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Cooking with Fire

Cooking With Fire: Beef Bulgogi

Justin Cary

Beef bulgogi is an incredibly popular dish in Korea and is one of the most successful culinary exports of the region.

While the term "bulgogi," which literally translates to “fire meat,” is relatively new, these thin marinated strips of grilled meat have been a staple in the diet of those who live on the Korean peninsula since 37 BC.

Back then, strips of beef or pork were marinated and then threaded on a small skewer and cooked, and then served in broth over rice. This was quite different from the bulgogi we know today.

The reasons bulgogi has changed so much over the last half-century are various, but the two major factors that impacted the dish’s history are these:

First, the introduction of Buddhism to Korea. While those who practice Buddhism are not forced to be vegetarian, many decide to do so on their own. This caused meat-based dishes to lose popularity. Also, as the kingdom’s history continued with periods of being ruled at times by both China and Japan, the culinary traditions of the native people were suppressed by these foreign powers.

Then, after WWII when Korea was split in half by the victorious allied forces, a new era for bulgogi was born. The dish continued to become more popular and widespread. And in the 1990s, when commercial beef became more widely available, the dish exploded in popularity, making its way around the globe, where it has landed in the kitchens of adventurous home cooks everywhere.

In this Cooking With Fire podcast, Josh Cary and Chef Tom Jackson take on this Korean classic.

Beef Bulgogi

  • 3 lb beef ribeye, sliced thin
  • 1/4 cup sliced green onions
  • 2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
  • Red chili flakes, to taste (optional)

 For the marinade:

  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup Asian pear (or Bosc pear), diced
  • 6 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup mirin 
  • 1/4 cup sliced green onions
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 6 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3 tbsp sesame oil


  1. To make the marinade, combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Set aside 1/2 cup of the marinade for later use.
  2. Submerge the thin sliced ribeye in the remaining marinade. Marinate under refrigeration for at least 4 hours, up to overnight.
  3. Combine the 1/2 cup of marinade with 1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes in a small sauce pan. Reduce until thickened. Set aside.
  4. Build a hot coal bed in your charcoal grill, and set the grill up for direct grilling. Or prepare a griddle for high heat cooking.
  5. Remove the ribeye from the marinade and wipe excess marinade from the surface. Grill on both sides until charred and tender. Serve topped with the reduced marinade.