Bulgogi: Super Savory Korean Grilled Meat
For many, bulgogi is the most iconic Korean dish other than kimchi.
It’s tender sliced meat marinated in a subtle sweet and spicy sauce, chargrilled to perfection. Bulgogi is one of the greatest things ever and a perfect introduction to Korean food. Bulgogi is one of the easiest Korean dishes to make at home. Whether or not you have an authentic Korean BBQ grill or just a non-stick skillet on your stove, it’s an addictive savory melt in your mouth weeknight-compatible dinner.
What is bulgogi?
Bulgogi is a classic Korean BBQ meat item. It’s typically a thinly sliced cut of beef that’s been marinated in a pear-soy-onion mix. The meat is then quickly charred on a Korean BBQ plate over an open flame. At home, people crisp it up in a pan on the stove. It’s served up with rice, lettuce, and little kimchi-forward appetizers and pickles.
To make spicy bulgogi, just stir in a bit of gochujang (Korean red pepper paste). I would start with 1 heaping teaspoon, taste, and go from there based on your spice tolerance. Do this before adding the marinade to the meat, of course.
The best cuts for bulgogi beef
The best cuts of beef for bulgogi are sirloin, rib eye or brisket. It’s the thin slicing that’s the real secret to great Bulgogi. You can find perfect presliced meat at H-Mart or most other asian grocery stores. If your supermarket has a good meat department, you can usually ask them for thin slices. As a last resort, you can buy a hunk of beef, quickly chill it to almost frozen, and slice as thin as you can.
Do you need a grill?
Bulgogi tastes best flame grilled over butane gas or charcoal (bulgogi means fire-meat in Korean) – although most people don’t do charcoal at home since it will be very smoky and possibly dangerous if you have poor ventilation. The best bet is a nonstick or cast iron skillet over high heat.
How to make bulgogi
- Roughly chop an onion, core and chop an Asian pear (you want about 1 cup of rough dice), and peel your garlic.
- Blend all the marinade ingredients until smooth.
- Marinate your meatfor 2 hours or up to overnight.
- Grill or fry your meat.
- Eat with lettuce, rice, and lots of banchan!
Bulgogi sauce ingredients
Asian pears, sometimes called apple pears, are light golden yellow, round, and firm with a crisp crunch (crispier than ordinary pears), lots of juice and more sweetness. If you can’t find an Asian pear, you can sub a regular pear (like Bosc) or sweet apple (like Fuji).
Believe it or not, soy sauces are different for each Asian country. Go for a Korean soy sauce such as Sempio if you can. If you can’t, a Japanese soy sauce is next best, such as Kikkoman.
Toasted sesame oil
Toasted sesame oil is dark, nutty, and can’t be used for frying unlike it’s clear sibling. You can find it in the Asian aisles, at an Asian grocery store, or online. Our favorite brand is Kadoya.
Rice vinegar is a little nuttier and a lot sweeter than most other vinegars. Many rice vinegars you find will be seasoned sushi rice vinegar, with sugar, salt, and possibly other items in its ingredients list. This isn’t exactly what you want but can still be used. Actual rice vinegar only has one ingredient. Any other vinegar you love will work too.
If you hate mincing ginger, we use a Japanese ginger grater. They are very effective and pretty cheap – if you live near a Daiso, you can even get them for $1.
- 1/2 medium onion roughly chopped, about 1 cup
- 1/2 pear cored and quartered, Asian pear preferred, about 1/2 cup
- 4 cloves garlic peeled
- 1 tsp ginger minced
- 2 tbsp water
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
- 2 tbsp rice vinegar
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 2 lbs ribeye thinly sliced, or other meats, see notes
- 1 tbsp gochujang or to taste, optional
Blend the onion, pear, garlic, ginger, and water.
Mix the onion-pear mix with soy sauce, brown sugar, toasted sesame oil, vinegar, and black pepper. Add gochujang, if using.
Mix the marinade throughly with the meat and marinate for 2 hours to overnight.
Cook the meat on a hot plate/grill, cast iron pan, or nonstick skillet, flipping as needed.
You can julienne the rest of the pear as a garnish.
Amount Per Serving
Calories from Fat 106
% Daily Value*
Saturated Fat 3.9g24%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.