Bulgogi, a marinated and grilled beef popular at Korean restaurants, is easy to make at home. Bul means “fire” and gogi means “meat” in Korean—the meat is typically cooked over an open flame, which caramelizes the sweetened marinade and chars the meat.
At home, cook the bulgogi on a hot cast iron grill pan. All you need is a warm bowl of rice on the side for the most satisfying dinner.
The Best Beef for Bulgogi
Thinly sliced ribeye is the best cut of beef for bulgogi. As an alternative, use thinly sliced, tender, and well-marbled chuck, sirloin, flank, or tenderloin. If you have a Korean grocery store nearby, you’ll find pre-sliced bulgogi beef in varying grades.
I think it pays to spend a little more and get the best quality beef. It’ll be beautifully marbled without excess fat or gristle around the edges, so it will be tastier.
How to Slice Bulgogi Beef at Home
You can buy a whole piece of beef and slice it at home. Freeze it whole for a couple of hours until it’s firm but not too hard to cut through. It’ll be easier to slice when it’s a little firm.
Use a sharp chef’s knife to cut it against the grain as thinly as you can, about 1/8 inch thick. Since the beef is sliced so thinly, it absorbs the marinade quickly and cooks very fast.
What is in the Bulgogi Marinade?
A classic bulgogi marinade has soy sauce, garlic, sugar, mirin (a seasoned sweet rice wine), and grated Asian pear. Any sweet fruit that has some acidity would work here: any variety of pear, apples, kiwi, or even pineapple or orange juice. The acid helps tenderize the meat.
Although it’s not necessary, I like to marinate and cook thinly sliced onions, mushrooms, and carrots along with the beef for added texture and flavor.
Can You Make Bulgogi with Other Meats?
Bulgogi implies the use of beef. If made with chicken, it’s called dak bulgogi and with pork it’s called dwaeji bulgogi. Both use a similar marinade, but often with the addition of gochujang, a fermented Korean chili paste, and ginger.
The Best Pan for the Best Char
This recipe calls for cooking the bulgogi on a cast iron grill pan. A cast iron skillet, a regular grill pan, or even an outdoor grill could work. You can also stir fry the bulgogi in a wok or a regular skillet, but you won’t get that beautiful iconic char, instead the juices may pool in your pan. It’ll still taste good. The key is to cook the bulgogi over high heat without overcrowding the pan.
What to Serve with Bulgogi
A classic way to serve it: use fresh perilla or lettuce leaves for wrapping the bulgogi. Place a leaf on the palm of one hand, add some bulgogi, a little gochujang sauce, and a piece of kimchi on top. Wrap the leaf up and stuff it in your mouth for the tastiest bite you’ll ever have.
Pine for Leftover Bulgogi
Nothing is quite as exciting as leftover bulgogi. It’s packed with so much flavor. Use it as a filling for tacos or Philly cheesesteaks. Stir it into fried rice or bibimbap, a popular Korean mixed rice dish. I love it in kimbap too—it’s like a hand rolled sushi, except it’s filled with vegetables and cooked meat instead of fish.
More Korean-Inspired Recipes to Try
- Grilled Korean BBQ Pork Ribs (Dwaeji Galbi)
- Kimchi Fried Rice (Kimchi Bokkeumbap)
- Spinach with Sesame and Garlic
- Quick Kimchi (Mak Gimchi)
- Sous Bide Beef Bulgogi Bowls
Easy Beef Bulgogi
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 1/2 Asian pear, peeled and grated
- 2 tablespoons mirin, rice wine, or dry white wine
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 3 large cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 pounds ribeye, sliced 1/8 inch thick
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 1/2 cup chopped green onions
- 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
- Cooked rice, to serve
Make the marinade:
In a medium bowl, add the soy sauce, grated pear, mirin, sugar, garlic, sesame oil, and black pepper. Stir until the sugar dissolves.
Marinate the beef:
Add the beef and toss until it is evenly coated with the marinade. Cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or overnight. At this point, you can put the marinated beef in a zip top bag and freeze it for later.
Cook the bulgogi:
Heat the canola oil in a large cast iron grill pan over medium-high heat. Make sure the pan is hot before you add the bulgogi. Add the bulgogi in a single layer. You may need to cook it in batches. The meat should not overlap so that it chars nicely without steaming and releasing liquid. Cook until lightly charred and cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes on each side.
Transfer the bulgogi onto a serving platter or serve it straight from the pan. Sprinkle the green onions and sesame seeds on top. Serve it while hot with cooked rice on the side.
Leftovers can be tightly covered and refrigerated for up to 5 days.
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