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Allen Pierleoni /

Mike Carroll, meat department manager at Sacramento's Corti Bros., introduces the wagyu zabuton steak.

‘Zabuton’ steaks could be the summer grilling go-to

Published: Friday, Jun. 6, 2014 - 9:34 am

Corti Bros. Market meat department manager Mike Carroll is always on the lookout for something new. So are his customers.

We were with Carroll in the prep area behind the meat counter the other day, watching the master butcher cut steaks from a flat, four-pound roast. This wasn’t just any piece of meat. It was beautifully marbled prime Wagyu beef (American Kobe) from the estimable Snake River Farms of Boise, Idaho.

Specifically, Carroll was cutting the “under-chuck flap” into “zabuton” steaks, so named because of the flap’s shape, similar to that of the flat Japanese sitting cushion. The steaks are also known as “Denver steaks,” a marketing name indicative of nothing.

The flap is from beneath the eye of the chuck, from the steer shoulder, Carroll explained. “The shoulder is the most fatty piece of meat on the steer. For many years, the chuck has just been used for roasts, stews and grinding into hamburger. The bottom flap and the eye of the chuck are tender, but other parts of the chuck are not.

“You won’t find zabuton steaks in many meat departments because most butchers aren’t going to take the time to break down the flap, cut it into steaks and trim them,” he said. You will see them in some restaurants, though, including Japanese “yakiniku” (grilled meats) houses.

What’s the backyard home cook going to do with a zabuton? “Everybody’s looking for something different to grill this summer, and this is it,” Carroll said. “Prep the steaks with a little olive oil and light seasonings, because you want to taste the meat, not the salt. Grill them quickly over high heat, to medium-rare to medium. Or pot-roast a whole flap. I’ve eaten zabuton raw, as carpaccio, and it has a buttery, nutty flavor.”

We tasted a medium-rare zabuton steak and found it remarkably delicious and juicy, and surprisingly tender.

Zabuton steaks in various weights sell for $23 a pound at Corti’s, 5810 Folsom Blvd., Sacramento; (916) 736-3805,

Call The Bee’s Allen Pierleoni, (916) 321-1128. Follow him on Twitter @apierleonisacbe.

Read more articles by Allen Pierleoni

About Appetizers

Chris Macias has served as The Sacramento Bee's Food & Wine writer since 2008. His writing adventures have ranged from the kitchen at French Laundry to helping pick 10 tons of zinfandel grapes with migrant farm workers in Lodi. Chris also judges regularly at food, wine and cocktail competitions around Northern California. His profile of a former gangbanger-turned-pastry-chef was included in Da Capo's "Best Food Writing 2012."

Read his Wine Buzz columns here
(916) 321-1253
Twitter: @chris_macias

Allen Pierleoni writes about casual lunchtime restaurants in The Sacramento Bee's weekly "Counter Culture" column. He covers a broad range of topics, including food, travel, books and authors. In addition to writing the weekly column "Between the Lines," he oversees the Sacramento Bee Book Club, in which well-known authors give free presentations to the public.

Read his Counter Culture reviews here
(916) 321-1128
Twitter: @apierleonisacbe

Blair Anthony Robertson is The Sacramento Bee's food critic.

Read his restaurant reviews here
(916) 321-1099
Twitter: @Blarob

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