Korean BBQ Beef (Bulgogi)

Bulgogi (Korean BBQ Beef)
October 3, 2023

Korean BBQ Beef (Bulgogi)

What is Bulgogi?

Bulgogi, pronounced bool-GOH-gee, is a classic Korean dish made from thin slices of marinated meat, usually beef, grilled on a grill or on a stovetop. When cooking at home, it is also often fried in a pan.

This traditional dish has existed for thousands of years and was originally an exclusive cuisine that only the rich could afford. Over the centuries, it became increasingly popular among the masses and became their favorite food, especially on special occasions and gatherings.

Bulgogi is a combination of two Korean words: Bul, which means “fire”, and Gogi, which translates to “meat”. That is why this dish is also called “fire meat”. But don’t worry, bulgogi is not really spicy, rather a bit sweet with typical Asian umami flavors. “Fire” here refers to the hot cooking surface on which it is cooked. In many Korean barbecue restaurants, customers sit at a table with a grill in the middle.

Customers can order raw and marinated bulgogi meat and cook it themselves at the table. It is common for everyone to take the meat straight from the grill or serve it to each other while enjoying a meal together.

There are three keys to Korean BBQ Beef (Bulgogi):

Good quality beef

The marinade

Correct cooking technique

Which beef goes best with Korean BBQ Beef (Bulgogi)?

Any tender meat that is juicy and melts in your mouth can be used to prepare bulgogi. Due to its tenderness and fat content, boneless ribeye steak is often used, especially the beautifully marbled, fattier and thicker ribeye steak.

You can also use more expensive fillet minions. Prime rib is another good candidate. If you have a Korean or Japanese market nearby, look for pre-sliced, shaved (very thinly sliced) beef labeled “bulgogi meat” in the freezer section. It usually comes in different grades, but buy premium quality like ribeye. Some Trader Joe’s locations also sell shaved ribeye steaks.

You can also ask the butcher to cut the meat into thin slices. If you cut the meat yourself, freeze it until partially frozen. This helps cut the meat into thin strips. Slice the meat thinly against the grain. An ideal thickness is about 1/8 inch. Slicing the beef against the grain results in tender cooked beef.

Bulgogi Marinade

Bulgogi marinade is the soul of this dish. Delicious bulgogi comes when you find the right balance between savory, umami flavors and a hint of sweetness. The classic marinade consists of just a few basic ingredients such as soy sauce, rice wine, mirin, sugar, flavorings such as ginger and garlic and a good portion of sesame oil.

A unique ingredient that goes into the marinade is grated Korean pear. Pears contain an enzyme called calpain, which makes the flesh tender and adds a touch of sweetness. If you can’t find a Korean pear, you can use a ripe Bosc pear or another Asian pear instead.

Some recipes even use kiwi or pineapple instead of pears. If using kiwi or pineapple, marinate them for a shorter time, such as an hour or two. Kiwi and pineapple contain more calpain, which can break down or damage the meat if it is marinated for a long time.

Ingredients for Korean BBQ Beef (Bulgogi)

Beef – Today we use thick, beautifully marbled ribeye.

For bulgogi marinade – soy sauce, mirin or rice wine, brown sugar, garlic, ginger, pear, green onion, sesame oil, sesame seeds, pepper.

Oil – Use one of your favorite cooking oils with a high smoke point.

Onions – We like to serve our beef bulgogi on a bed of caramelized onions.

For garnish and serving – spring onion, sesame seeds, salad, rice, kimchi.

Korean BBQ Beef (Bulgogi) recipe:


1/4 cup soy sauce

2 tbsp mirin or rice wine

2 tbsp brown sugar

6 garlic cloves,

finely chopped 1 tablespoon ginger,

finely chopped 1/2 pear,

cored and grated 2-3 spring onions,

diced 1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 tsp sesame seeds

1/8 tsp pepper

Beef Bulgogi 1½ pounds rib-eye (or a tender prime cut of beef such as tenderloin), thinly sliced ​​1/8 inch thick

3 tablespoons oil,

divided 1 onion, thinly sliced

Serve and garnish

Spring onion,

green part only, sliced

sesame seeds


Bowls of salad



1.Mix all the ingredients for the marinade in a bowl and stir well.

2. Pour the marinade over the thinly sliced ​​beef and mix well (rub the marinade over the meat with your hands). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and marinate the meat in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours. If time permits, you can marinate the meat overnight.

3.Heat a large cast iron pan or frying pan over high heat. Add 2 tbsp oil and stir. Add marinated beef in one layer (cook in batches if you have a smaller pan). Allow to boil undisturbed for 2-3 minutes. Mix and cook, stirring occasionally, for another 3-4 minutes, until the meat is cooked to desired doneness and lightly caramelized. Remove from heat.

4.You can serve this bulgogi directly on a serving platter, but you can also serve it on a bed of caramelized onion slices. Heat the remaining 1 tbsp of oil over very high heat and fry the sliced ​​onion, undisturbed, for 3-4 minutes. Stir and cook until they begin to color and caramelize. Place the bulgogi on top of the onions and garnish with sesame seeds and spring onions.

5.Serve with hot rice or in salad cups with a little kimchi.

The grill method Marinate the meat as described above. Preheat the grill to medium heat. Grill the meat in one layer until it is lightly caramelized on both sides.

Tips for the BEST Steak Bulgogi

1.Use beautifully marbled, tender cuts of meat for tender, juicy bulgogi. The thicker the cut, the wider the bulgogi slices, like the shaved, pre-sliced ​​bulgogi meat found in Korean supermarkets.

2.Always marinate the beef for at least a few hours so that the flavors are properly absorbed into the meat. Marinate overnight is fine, or marinate it in the morning. By partially freezing the beef for 30 minutes, you can slice it into thin strips with a sharp knife.

3.If you are cooking in a pan, make sure you use a larger pan. Cast iron pans are best because they retain heat well. Always preheat the pan because you need the beef to caramelize in the shortest amount of time without overcooking it.

4.Fry the beef in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan. Overcoating can cause the meat to steam in liquid instead of caramelizing quickly.

5.If you are cooking vegetables such as onions and carrots to add flavor to the meat, cook them separately rather than with the beef as this can also cause the meat to steam.

6.Don’t skimp on the marinade ingredients to achieve the delicious bulgogi flavor.

7.Only fry the meat and not the remaining marinade, otherwise more unwanted liquid will end up in the pan.

Variations of Beef Bulgogi

Use other proteins. You can often find bulgogi with pork, but bulgogi with chicken also tastes amazing. For all other proteins, you can use the same marinade recipe.

For a little spice and kick, add gochujang, Korean red chili paste, or red chili flakes to the marinade.

Give your dish a vegetarian twist by roasting vegetables such as carrots, onions, mushrooms, snow peas or cabbage.

You can choose ground beef and make bulgogi with ground beef.

Leftovers and storage

This quick and easy stir-fry is a great meal prep option and can be made ahead of time for future meals.

Refrigerate: Leftovers can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator for up to five days.

Freeze: Place the cooled leftovers in an airtight container and store in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Simply thaw overnight and heat in the microwave or on the stove. Cook this quick 10-minute steak recipe with delicious Korean flavors. This summer, introduce Korean BBQ steak to your friends and family and create a fun barbecue recipe with new flavors.

Make a big batch and serve simply with some caramelized onions or other vegetable bundles. Enjoy it with a bowl of rice or wrap it in lettuce wraps. Bulgogi – the ultimate simple Korean treat, just for you.

Beef Bulgogi, in our Gypsy Bowl…enjoy!

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