A staple of Korean barbecue, bulgogi translates to “fire meat” (a direct link to the tradition of making it by grilling marinated beef over charcoal). This bulgogi recipe, which requires minimal prep time and is endlessly adaptable, is designed to be pan-fried on a stovetop. The sweet-salty bulgogi marinade pairs well with beef, chicken, or pork—for a vegetarian version, try this recipe with eggplant. In short: It’s an excellent weeknight main dish to keep in your back pocket.
If you’re going for the classic Korean beef bulgogi, the cut of beef is important. We like trimmed hanger steak or boneless short rib, but another tender, well-marbled cut like top sirloin, rib eye, or skirt steak will also work well here. The key is cutting the meat into thin slices so they absorb the marinade ingredients quickly—if you live near a Korean grocery store, you can pick up presliced beef or ask the butcher for Korean BBQ beef. Stir fry the meat in batches using a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat to help deliver those coveted crispy brown edges.
Traditional bulgogi marinade calls for puréed or grated fruit such as kiwi, apple, or pear. Any kind of pear will work with this recipe, but if you have access to Korean pears (or another type of Asian pear), use those instead. Use the short marinating time to set your table with Korean side dishes (known as banchan), including kimchi and spinach namul, as well as everything you need to wrap little bundles: steamed white rice with a garnish of green onions and sesame seeds, ssamjang, and lettuce leaves.
garlic clove, grated
tablespoons soy sauce
tablespoon gochugaru (coarse Korean hot pepper flakes), or 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
tablespoon grated peeled ginger
tablespoon light brown sugar
tablespoon toasted sesame oil
pound boneless pork loin, trimmed hanger steak, boneless short rib, or skinless, boneless chicken breasts or thighs
tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
Sliced scallions (for serving)