How to Make Traditional Korean Bulgogi

How to Make Traditional Korean Bulgogi

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Updated on June 4, 2024

Are you looking to add some authentic Korean flavours to your cooking repertoire? Well, I’ve been there, too, craving the delicious taste of traditional Korean Bulgogi. After researching and experimenting with different recipes, I can confidently say that I have found the solution to making mouth-watering Bulgogi at home. In this article, I will share my findings on how to make the best traditional Korean Bulgogi that will leave you wanting more. Get ready for a flavourful journey into the heart of Korean cuisine with this easy-to-follow recipe!

Historical Background

How to Make Traditional Korean Bulgogi

The history of bulgogi dates back to the Goguryeo era (37 BC–668 AD), when it was originally known as “maekjeok” (meat grilled on a skewer). Over time, the cooking method evolved from skewers to grilling on a grate, and the dish gradually became known as “neobiani” during the Joseon Dynasty (1392–1897). The modern term “bulgogi,” which means “fire meat,” aptly describes the cooking method where marinated meat is grilled over an open flame.

Introducing Traditional Korean Bulgogi

Bulgogi easily ranks among my favourite dishes from Korea, a testament to the rich culinary heritage of Korean cuisine. This traditional delight consists of thinly sliced beef that has been marinated in a magical blend incorporating soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, and the unique sweetness of Asian pear or honey.

The choice of meat is pivotal; I always opt for boneless ribeye steak due to its tenderness and flavour profile, which melds perfectly with the marinade’s complex tastes.

The real secret behind Bulgogi’s irresistible allure lies in its marinade—a concoction where reduced-sodium soy sauce meets brown sugar, sesame oil swirls together with finely grated pear, and rice wine whispers secrets to minced garlic and ginger.

Experiencing this dish as both a cook and an enthusiast teaches you the importance of balance in flavours and textures. My kitchen journeys have shown me how essential it is to slice the beef just right—thin enough to soak up all that marinating goodness yet thick enough to retain juices when cooked.

With every batch I prepare, whether on a grill or stove-top, following authentic Korean BBQ techniques, I’m reminded why this dish is celebrated globally. It’s more than just preparing food; it’s about crafting an experience that evokes warmth and satisfaction at first bite.

Ingredients Overview for Korean Beef Bulgogi

How to Make Traditional Korean Bulgogi

I always start with the finest boneless ribeye steak I can find for my Korean Bulgogi. It’s crucial to choose a cut that’s tender enough to soak up the rich flavours of the marinade. For me, slicing this beef thinly is part of the craft, ensuring each piece cooks evenly and quickly, capturing that authentic Korean barbecue essence.

Making the marinade is an adventure in itself. I blend reduced-sodium soy sauce with brown sugar and sesame oil, adding a unique depth to the flavour profile. The secret ingredient? Grated Korean or Asian pear.

This isn’t just for sweetness; it acts as a natural tenderiser, making the meat melt-in-your-mouth soft. Including garlic, ginger, and a dash of rice wine elevates it further, infusing every slice of beef with those signature Asian cooking notes that make Bulgogi truly special.

Cooking Bulgogi then becomes a joyous occasion where all these elements come together on the grill or stovetop. The aroma alone tells you it’s going to be delicious even before you take your first bite.

Every time I prepare this dish, memories stir in its sizzling sounds—it’s more than food; it’s sharing a piece of Korean culture right from my kitchen.

Choosing the Right Beef Cut

How to Make Traditional Korean Bulgogi

The best cut for Bulgogi is the boneless ribeye steak. This type of beef is tender and flavourful, making it perfect for this Korean dish. When slicing the beef, it’s important to cut it thinly to ensure quick and even cooking.

Slicing the beef thinly is crucial for Bulgogi as it allows for maximum tenderness and flavour absorption. Using boneless ribeye steak ensures a delicious and authentic Bulgogi experience, popular among food lovers who appreciate tender grilled meat with a sweet and savoury flavour profile.

How to Slice Beef for Bulgogi

To ensure the beef is just right for Bulgogi, slicing it thinly and against the grain is key. This helps tenderise and absorb the marinade better and cook faster.

When slicing the beef, use a sharp knife to cut across the grain into thin slices of about 1/8 inch thickness.

It’s important to note that cutting against the grain shortens the muscle fibres, resulting in more tender meat once cooked. So, remember to slice against rather than with the direction of these lines within the meat.

In addition to using an appropriate cut of beef, how you slice it can greatly impact the final texture and taste of your Bulgogi dish.

How to Make Bulgogi Marinade

How to Make Traditional Korean Bulgogi

To make Bulgogi marinade, combine Korean pear, soy sauce, rice cooking wine, garlic, ginger and sesame oil in a bowl. Mix the ingredients thoroughly to create a flavourful marinade for the beef.

Ingredients for Marinade

For the marinade, I use reduced-sodium soy sauce for a salty base and Korean pear for natural sweetness. This is complemented by rice-cooking wine, which adds depth of flavour alongside minced garlic and grated ginger to give it that authentic Korean taste.

To finish, I mix in some sesame oil for a nutty undertone that ties all the flavours together perfectly.

I ensure my marinade blends flavours harmoniously with ingredients such as brown sugar to balance the saltiness and acidity of rice vinegar. Including these key elements in the marinade guarantees an explosion of traditional Korean taste when combined with high-quality beef slices.

This recipe results in a symphony of umami, sweet, and savoury notes that will surely impress any food lover or a busy foodie looking for an authentic Korean culinary experience.

Tips for Tenderising the Beef

When preparing beef for Bulgogi, select a good quality cut like boneless ribeye steak. It’s essential to slice the beef thinly against the grain to ensure tenderness and quick cooking.

For an extra tender result, include grated pear in the marinade, as it contains natural enzymes that break down proteins. Additionally, marinate the beef for at least 30 minutes or, ideally, overnight to infuse flavour and maximise tenderness.

By following these tips, you can ensure succulent and flavoursome Korean Bulgogi that will delight your taste buds.

Cooking Bulgogi

To cook Bulgogi, choose between pan-frying, grilling, or BBQing and adjust the heat for desired tenderness. Flip beef slices occasionally to ensure even cooking and avoid overcrowding the pan or grill.

Methods: Pan-Frying, Grilling, Barbecuing

Pan-frying, grilling, and even barbecuing are fantastic methods for cooking Korean Bulgogi. Pan-frying the marinated beef in a hot skillet sears it beautifully, creating caramelised edges that enhance the flavour.

Grilling is another excellent way to cook Bulgogi—it adds a smoky depth to the meat’s taste. When I’m feeling adventurous, I fire up my grill outdoors and watch as the flames give my Bulgogi that extra charred essence.

For me, barbecuing can’t be beaten when it comes to infusing Korean barbecue beef with an irresistible smokiness. It’s all about getting those perfect grill marks on each piece of marinated beef! Plus, I often find that grilling allows some of the excess fat to drip away, which gives my Bulgogi a leaner finish without compromising its juicy tenderness.

Tips for Cooking Bulgogi

When cooking Bulgogi, it’s essential to preheat the grill or pan to medium-high heat before adding the marinated beef. This ensures that the meat cooks quickly and caramelises on the outside while remaining tender inside.

Maintaining a watchful eye during cooking is crucial. Flip the beef slices frequently to avoid burning and achieve an even sear. Additionally, resist overcrowding the grill or pan; allow ample space between each slice of beef for optimal browning.

These steps guarantee that your Bulgogi turns out succulent with those sought-after crispy edges.

Furthermore, when grilling or pan-frying Bulgogi, refrain from pressing down on the meat with a spatula – this helps retain its juices for maximum tenderness. To elevate your dish with an extra burst of flavour and juiciness, try incorporating sliced onions into your grill or pan for that sweet caramelised touch alongside your Bulgogi.

Serving and Storing

How to Make Traditional Korean Bulgogi

When serving Bulgogi, pair it with steamed rice and a side of Kimchi. Store leftover Bulgogi in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days, then reheat gently before serving.

Suggestions for Serving Bulgogi

Here are some serving suggestions that will surely enhance your dining experience. When enjoying Bulgogi, I recommend serving it with a side of steamed rice or wrapped in fresh lettuce leaves alongside some spicy kimchi for a delightful combination of flavours and textures.

You can also serve it with a variety of Korean banchan (side dishes), such as steamed vegetables or pickled radishes, to complement the rich, savoury taste of the dish.

To elevate your Bulgogi experience, consider pairing it with a refreshing glass of Korean rice wine or traditional green tea for an authentic Korean dining experience. For those looking to add an extra layer of depth to the meal, incorporating some freshly sliced garlic and chilli peppers on the side can provide an added kick to each bite.

One of the most common ways to serve bulgogi is by adding the cooked beef to a hearty bowl of bibimbap. You can add many stir-fried vegetables on top of a hot bowl of rice, along with some banchan and bulgogi. To finish it off, add some bibimbap sauce made from gochujang, vinegar, sugar, and sesame seeds. Mix it all up, and devour this hearty bowl of rice, meat, and veggies.

By embracing these serving suggestions, you’ll be able to immerse yourself in the vibrant and distinct culinary world of traditional Korean cuisine like never before.

Proper Storage and Reheating Instructions

After enjoying the delicious Bulgogi, it’s important to store any leftovers properly and ensure they are reheated correctly for food safety. When storing leftover Bulgogi, transfer it to an airtight container and refrigerate promptly.

The leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, maintaining their flavour and quality. To reheat the Bulgogi, place it in a skillet over medium heat or microwave it until thoroughly heated.

By following these proper storage and reheating instructions, you can continue to enjoy the delightful flavours of your traditional Korean Bulgogi.

Remember that proper storage helps maintain the freshness of the dish, ensuring its taste remains delightful when reheated later. Properly reheating ensures that each bite is as delicious as when it was first prepared.

So, refrigerate promptly and then reheat carefully—this way, we get to savour every bit of our beloved traditional Korean Bulgogi.

Summary of Our Bulgogi Recipe

How to Make Traditional Korean Bulgogi

Here is a summary of our recipe:


  • 1.5 pounds boneless ribeye steak, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 Korean or Asian pear, grated
  • 1/2 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon grated ginger
  • 2 tablespoons rice cooking wine
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil (for cooking)


  1. Partially freeze the ribeye steak for about 30 minutes to make slicing easier.
  2. Using a sharp knife, slice the beef thinly across the grain into slices about 1/8 inch thick.
  3. To prepare the marinade, combine the following in a large bowl: grated Korean or Asian pear, reduced-sodium soy sauce, brown sugar, sesame oil, minced garlic cloves, grated ginger, rice cooking wine, chopped green onions, and black pepper.
  4. Stir until the sugar is dissolved and the ingredients are well mixed.
  5. Add the thinly sliced beef to the marinade, ensuring each piece is thoroughly coated.
  6. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, preferably overnight, for maximum flavour and tenderness.
  7. Cook the bulgogi using one of the following methods:
    • Pan-Frying
      • Preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil.
      • Add the marinated beef in a single layer, ensuring not to overcrowd the pan.
      • Cook for about 2-3 minutes on each side until the beef is caramelised and cooked through. Repeat with remaining beef if necessary.
    • Grilling
      • Preheat the grill to medium-high heat.
      • Place the marinated beef slices on the grill and cook for 2-3 minutes per side, or until the edges are caramelised and the beef is cooked to your desired doneness.
    • Barbecuing
      • Preheat the barbecue to medium-high heat.
      • Lay the marinated beef slices on the barbecue grate and cook, turning occasionally, until the meat is evenly browned and caramelised, about 2-3 minutes per side.
  8. Serve the bulgogi over a bed of steamed white rice, or take lettuce or perilla leaves and wrap the beef with rice and ssamjang. You can also serve it with kimchi or pickled vegetables for a tangy and refreshing contrast.

So there you have it: making traditional Korean Bulgogi is easier than you think! Dive into a world of flavours with this Korean dish and share it at your next BBQ gathering with your loved ones.


1. What do I need for the marinade in traditional Korean Bulgogi?

For the marinade, use Asian or Korean pear, garlic and ginger, reduced-sodium soy sauce, rice cooking wine, rice vinegar, and sesame oil. These ingredients give it that authentic Korean food taste.

2. Can I use regular soy sauce instead of reduced-sodium soy sauce?

Yes, you can use regular soy sauce if you don’t have reduced-sodium soy sauce. However, I prefer the latter to keep the salt content lower while maintaining the rich flavour typical of Korean dishes.

3. How long should I marinate the meat for Bulgogi?

I usually marinate my meat overnight to ensure all those flavours, from the garlic and ginger marinade to the sesame oil, penetrate deeply into it. But if short on time, a few hours will still work wonders.

4. What makes Bulgogi different from other grilled meats?

What sets Bulgogi apart is its unique marinade featuring Asian pear or Korean pear, along with a mix of savoury elements like soy sauce and aromatic ones such as garlic and ginger. The combination of these with specific grilling techniques gives it a distinct place among other Korean dishes.

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