Bulgogi hardly needs any introduction for Korean food lovers. For the rest of you, it’s about time to welcome this iconic Korean dish into your life.
If you love grilled meats with bold flavors, this Korean BBQ Beef, aka Bulgogi, is a MUST try. Tender, juicy, slightly caramelized beef strips with savory soy, garlicky flavors and a hint of sweetness. Ahhh…
Beef Bulgogi is what we’re making. You can make this super quick on your BBQ grill or stovetop. It all happens fast… super fast.
Summer time is coming, and with that comes all the grilling and fun cook out times. We have some great outdoor grilling recipes for you. Our Puerto Rican Pinchos, Greek Souvlaki, and Mexican Pollo Asado will give you great unique BBQ flavors.
Now this Bulgogi, all the way from the other side of the world, is not your usual grilled meat. It’s loaded with umami Asian flavors, with the perfect combination of savory and sweet with a good dose of garlic and sesame oil.
Like other Asian foods, it’s flash cooked in minutes, and you can serve it in a few interesting ways.
You Will Love Bulgogi the Minute You Take a Bite For a Lot of Reasons…
- It’s almost like a stir fry that you can cook on your grill or in a large cast iron skillet. It happens fast, under 10 minutes, so great contender for easy weeknight dinners.
- New Asian flavors for cooking beef.
- Very versatile, super easy and fun meal.
- It’s one of the most iconic dishes out of Korea, and gaining huge popularity all over the world, becoming as famous as their beloved kimchi. So if you’re new to Korean cooking, this is a great introductory dish to try with simple, every day ingredients.
What is Bulgogi?
Bulgogi (불고기), pronounced as bool-GOH-gee, is a classic Korean dish made of thin marinated slices of meat, mostly beef, grilled on a barbecue or on a stove top griddle. It is also often stir-fried in a pan in home cooking.
This traditional dish has been around for thousands of years, and started as a high-class cuisine only the rich could afford. Over the centuries it slowly became very popular with the masses, and their favorite go to meal to cook, especially during special occasions and get togethers.
Bulgogi is a combination of two Korean words, Bul meaning “fire” and Gogi, translating to “meat”. Hence, this dish is famously called “fire meat.” But don’t worry, Bulgogi is not really spicy, rather slightly sweet with typical Asian umami flavors. “Fire” here is a reference to the hot cooking surface that’s used to cook it.
In many Korean barbecue restaurants, customers are seated at a table that has a grill installed in the middle. Customers can order raw and marinated bulgogi meat, and cook it themselves right at the table. It is common for each person to pick at the meat directly from the grill, or serve each other enjoying a meal together.
There Are 3 Keys to Good Bulgogi:
- Good quality beef
- The marinade
- Proper cooking technique
What Cut of Beef is Best for Bulgogi?
Any prime tender cut that will be juicy and melt in your mouth is ideal to make bulgogi.
Boneless ribeye is frequently used because of its tenderness and fat content, especially nicely marbled fattier and thicker ribeye. You can use more expensive fillet minion, too. Top sirloin is another good contender.
If you have a Korean or Japanese market near by, look out for pre-cut, shaved (very thinly sliced) beef with the label “bulgogi meat” in the freezer section. It usually comes in different grades, but buy premier quality like ribeye.
Some Trader Joes locations also sell shaved ribeye. You can also ask the butcher to thinly slice the meat. If cutting by yourself, freeze the meat until it is partially frozen. This helps to cut the meat into thin strips.
Cut the meat thinly against the grain. An ideal thickness is about 1/8 inch. Cutting the beef against the grain yields tender cooked beef.
Bulgogi Marinade is the soul of this dish. Delicious Bulgogi happens when you get the right balance of savory, umami flair with a dash of sweetness. The classic marinade is made with just a few pantry staple ingredients like soy sauce, rice wine, mirin, sugar, aromatics like ginger and garlic, and a good dose of sesame oil.
One unique ingredient that goes in the marinade is grated Korean pear. Pear contains an enzyme called calpain, which tenderizes the meat and adds a touch of sweetness. If you can’t find a Korean pear, you can use ripe bosc pear, or any other Asian pear instead.
Some recipes even use kiwi fruit or pineapple instead of pear. If you are using kiwi or pineapple, marinate it for a shorter time, like an hour or two. Kiwi and pineapple have higher levels of calpain, and that can break down the meat or degrade it if marinated for a longer time.
Cooking Method: Grilling or on Stove Top
Though bulgogi traditionally started as grilled meat, many Korean households simply make it in a pan or skillet on stovetop for everyday meals. Pan fried bulgogi can release a lot of juices, and meat can cook in this juices, which some people prefer.
One way to achieve the smoky, caramelized grill style bulgogi while cooking on stove top is using a larger cast iron skillet, and cooking in batches so as not to overcrowd the pan. This allows the meat to get a nice sear without creating a lot of liquid. Make sure that the skillet is sizzling hot with oil to ensure faster cooking, and a good sear on the meat.
Grilling, on other hand, gives a true Korean style BBQ experience, where smoke created by drippings coat the meat wonderfully.
Some people like to throw in some vegetables along with the beef. Sliced onions, scallions and carrots are some of the veggies that go great with the tender strips of beef, making a more rounded meal.
Beef Bulgogi Ingredients
- Beef – Today we are using thick, nicely marbled rib eye.
- For Bulgogi marinade – Soy sauce, mirin or rice wine, brown sugar, garlic, ginger, pear, scallions, sesame oil, sesame seeds, pepper.
- Oil – Use any of your favorite cooking oil with a high smoke point.
- Onion – We love to serve our beef Bulgogi on a bed of caramelized onions.
- For garnishing and serving – Scallions, sesame seeds, lettuce, rice, kimchi.
1. Make Bulgogi marinade and marinate the beef: Mix all of the marinade ingredients in a bowl and whisk together until well combined. Pour over the thinly sliced beef and mix well. Use hands to rub the marinade all over the meat. Cover the bowl with cling wrap and marinate the meat for at least 4 hours in the fridge. You can marinate the beef overnight too.
2. Cook on stove top: Heat a large cast iron pan or skillet over high heat. Add 2 tablespoons oil and swirl to coat. Add marinated beef in a single layer in hot sizzling oil (cook in batches if you have a smaller pan). Cook undisturbed for 2-3 minutes. Toss and cook for another 3-4 minutes, tossing every now and then till the beef is cooked to your desired doneness with slight caramelization.
Remove from heat. You can serve this bulgogi right away on a serving plate, or you can serve it on bed of caramelized sliced onions. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil on very high heat and cook sliced onions undisturbed for 3-4 minutes. Stir and cook them till they start getting brown and a little caramelized. Place cooked bulgogi right on top of the onions and garnish with sesame seeds and scallions. Serve with warm rice, or in lettuce cups along with some kimchi.
Grilling method: Preheat grill on medium high high heat. Grill the meat in a single layer until slightly caramelized.
How and What to Serve Korean Bulgogi with
- Bulgogi is very often served with steamed rice.
- Another popular way to eat bulgogi is wrapped in lettuce leaves. Wrap the meat in lettuce with a little rice, some Korean ssamjang (Korean BBQ dipping sauce) and some kimchi.
- Bulgogi meat can be used in other Korean dishes like Japchae, Bibimbap, kimbap, or Korean style tacos like our Bulgogi Tacos.
- It goes great with any kind of Fried Rice or Asian noodles. Pair it with sautéed veggies like carrots, mushrooms, bell peppers, snow peas and scallions.
- You can use it as part of some Asian bowl meal or on top of a salad.
- Serve leftovers the next day with fried or poached eggs for breakfast.
Tips for the BEST Beef Bulgogi
- Use nicely marbled tender cuts of beef for tender, juicy Bulgogi. The thicker the cut, the wider the bulgogi slices will be, like the shaved pre-cut bulgogi meat you find in Korean grocery stores.
- Always marinate the beef for at least a couple of hours so the flavors penetrate into the meat. Overnight marination is great, or marinate in the morning.
- Partially freezing the beef for 30 minutes helps cut it into thin strips using a sharp knife.
- If cooking in a pan, make sure to use a larger skillet. Cast iron skillets are best, as they hold heat well. Always preheat the pan, as it is needed for caramelizing the beef in a flash, without overcooking it.
- Sear the beef in batches so as not to overcrowd the pan. Overcrowding can lead to steaming the meat in liquids, rather than getting a quick caramelization.
- If cooking veggies like onion and carrots to boost the beef, cook them separately, not with beef, as that can lead to steaming the beef also.
- Don’t skimp on the ingredients in the marinade to get the delicious bulgogi flavors going.
- Only sear the beef and not the leftover marinade, as that adds more unwanted liquid to the pan.
Beef Bulgogi Variations
- Use different protein. Very often you can find pork Bulgogi, and chicken Bulgogi is great too. You can use the same marinade recipe for all other proteins.
- For a little zing and spice kick, add Gochujang, Korean red chili paste or red chili flakes to the marinade.
- Add a veggie boost by stir frying some vegetables like carrots, onions, mushrooms, snow peas or cabbage.
- You can go the ground meat way and make ground beef bulgogi.
Leftovers and Storage
This quick and easy stir fry kind of dish is a great meal prep option, and can be made ahead of time for future meals.
To refrigerate: Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator, covered, for up to five days.
To freeze: Place the cooled leftovers in an airtight container and store it in the freezer for up to 3 months. Simply thaw overnight and heat through in the microwave or on stove top.
Cook this 10 minute quick beef recipe with delicious Korean flavors. Introduce Korean BBQ beef to your friends and family this summer, and make a fun grilling recipe with new flavors.
Make a giant batch, serve simply with some caramelized onions or bunches of other veggies. Enjoy it over a bowl of rice, or wrap it up in lettuce wraps. Bulgogi – the ultimate easy Korean delight, just for you.
Beef Bulgogi, in our Gypsy Bowl… enjoy!
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 2 Tbsp mirin or rice wine
- 2 Tbsp brown sugar
- 6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- 1 Tbsp ginger, finely chopped
- 1/2 pear, cored and grated
- 2-3 scallions, diced
- 1 Tbsp sesame oil
- 1 tsp sesame seeds
- 1/8 tsp pepper
- 1½ pounds rib eye (or any tender prime beef cut like tenderloin), thinly sliced to 1/8th inch thickness
- 3 Tbsp oil, divided
- 1 onion, thinly sliced
Serving and garnishing
- scallion, only green part, sliced
- sesame seeds
- lettuce cups
- Mix all of the marinade ingredients in a bowl and whisk together until well combined.
- Pour the marinade over the thinly sliced beef and mix well (use hands to rub the marinade all over the meat). Cover the bowl with cling wrap and marinate the meat for at least 4 hours in the fridge. You can marinate the beef overnight if time allows.
- Heat a large cast iron pan or skillet over high heat. Add 2 Tbsp oil and swirl to coat. Add marinated beef in a single layer (cook in batches if you have a smaller pan). Cook undisturbed for 2-3 minutes. Toss and cook for another 3-4 minutes, tossing occasionally, till beef is cooked to your desired doneness with a slight caramelization. Remove from heat.
- You can serve this bulgogi right away on a serving plate, or you can serve it on a bed of caramelized sliced onions. Heat remaining 1 Tbsp oil on very high heat and cook sliced onions, undisturbed for 3-4 minutes. Stir and cook them till they start getting brown and caramelized. Place bulgogi atop the onions and garnish with sesame seeds and scallions.
- Serve with warm rice or in lettuce cups along with some kimchi.
- Marinate the meat as described above.
- Preheat grill on medium high high heat. Grill the meat in a single layer until slightly caramelized on both sides.
Welcome to GypsyPlate! I'm Alpana, former wordwide tour manager and professional caterer, now full time blogger. I love exploring cuisines from around the world, and my recipes have been featured on sites such as MSN, Parade, Brit + Co, CNET and AOL. You can explore my entire collection of sortable recipes in my Recipe Index or learn more about me here.
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