marinated the cooked beef, or are using a spice/herb ‘crust’, this will help flavors develop, and chilling will make slicing considerably easier.

Slicing the Beef Tataki for Service
Slicing the Beef Tataki for Service

For service, the meat is typically cut into slices of about 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch. Make sure you use a good sharp knife (I used my Japanese Yanagiba sashimi blade) and try to employ good clean strokes rather than a sawing motion. Here, you can see how the slices have a nice thin border of seared meat while the interior is still beautifully pink.

Often, small pieces are served sashimi style with the full panoply of sides such as shredded daikon, wasabi, grated ginger and the like but, other than some scallion rings for garnish, I just served the slices shown in the first picture in a simple Ponzu style sauce of soy, mirin and lemon juice.


Comments, questions or suggestions most welcome!