Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Bulgogi Skewers

Sometimes I'm creative and come up with something cool.  But other times I just get lucky and stumble onto something when messing around.  This was a "stumble onto" because I was trying to solve a problem that I wasn't sure even existed.  But it is a technique that rocks and will work with many flavor profiles.

This is a "Far East meets Middle East meets my backyard" kind of thing.   Korean bulgogi grilled on a skewer - reminiscent of shawarma, gyro, or even tacos al pastor done on a vertical bbq spit.   The result is sweet and spicy grilled beef that has crispy edges, juicy insides, and is pull apart tender.

Bulgogi Skewers, different ribeye idea

It looks like whole pieces of meat on a stick but as you pull pieces off, they tear into thin, delectable ribbons of "oh my snap that tastes so good".   The flavor is a pop in the mouth but it's more about the range of textures.

Here's how I stumbled into this.  
  • I've been wanting to make Korean bulgogi ever since seeing Josh at The Meatwave post about his almost two years ago.  [If you don't follow The Meatwave you should.  Great photography, solid bbq/grilling techniques, sauce reviews, and more.  I think he has one of the most underrated BBQ sites on the Internet.]  
  • I looked at Josh's recipe, Mark Bittman's, then sort of combined them for the marinade.  I just wasn't crazy about grilling thin slices of steak over hot fire with a sugary marinade.  I was worried that trying to flip them all fast enough as they quickly cooked through (and the sugar started burning) would be a pain.  
  • That's when skewers entered my mind.  I wasn't thinking about the great variety of textures I would get.  I was just being lazy smart and efficient.
Bulgogi Skewers
Inspired by Josh Bousel and Mark Bittman

  • 2 ribeye steaks, 1" thick*
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup mirin
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled and coarse chopped
  • 1 green onion, coarse chopped
  • 2 fresh basil leaves, coarse chopped
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp red pepper flake
  1. Freeze the steaks for 30 minutes and then slice as thin as you can across the grain.  Place in a bowl.
  2. Place the remaining ingredients in a blender or food processor and process until the solid ingredients are pulverized, smashed, and decimated...about 20-30 seconds.  Pour over the sliced beef and toss to coat thoroughly.  Marinate for 1 hour.
  3. Preheat a charcoal fire to 450f (medium high heat).  
  4. Fold and thread the ribbons of steak onto skewers.  You want to push them up against each other so only the edges get crispy (see pictures).  
  5. Place on the grill and cook for 2 minutes.  Cook another 3 minutes, rotating a quarter turn every minute.  I don't have an internal temp target for you, you are just looking for the exterior to get lightly crispy and browned.
  • Equipment needed:  6-8 bbq skewers.  If using bamboo skewers, soak them in water while the meat is marinating.
  • Steak - You can substitute strip steak, flat iron, or flank steak.  
Partially frozen beef will be easier to slice thinly.  

The ribeye can have a sinewy piece of silver skin that is NOT good eats.  I cut around it like this, before continuing to slice.

Bulgogi Skewers
Before cooking, they still look like individual ribbons of heavenly beef.

Bulgogi Skewers
As they grill over the hot coals, they start to form together. 

Pull apart tender.
We've had these twice this week, they were so good.  The same technique would be fantastic using a Greek marinade for gyros (pull the meat off and serve in pitas with tzatziki sauce) or using thin shaved pork with a Mexican marinade for tacos al pastor (pull meat off and serve in tortillas).  

Gimme Shelter
Two weeks ago, I bought a new awning for our deck grilling area.  They only last about a year but at least they count as "temporary" so the homeowners association can't complain about it being "an unapproved permanent structure" requiring the architectural committee's approval.  My neighbor, grilling co-conspirator, and fellow Big Green Egger, John, helped me put it together that afternoon.  

The new cover has side pieces that FINALLY let me hang the sign that my parents had made for me last year.

Nibble me this big green egg

It's taken so long that they probably thought I had used the sign for smoking wood in the Egg ;)


  1. wow These beef skewers look so dang delicious!

  2. Great sign and an awesome sounding and looking recipe! I feel a grill on this weekend :)

  3. I've got to try that! It looks great!

  4. Talk about fusion food. This.is.it. I bet you could also throw the pieces into a pita and really globalize the meal!

  5. Wow, this is great. Very creative recipe & sounds delicious. I like the asian twist and always love using skewers - thanks!

  6. I love Bulgogi and I have successfully made it at home with Korean short ribs. It was amazing! This recipe looks delicious, but quite different from the recipe I use. I'm going to give this a try, though, because Korean short ribs are hard to find. I love the sign, Chris! What a great present!

    Kim in MD

  7. What a great sign your parents had made for you! Love it!
    And the Bulgogi skewers... they look wonderful! I love Bulgogi.. there is a place out here that has some of the best I've ever had. Can't wait to try this recipe!

  8. I've got to try these beef skewers ... this week! They sound fantastic. And I'm thinking pretty easy? ? I agree about that thin beef on the grill. When I grill carne asada flap steak, you have to hold your mouth just right to get it cooked properly. And turned. Think I'll even skewer it next time. That's a great sign Chris. I think your Smiling Green Egg logo is just the best. Makes me smile whenever I see it.

  9. I made bulgogi about a month ago, but it didn't turn out quite as good as I remembered it. I found Bittman's recipe a while back and saved it to try next time. I'm thinking that skewers sound amazing!

  10. When I see the word "bulgogi" I keep trying to think how to use it in a limerick. One of these days I will try using my stove top griddle to good effect. And you will have been my inspiration.

  11. I love that your parents had a sign made for you with your blog name. Gives me an idea for my own kitchen!

    The way you described the skewers is very enticing, especially since you said you made them twice. As food bloggers we almost never make the same recipe twice, so that's surely a sign of a great recipe.

  12. Just the word "bulgogi" makes me giggle. Why is that?

  13. I am so doing this tonight with some try-tip roasts. And I might even follow most of the other directions... ;)

  14. Love the sign!!!I want those so bad, Chris! I am waiting for my dinner to be ready and drooling here :)

  15. Oh drool, you had me at "delectable ribbons" ... I have now moved what I had previously planned to make this weekend onto the waiting pile and this has moved into the #1 position. Love the sign...now you're legit!

  16. Looks great! Never thought of skewering Bulgogi like before.

    P.S. Thanks for the shout out!

  17. Nice! I am going to try this Friday! Be very very thankful your condo association allows grills. Mine has a 100% ban on grills. I own 5 grills and can not keep any at my condo. My kamado sits at my parents

  18. I love this technique and will definitely try it soon both Korean and Greek. the new sign is a perfect additon to your cooking center.

  19. We often use a bulgogi marinade for beef- its really good. I am genuinely surprised that you only recently stumbled upon it-


    btw, Love the sign.

  20. I just wanted to stop by and let you know I made these last night with rave reviews. Easy and delicious. We had a steady hard rain, so had to broil them. And I used round steak that I had in the freezer. I look forward to ribeye and the grill. Thanks for the recipe Chris.

  21. oh my! I love everything about this! I want to make this RIGHT NOW.

  22. Those skewers look great! I do love bulgogi. I usually cut it across the grain (kind of like shaving it), but it's a bit of work, so I'll try it your way next time.

  23. Those skewers full of flavor look fabulous! And I was just thinking a little while ago that I should grill the onions and garlic scapes I'm going to buy at the farmers' market after work today ... :)

  24. I'm thinking skirt steak and my gas grill. Not gonna be quite like yours but I think they'll be tasty just the same!

  25. These look so delicious! Love the sign too - about time you post it! ;)

  26. Dude. Just made these for memorial day, and they were CHOICE. I used my own Asian marinade and sauce, but the pull-apart nature of the skewered meat has just found a spot on my permanent rotation. Thanks for the post. Nice job scoring 26 comments, too.

  27. What a great "stumble upon" recipe. They look fantastic Chris!

  28. At the end do you use the liquid you used for marinating to make the basting liquid? These tutorials are always missing something very important.


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