This Korean bulgogi marinade recipe is simple, and uses inexpensive, thin-sliced brisket instead of the traditional and more expensive tenderloin or sirloin cuts. The taste is nearly identical, and it can be served over rice, vegetables, or by itself as an entree.
- A hot grill, at least 500°F, 700°F is better
- A cast iron grill grate, like this one
- Thin metal spatula
- Cookie sheet or similar non-stick surface for separating the marinated meat slices
- Small Ziplock bag (1 qt. size)
Brisket sliced about 1/8″ thick, available at your local Asian market. You’ll need about 8 oz. per person as there’s about 40% shrinkage due to the fat content. We paid $2.99 per pound. Compare that to sirloin, tenderloin, or flank, all costing at least twice to three times as much.
When we shop at Asian stores for meat, we expect to find mostly ungraded cuts. That doesn’t mean it’s inferior; it simply means the packer didn’t pay for USDA grading which is expensive. So, we have to get our quality eyes on to pick the best meats. The color should be a deep pink to medium red, not dark blood red, and there should be no liquids or sign of blood oozing from the meat. Any liquids mean the meat has been around too long for your cash.
Mix the following in a small dish in proportions indicated. You need very little marinade, so you can start with only 4 tbsp of sesame oil per pound. Proportions are not terribly critical; I don’t measure. The sesame oil is the main flavor driver.
- 4 tbsp sesame oil (there is NO substitute for this)
- 2 tbsp soy sauce (I like Hawaiian soy if you can find it)
- 1 tsp white sugar
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp ginger power or fresh grated ginger (better)
- 1/2 tsp onion powder
- 1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper
If you’re thinking of saving some time and buying a commercial Bulgogi sauce, don’t do it. I’ve tried several, and they’re not nearly as tasty as the above recipe.
Separate the meat slices one by one, cut out any large fat sections, then drop them in the plastic Ziplock bag. If you don’t separate them now, you’ll be sorry because you’ll have a sticky ball of meat in two hours.
Once all the meat slices are bagged, pour the marinade in the bag, close and shake to cover all the meat. The coating can be fairly thin. Refrigerate for at least one hour, but not more than two hours. The acid and salt in the soy sauce will start tenderizing the meat immediately, and if you don’t pull it after a couple of hours you’ll have something that looks more like cat food than steak. It will taste fine, but it will be very hard to handle.
About 15 minutes before the marinade time is up, prepare your grill for cooking. Place your cast iron grill grate directly over the fire. This is direct, high heat, quick grilling.
When your marinading is done, remove the bag from the refrigerator, dump the meat on the cookie sheet, and carefully separate each slice of beef and lay them out in one layer.
Using either grape seed, vegetable, or sesame oil, brush a thin coating on the grill grate. For a brush, I use a Home Depot 1″ paint brush for all my grill and food brushing. You need natural bristles, but nothing fancy. You’ll want to keep this one for use only in the kitchen, but you knew that;-) . Working top left to bottom right, lay each slice of brisket on the grill grate. By the time you are done and at the lower right corner of the grill grate, your brisket is ready to be turned–starting from the top left side. Use your spatula and (carefully) your fingers when needed. Now, hit it with a little more freshly ground pepper if you like.
We don’t want to overcook the brisket, and want to see some pink in the meat when done. Not much, but some, so work quickly. You only have about 90 seconds per side of grill time when the grill is 500° or more.
Once you’ve turned all the slices, it’s time to remove them from the grill grate. Use your spatula and work fast, starting again from the upper left corner, placing them on a cutting board or other serving piece individually.
Serve with rice, over vegetables like our grilled asparagus, individually as an entree, or if you’re into all protein ,with some quinoa, my personal favorite.
I could probably eat bulgogi marinated beef every day; it’s one of my all time favorites. Make it one of yours, and keep it economical by using cheap cuts of meat like brisket.