The Best Beef Cuts for Authentic Shabu Shabu at Home

Shabu shabu is a classic Japanese hot pot dish where thin slices of meat and vegetables are briefly swished in a simmering broth until just cooked through. The name comes from the “swish swish” sound the meat makes as you cook it in the pot. Beef is by far the most popular protein for shabu shabu, prized for its rich flavor and tender texture when sliced paper-thin. But with so many beef cuts out there, what is the best option to get that authentic shabu shabu experience at home?

The Origins of Shabu Shabu

Shabu shabu originated in Japan, but the style of cooking thinly sliced meat and veggies in broth has roots in Mongolian hot pot customs. The dish rose to popularity in Japan in the 20th century, especially as a delicacy at high-end restaurants. Home cooks eventually adopted their own versions, tweaking recipes and preparation to suit family meals.

Part of shabu shabu’s appeal comes from its interactive communal nature. Guests gather around a heated pot of broth and use their own chopsticks to grab raw slices of meat and dip them into the simmering liquid. You get to control exactly how rare or well-done you want your meat.

Key Factors for Shabu Shabu Beef

To get the quintessential shabu shabu experience, you need a cut of beef that:

  • Is thinly sliced – We’re talking tissue paper thin, around 1-3 mm thick. This ensures quick, even cooking.

  • Cooks quickly – The meat shouldn’t take more than 15-30 seconds in the hot broth.

  • Is well-marbled – Fatty streaks throughout provide moisture, richness and flavor.

  • Stays tender – You want meat that won’t get chewy or stringy with brief cooking.

  • Has delicate texture – The thin slices should almost melt in your mouth.

  • Provides mild flavor – The broth will be the star, so beef shouldn’t overpower.

The Best Cuts for Shabu Shabu Beef

Keep those qualities in mind when selecting beef for shabu shabu. Here are the top cuts that tick all the boxes:


Ribeye has the perfect marbling and tender texture for shabu shabu. The extensive fat streaking melts into the meat when cooked briefly, keeping it incredibly moist and flavorsome. And the tender rib area means even paper-thin slices cook up with a delicate, melt-in-your-mouth quality. For the absolute best results, spring for well-marbled Prime grade ribeye.


Famed for its rich taste and fine marbling, Japanese Wagyu makes a incredible (yet pricy) shabu shabu experience. The intricate web of fat melts to coat the mouth with richness. And when sliced thinly, Wagyu almost seems to vaporize on your tongue. Splurge on A5 graded Japanese Wagyu or premium domestic Wagyu for your next special occasion hot pot night.


From the hip/rear end region, sirloin offers a more budget-friendly choice that still delivers on tenderness. Look for well-marbled cuts like Teres Major. Or splurge on Chuck Roll or Sirloin Cap cuts like Spinalis Dorsi to get prime rib-like richness at a fraction of the cost. Always slice sirloin paper-thin against the grain for flawless shabu shabu texture.


Cuts from the tenderloin, like filet mignon, offer ultra-tender beef perfect for shabu shabu. You don’t get as much marbling as ribeye, so focus on properly sliced portions. Look for whole tenderloin roasts and portion into thin slices yourself for the best results.

Flap Meat

Flap meat comes from the bottom sirloin, yielding thinner, flat cuts that readily shave into paper-thin slices. You don’t get the intense marbling of prime rib. But flap meat has enough fat for richness while keeping costs down. Just watch for large connective tissue pieces that may need trimming.

Other Cuts to Avoid for Shabu Shabu

On the flip side, there are some poor choices for shabu shabu beef that should be avoided:

  • Brisket – Too tough and chewy, even when sliced thinly against the grain.

  • Flank Steak – Can quickly get stringy despite its leanness.

  • Skirt Steak – Tendency to shrivel and cook unevenly.

  • Chuck Roast – Connective tissue needs prolonged cooking to break down.

  • Round Roast – Very lean so it cooks up dry without enough marbling.

  • Shank – Far too tough, with thick connective tissue.

As long as you choose a nicely marbled, tender cut and slice it paper-thin against the grain, you can enjoy fail-proof shabu shabu at home. Now go grab some ribeye or Wagyu and gather your family around the dinner table for some interactive, fun hot pot cooking!

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What is thinly sliced beef for shabu shabu?

Thinly Sliced Beef Chuck/Ribeye for Shabu Shabu This cut of beef is used for Shabu Shabu, other hot pot dishes, Gyudon, Nikujaga, Teriyaki Steak Rolls, Niku Udon, and more.

What is a thinly sliced beef called?

Carpaccio is an Italian appetizer of thinly sliced raw meat drizzled with lemon juice and olive oil. It’s traditionally made with beef, but can be made with fish (specifically salmon or tuna), veal, or venison.

What is a substitute for shabu shabu beef?

*1Shabu-shabu beef is much thinner than sukiyaki beef and is preferred for this dish, but sukiyaki beef may be substituted. If neither is available, use well-marbled beef for roast. If lightly frozen, the beef can be sliced very thin.

What is the best cut of beef for Gyudon?

Choosing the Right Beef It’s typically made with ribeye or chuck that’s been shaved extra thin on a meat slicer. You’ll be able to find good meat for gyudon in Japanese supermarkets, but if you don’t have access to that, any beef intended for Philly cheesesteaks will work (even the frozen stuff!).

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