Bulgogi means “fire meat.” It is a staple in Korean households. Thinly sliced pieces of marinated beef cooked on a hot grill or cast-iron surface. The marinade is a mixture of aromatics, sweet, and salty ingredients that combine to give you an explosion of flavor. I find one of the most exciting ingredients in the marinade is the use of Asian pear. The pear has an enzyme called calpain that helps tenderize the meat. Pineapple and kiwi are also used on occasion. With this enzyme at work, it allows us to marinate for just a short time; 30-60 minutes. Marinate too long, and your meat will fall apart and give you an unappealing texture (I have learned this the hard way). Ribeye is often used for its tenderness and fat content. Sirloin and brisket are popular as well; however, I have turned to using beef short ribs. Cut razor-thin the layers of fat and flesh seared to a crisp are so flavorful. Bulgogi is often served with a side of white rice or in a lettuce cup. It excites the palate and brings the whole family to the table.
Korean Bulgogi Beef
2 lbs beef short rib or ribeye
1 small Asian pear (about 1½ cup), peeled, roughly chopped
½ onion, roughly chopped
½ inch ginger, peeled
4 cloves garlic, peeled, whole
3 TBSP soy sauce
1 TBSP rice wine vinegar
1 tsp sugar
¼ tsp red pepper flake
Neutral oil for cooking
4 scallion, green parts only, sliced thin
Place the beef into the freezer for 30 minutes. Beef should be firm but not frozen; this step will help you slice the meat thin. If using short ribs, take a sharp knife and remove the bone from the flesh. Save these for stock, or they will make a dog very happy. Holding the meat flat against the cutting board, slice thinly from short end to short end. You should have a nice layering of fat and flesh. Slice as thin as you are comfortable and place meat slices into a large bowl.
For the marinade, place the pear, onion, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sugar, and red pepper flake into the jar of a blender. Blend until smooth, then pour over the sliced meat. Mix well and refrigerate for an hour.
Heat your grill or cast-iron skillet on high heat. Oil the cooking surface and lay the marinated meat down in an even layer. You want all of the meat to have direct contact with the heat source. Cook on high heat without touching. Short ribs will take about 5-7 minutes, ribeye just 3 or 4 minutes. Be patient and let the meat cook to a dark color. Flip meat, cook for two more minutes, then remove from heat.
To serve, lay lettuce cups out on a platter and spoon beef into individual cups; top with sliced scallion greens.
Chef Liza Greifinger
Your Guide to Our Culinary Trip Around the World
Growing up in New York, surrounded by the flavors of the world, Liza developed a love for food and cooking. After a fulfilling career in outdoor education, she decided to explore her passion for food. Liza studied at The French Culinary Institute and then trained with some of the top chefs in New York City before being drawn to the mountains of Colorado. She joined the team at Food Lab, in Boulder, in the spring of 2016. There she teaches cooking skills and technique to all ages as well as curriculum development for the educational programs.