This easy beef bulgogi is my take on the classic Korean dish. Thinly sliced steak is marinated, grilled and lightly sauced to create a fantastic main dish. Serve with rice and vegetables, (maybe you are willing to add some kimchi) and you have a winner menu that is sure to become a regular meal at your table.
This dish can trace its history back over 2000 years in Korea. Bulgogi (pronounced pool goh gee) literally means fire meat. While pork can be used as the meat. It is more commonly made with thinly sliced well-marbled beef.
Choosing the Meat For Easy Beef Bulgogi
You want to choose a cut of beef with good marbling (the white small streaks of fat throughout the meat) for this dish. Rib-eye or top sirloin cuts. Think of a good thick steak, rather than a less expensive beef cut for tender bulgogi. While many Asian markets sell sliced meat for bulgogi or shabu shabu dishes, you can easily cut your own from a thick steak.
Choose a piece of meat that is at least 1-1/2” thick with good marbling. Since you will be slicing it, choose a boneless steak that is tight (not a lot of connective tissue and fat.) Plan on 5 ounces of raw meat per person.
Place the meat in the freezer for 45 minutes to firm up. This gives you time to make the marinade. Then using a sharp knife, slice 1-/16” thick slices across the grain (the fibers of the beef). The meat will be firm but still easy to slice. Make sure you are cutting across the grain of the beef to ensure the meat is as tender as it can be. It may take a few slices to get into the groove of thinly slicing the meat, but in no time you will be able to have a pile of beef sliced and the satisfaction of having done it yourself. If you are timid about cutting the beef yourself, most butchers will cut the steak for you at the meat department.
There are a couple of ingredients you may not be familiar with in this recipe.
The first is Gochuchang sauce. This is a sweet and spicy Korean paste that is often found in a bright red container. Like the Chinese hoisin sauce, this is a staple in many Asian dishes and well worth having in your fridge. The sweet heat flavor is hard to duplicate or substitute for. Luckily it is becoming generally carried in large grocery stores and is found in the Asian aisle.
The second ingredient is the Asian pear, found in the produce aisle during the fall and winter. This fruit is a cross between a pear and an apple. (It looks like a large yellow-brown apple.) The flesh has the taste of a pear with the crunch of an apple. Don’t relegate the fruit to only using it in this recipe. They are great to eat and can be substituted in any recipes that call for pears.
Asian pears have an enzyme that tenderizes the beef without turning it grey like many acid-based marinades tend to do. It only takes an hour for the Asian pear to work its magic, but it is safe to marinate the beef overnight without denaturing the meat.
Cooking the beef bulgogi is easy to do on a hot grill pan on the stove. You can also cook the meat, in batches so the beef sears, in a wok. The meat is flavorful from the marinade, but you can add a mixture of soy sauce and Gochuchang after the meat is cooked to add more spice and five the meat some sauce when serving over rice.Print
This easy beef bulgogi is packed with flavor and so easy to prepare. You can adjust the spiciness of the sauce at the end.
- 1 pound thick top sirloin or rib-eye steak, sliced 1/16”
- 1/2 Asian pear, cut into pieces (about 1/2 cup)
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1-inch piece fresh ginger, grated with juice (1–1/2 tablespoons)
- 2 green onions, chopped (white and green parts)
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 1–1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon Gochuchang
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1–4 teaspoons Gochuchang, to taste
- Sesame seeds and Green Onions to garnish
- Freeze the beef for 45 minutes to 1-1/2 hours until firm, thinly slice the beef across the grain and set aside.
- In a blender or food processor, att the Asian pear, garlic, ginger, green onions, brown sugar, soy sauce, oil, Gochuchang, honey sesame oil, and pepper and blend until smooth paste forms.
- Transfer the marinade to a zip-close bag and add the meat slices. Close the page and using your hands squeeze the meat and paste until all the beef is coated with the marinade.
- Refrigerate for at least 60 minutes or up to 24 hours. (I like to transfer the meat to a colander to let the marinade drain from the beef during this time. Dry meat sears better than damp meat.)
- When ready to cook, remove the meat from the refrigerator and let come up to room temperature of 30 minutes
- Preheat a grill pan or wok with oil over high heat. Working batches, being careful to not overcrowd the pan, arrange the beef strips in a single layer in the pan and let cook.
- After 1-2 minutes when the meat easily releases from the hot surface, turn each piece over and cook another 60 seconds.
- Remove cooked meat from the pan and let the pan recover for 2 minutes, then repeat until all the meat is cooked.
- When all the beef is cooked, stir together the soy sauce and Gochuchang and taste, adding more Gochuchang to make it sauce as spicy as desired. Pour the sauce over the beef and stir to combine with any beef juices from the meat.
- Garnish with sesame seeds, slivered green onions, and cilantro as desired.
- Serve with rice and vegetables and offer Gochuchang at the table.