The Cooking Tip To Get The Most Out Of Your Meat At A Korean BBQ Restaurant

From etiquette to price points to how to properly pair flavors, there's a lot to know about Korean barbecue to really make the most of the festive meat bonanza you'll be experiencing. If you're getting a big medley of options instead of focusing on one or two kinds of cuts, here's a crucial cooking tip to make the splurge worthwhile: Start with the plain, unmarinated meats first.

While the casual and friendly atmosphere of KBBQ is a far cry from French haute cuisine, you can very much apply the same logic of sequencing flavors in a multi-course meal to get the best experience possible. Plain meats at KBBQ establishments are often offered in high-quality cuts for subtle, complex, and irresistible flavor profiles of the grilled meat itself. While you're perfectly free — and encouraged — to pair plain meats with ssamjang or dip it in pepper-salt oil, it's best to savor that natural taste with a fresh palate before moving onto stronger marinades and sauces. Doing it the other way around also leaves marinade on your grill and cooking utensils that tack on when you're cooking plain cuts. While this might not be a concern in restaurants that swap out your grilling plate between cuts, not many places do — so starting with plain meats is a good habit to get into if you're a frequent KBBQ enthusiast.

Do your best to balance flavors

Say that you're going all out and ordering a set with multiple different plain and marinated meats, or you're focusing on different cuts of either plain or marinated only; how should you order it then? While it ultimately boils down to preference when it comes to choosing a cooking order within different plain cuts and marinated cuts, a general rule of thumb is to start from lean to fatty, then sweet to spicy. The buttery richness of pork belly is likely to overpower the crisp savoriness of beef — the same way that the roaring hot spice of red pork and squid marinades will drown out the sweetness of bulgogi. For the same reasons that you want to go from plain to marinated, you'll want to layer your meats from subtle to strong flavors as you go (this layering logic applies to your vegetarian options as well, so start with grilling your mushrooms before any of your meats).

You might also want to be more conscious of which side dishes you're going through alongside the meats. Once again, personal preference wins above all — but if you're not too attached to any particular combinations, try eating the more flavorful banchan with your plain meats and saving your rice for the marinated cuts. The contrast and balance of flavors does wonders to enhance the experience, especially if you cap the meal off with an order of doenjang jjigae or naengmyeon to wash it all down.