Having grown up on it, I love Korean food, particularly the spicy dishes. But as much as I love it, I can also see how the ubiquitous pungency, more than occasional spiciness, and bold flavor profiles can be a challenge for some. If I were to choose just one dish to ensure a Korean food virgin would return for more, bulgogi would be it.

Bulgogi (pronounced BOOLgohgi) translates literally from Korean to "fire meat," bul meaning fire, gogi meaning meat. Which understandably lends the stuff to being called Korean BBQ, when in fact, the cooking is achieved through a few methods - pan frying/sauteing and steaming in a shallow broth among them in addition to open flame cooking.
The word also applies to a number of different meats and seasonings or marinades, but this particular preparation featuring beef with soy, garlic, and sugar as the main flavor components is certainly the most popular one here in the US.
Umami from the soy sauce, savory from the garlic and green onion, just a hint of nuttiness from the toasted sesame oil, and a touch of sweet... 
I have yet to come across a carnivore or omnivore who doesn't love the stuff once they've tried it.
Serves 4 to 6
30 to 45 minutes active time
Printable Version

- 2 pounds beef (ribeye or skirt steak work well) very thinly sliced, like a shabu shabu cut. I don't recommend super lean cuts for this preparation.
- 1 entire green onion (white and green parts) chopped
- 2 Tablespoons finely minced garlic (about 3 cloves)
- 1/4 of a sweet apple, finely grated (you can use 3 Tablespoons apple sauce in a pinch) which tenderizes and sweetens the meat
- 2.5 to 3 Tablespoons sugar, depending on how sweet you like your food
- 1 Tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- 1/4 cup regular soy sauce

Combine all ingredients thoroughly in a mixing bowl and ideally allow to marinate for at least 25 to 30 minutes before cooking. In my experience, the best way to get all the meat evenly seasoned is to get in there with your hands, and mix and massage to distribute all the seasonings on and between all the slices of meat.

marinating bulgogi...


There are different schools of thinking on bringing meat up in temperature before cooking, but I personally prefer to take the meat out of the fridge about 30 minutes before cooking it to bring it up closer to room temp because I find that the meat is much more likely to develop a proper sear or crust than if it’s cooked straight out of the fridge, which results in more of a steamed or boiled texture.

Pan-fry or Saute: Cook the meat in four separate batches on an oiled (about 1.5 teaspoons per batch) pan preheated to medium high, for 2.5 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure all pieces are cooked. If you, like I, love onions, you can saute some 1/4" thick pieces of sliced onions with each batch.
Oven Method: Preheat the oven to 425F. Mix and additional 1.5 to 2 Tablespoons oil in with the meat and spread it evenly in a single layer on a foil-lined sheet pan or broiler pan. Place the pan about 4 inches under the heat element (usually the second rack in your oven) and cook for 15 minutes.
Grill: You'll need a grill basket to keep the meat from falling through the slats. Spread the meat in a single layer and cook over medium high heat (and at least 5 inches above the coals or gas element) until the meat is cooked 4 to 6 minutes per side, depending on the thickness of the cut and grill heat.

Enjoy. :)




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