Today I’m going to present you the best guide to making the most delicious bulgogi (Korean BBQ beef) at home! With this, you can make mildly sweet, savory, smoky, juicy and tender delicious bulgogi. Are you excited?
Undoubtedly it is one of the most well-known Korean traditional foods and it has been around for thousands of years. Naturally, the cooking method of bulgogi evolved over time and it varies by region too.
However, to narrow our focus down, we will be talking about the most common way of making beef bulgogi in modern times.
WHAT IS BULGOGI?
Bulgogi literally means “fire” and “meat” and is traditionally grilled on a barbecue or on a stove-top griddle. Modern interpretations, however, often cook Bulgogi in a screaming hot cast iron or stainless steal skillet so the edges caramelize like they would on a grill.
WHAT KIND OF MEAT DO YOU USE FOR BEEF BULGOGI?
Bulgogi is typically made with almost paper-thin slices of the most tender cuts of beef. Rib-eye is the most common cut of beef with top sirloin or beef tenderloin coming in a close second. Scotch fillet / rib eye is known to have more flavor and juicy texture than other steak cuts. It also has a good amount of marbling, so cooking it over a grill or pan frying is quite suitable for this cut.
WHAT IS BULGOGI SAUCE MADE OF?
Bulgogi sauce is intensely flavorful and irresistible. It is a soy based marinade/sauce flavored with ginger, garlic, sesame and Asian pear (more on pear below). Brown sugar is added for sweetness as well as sweet rice cooking wine. I’ve also added Gochuchang to the Beef Bulgogi marinade for a subtle sweet heat and dimension of flavor.
WHAT IS GOCHUJANG AND WHERE CAN I BUY IT?
Gochujang is a Korean BBQ Sauce that’s the perfect blend of savory, sweet and spicy and one of my absolute favorite Asian condiments. By adding it to the marinade, the resulting beef Bulgogi isn’t spicy at all, by our standards, but boasts fabulous dynamic flavors.
HOW LONG TO DO YOU MARINATE BULGOGI?
If you choose to use flank steak or skirt steak, I suggest marinating the beef longer because these are tougher meats to start with. I would marinate flanks and skirt steak for at least 2 hours but overnight is best.
If you are using rib-eye or top sirloin, you can get away with marinating for as little as a 30-minutes at room temperature, but 2-3 hours in the refrigerator is optimal. The meat is sliced so thinly and it’s already so tender so you don’t need much more than 3 hours, but you are welcome to marinate longer.
WHAT TO SERVE WITH :
Serve the bulgogi with some steamed Korean rice and with other Korean side dishes. You can also use some lettuce leaves and perilla leaves to wrap the bulgogi. Don’t forget to pair it with some Korean ssamjang (Korean bbq dipping sauce) and some kimchi (spicy or non-spicy) too!
BEST Korean Beef Bulgogi
- 1 1/2 pounds boneless rib eye steak
- 1/2 small pear, peeled and coarsely grated
- 1/4 cup reduced sodium soy sauce use ordinary soy sauce if you don't find others
- 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
- 1 tablespoon gochujang (Korean red pepper paste)
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
- 2 green onions, thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
- Wrap steak in plastic wrap, and place in the freezer for 30 minutes. Unwrap and slice across the grain into 1/4-inch thick slices.
- In a medium bowl, combine pear, soy sauce, brown sugar, sesame oil, garlic, ginger and gochujang. In a gallon size Ziploc bag, combine soy sauce mixture and steak; marinate for at least 2 hours to overnight, turning the bag occasionally.
- Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a cast iron grill pan over medium-high heat.* Working in batches, add steak to the grill pan in a single layer and cook, flipping once, until charred and cooked through, about 2-3 minutes per side. Repeat with remaining 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and steak.
- Serve immediately, garnished with green onions and sesame seeds, if desired.
GOLDEN TIPS TO MAKE EASY BEEF BULGOGI !
- Freeze beef. You can purchase pre-sliced Beef Bulgogi meat at Korean grocery stores, otherwise, the easiest way to thinly slice beef is while it is partially frozen. Wrap beef in plastic wrap and freeze 1-2 hours until it is firm enough to hold shape but still soft enough to slice. I like to cut the beef in half and place one half in the freezer until I am finished slicing the first half so it doesn’t start to defrost on the cutting board.
- Cut beef thin : Slices should be less super thin – even more thin than the beef in Beef and Broccoli or Spicy Korean Noodles. Beef Should be sliced less than 1/8” thick if cooking in a skillet and 1/8” thick if cooking on the grill. Don’t worry if the edges look a bit ragged.
- Cut beef across the grain. You can see the “grain” running through the meat in one direction. The grain is essentially the muscle fibers running through the meat. You want to cut perpendicular to the muscle fibers so they become as short as possible as opposed to long muscle fibers. Long muscle fibers will give you chewy, rubbery tough meat – so cut AGAINST the grain.
- Beef Substitutes. You can mix up the meat in this Bulgogi and use boneless pork loin, boneless short rib, skinless, boneless chicken breasts or thighs.
- Bring meat to room temperature. Let beef sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. This way your beef won’t be cold when it touches the hot skillet and immediately reduce the skillet temperature. Chilled meat also will releases more of its juices, which we don’t want.
- Use tongs. We don’t want excess moisture/marinade in our skillet in order for the beef to sear and caramelize instead of just steam, so use a pair of tongs to transfer your beef from the marinade to the skillet, letting excess marinade drip off. If there is excess moisture left in your skillet after you cook you first batch, wipe it out with a paper towel.
- Use a hot skillet. Your pan should be hot enough so that the meat sizzles as soon as it touches the pan. We want the outside of our meat to develop a nice sear while the inside remains tender, this ensures juicy steak. To do this, use a wok, cast iron or stainless steal pan, make sure your skillet is nice and hot.
- Don’t overcrowd your pan. Cook your steak in 4 batches so you don’t overcrowd your skillet which will steam instead of sear your beef. The hot skillet will evaporate any extra moisture as it sears the meat and leave you with beautifully caramelized Beef Bulgogi. It only takes a few minutes to cook each batch, so please do not try to rush the process and crowd your pan or your beef will suffer flavor and tenderness.
- Add additional sugar to taste. Beef Bulgogi is mildly sweet, but just how sweet is subjective. I think the recipe is perfect as written, but you can add more sugar while you’re cooking if you like sweeter Bulgogi. To do this add sprinkle ½-1 teaspoon brown sugar over your meat then stir fry.