Korean Kalbi Beef
Kalbi beef is a classic Korean BBQ Short Ribs dish, perfect for summer grilling, but wonderful to make any time of year. I share cooking options for outdoor grilling and also how to broil the short ribs in your oven. This recipe has my Korean mom’s secret ingredient in the marinade for extra tender short ribs!
As Korean food has become more and more popular in the US, Kalbi beef has played a huge part in paving the way to that popularity. It’s one of the main staples of Korean BBQ, and people rightfully go bonkers over how good it is.
Korean kalbi is a special-cut beef short rib (often labeled Korean style short ribs or flanken cut) that’s marinated in a sweet and salty marinade, and grilled until caramelized and deeply brown.
It’s the food of my childhood and something my Korean mama has made for me for years and years. Every time my mom threw a party, there was always kalbi. Always.
And sometimes my mom would decide that we just needed to make and eat lots of kalbi, and she’d consequently call it a party. Even when no one else was coming over. My mom’s thinking was on point!
Tips for Best Results
Find the correct cut of beef – You will need to purchase “flanken style” short ribs, aka Korean cut short ribs or cross cut short ribs. Because the short ribs are cut through bone, this isn’t something you can do yourself at home.
Use good soy sauce – Make sure to use a good quality brand for the soy sauce, as there’s HUGE variability there. My favorite brands are San-J, Lee Kum Kee, and Kikkoman. Stay away from La Choy as well as grocery brands.
Don’t marinate too long – It’s definitely possible to overdo it on the marinating time, and there were a few times when the meat was actually too tender and falling apart. Marinate for a minimum of 4 hours, but a maximum of overnight, or 12 hours.
The Secret Ingredient
This recipe uses most of the standard ingredients for Kalbi, but also includes my mom’s secret ingredient, which helps tenderize the meat. What is it? Kiwi! But, she has also used pineapple.
The secret to the kiwi and pineapple is the enzymes in them that tenderize the meat naturally. Just make sure not to leave the beef in the marinade too long, or your tender beef will be too tender, and risk falling apart.
Step by Step Overview
To get started on the Korean marinade, combine grated kiwi, grated Asian pear, soy sauce, brown sugar, fresh minced garlic, sesame oil, and black pepper:
Mix this together, and then you have your marinade:
Now it’s time to grab your beef!
Below are Korean-style short ribs, also called flanken short ribs.
They have three bones on the top and a couple inches of meat below, and come in thin strips. These are actually a little bit skimpier than normal, but nevertheless, you can see how beautifully marbled the meat is:
Combine the beef and marinade in a ziptop bag:
Marinate this for 4 hours, and as long as overnight.
Now it’s time to cook the beef! The preferred method is to grill them, as I think beef is best when grilled (hello Grilled Ribeye and Grilled Flank Steak). But when a hot grill is not an option, I’ve found that the second best method is to broil them.
Set the marinated beef on top of a wire rack on a sheet pan, and discard any excess marinade:
Broil on high heat for 3-4 minutes on each side, until they are deeply brown and caramelized:
If that’s not an option either, you can pan-fry them, but they don’t caramelize as evenly. They’re still good though.
Serve with rice, and garnish with sliced green onions or sesame seeds, if desired.
If you wish to cut the long strip of beef into bite-size pieces, it is customary to use kitchen shears to cut in between the bones on top. Enjoy!
Recipe Tips and FAQ
Keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Yes, keep in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 3 months. For best results, thaw overnight in the fridge before reheating.
The best options are on the grill or in the oven. I have found that the microwave warms them unevenly due to the bones in the meat. For the grill, reheat over high for 1-2 minutes on each side, until warm. For the oven, reheat in a 350F oven for 5-10 minutes, until warm.
Korean Kalbi Beef
- 1 Asian pear peeled and grated
- 1 kiwi peeled and grated
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
- 2 cloves garlic pressed or minced
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 2 pounds Korean style beef short ribs
- In a large bowl, whisk to combine the grated Asian pear, grated kiwi, soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic, sesame oil, and black pepper. Combine in a marinade bag with the beef, and let marinate for at least 4 hours, and as long as overnight (12 hours).
- Remove the beef from the marinade, and discard the marinade. Either grill the beef over high heat for 3-4 minutes on each side, or broil them on top of a wire rack set over a sheet pan, also for 3-4 minutes on high for each side. If those two cooking options aren't available, you can also pan fry them in a skillet. Cook them until they are caramelized and deeply brown on the edges. Enjoy!
Nutrition is estimated using a food database and is only intended to be used as a guideline for informational purposes.