How To Cook Korean BBQ At Home

Bring a taste of K-Town to your backyard

When it comes to hands-on dining and interactive eating, Korean barbecue is king. For those who'd like to bring the K-Town experience a little closer to home, pulling off a backyard Korean barbecue spread can be easy, satisfying and tons of fun.

Tabletop grilling and in-house exhaust systems might not be in the cards, but a charcoal or gas grill subs in beautifully. The rest is simply a matter of buying the right groceries, marinating some meats, firing up the grill and, of course, inviting over your friends.

Bring on the Banchan

A colorful spread of small dishes is a must for any Korean meal, but there's no need to stress about spending wads of time making everything by hand. National chains like Assi Plaza and H Mart have entire sections devoted to banchan, complete with kimchi, pickled vegetables and fish cakes. No Korean market nearby? No worries. Just pick up some kimchi, toss blanched bean sprouts or spinach in sesame oil, and grab potato or macaroni salad from the deli case. These mayo-laden additions are always welcome at any K-BBQ.

Of Marinades and Meats

The star of any barbecue is a good mix of meats, and for Korean barbecue, that means a balance of deep-flavored, marinated, and bare unmarinated cuts. When picking up your banchan, scan the market's meat department thoroughly for for pre-marinated cuts of bulgogi and kalbi (short ribs). Fatty slices of pork belly and skirt and flank steaks can all hit the grill sans marinade. For vegetables, stick with hearty ones that can stand up to the heat. Thick-cut white onions and king trumpet mushrooms do great on the grill, especially when they have a chance to mingle with meat juices.

③ Garnish, Dip, Wrap, Repeat

You're going to need more than just meat to round out the meal. Sticky bowls of steamed short-grain white rice are de rigueur; small dishes of sesame oil seasoned with coarse salt and black pepper, and umami-rich chile bean paste are perfect dippers. For garnishes, go for the lettuce-wrap trifecta: the chilled leaves of green-leaf lettuce, a tangle of thinly sliced scallions and rounds of raw jalapeños. Setting out a few cloves of thinly sliced garlic is never a bad idea.   

④ Soju Bombs and Beers

An evening of Korean-inspired grilling isn't complete without beer and soju. Lagers like OB, Hite and Cass are great when served ice cold. Meanwhile, soju, Korean liquor, comes in 375- and 750-milliliter green glass bottles; the traditional goes down super smooth, and the fruit-flavored ones can be downright dangerous. Enjoy your beer and soju separately, or go ahead and drop a shot of soju into a half-full glass of beer, boilermaker-style.

Caroline Coral is a food and travel writer who splits her time between Philadelphia and the Caribbean. Follow her on Instagram at @caroline.f.coral.

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