After nearly two decades of enjoying Korean barbecue at numerous restaurants, and standing in long lines to satisfy my never-ending kbbq hunger, I finally decided to host a Korean BBQ at home. This article will share my top tips and tricks for hosting a fun KBBQ party at home with friends and family.
Korean BBQ: What is it? Why should you try it at your home?
Korean barbecue is a great way to share a meal and experience a shared experience with friends. Cooking together is a great way to share stories, dishes, and drinks. And at the end of it all, you can satisfy any cravings for grilled meat (which you should!). It was a great time. It’s basically a BBQ party at your home.
Korean barbecue has been an integral part of Korean history from the Goguryeo period (37 B.C.-668 A.D.), when skewers were invented, which eventually led to what we now call bulgogi. Over the course of Korea’s history, more dishes were introduced such as banchan thanks to Buddhist influences. Because there are so many options and delicious foods to choose from, Korean barbecue is now divided into multiple parts. Here is a breakdown of the typical components of a Korean BBQ meal.
- Banchan (side dishes)
- Meats, and other protein
- Salads and vegetables
- Wrap options
- Dipping sauces
- There are many options for drinks
There are many ways to enjoy Korean barbecue
There are many ways to enjoy Korean barbecue. Wrap your food in lettuce leaves or shiso leaves and rice paper (dduk bosom), or even Korean pickled daikon slices.
Wraps made with lettuce and shiso leaves
This is the traditional and more popular way to eat KBBQ.
- Place the wrapper you choose, such as a whole leaf of lettuce, in your hand.
- Place the grilled meat on a plate. Dip the meat in a sauce. If the sauce is thick, you can put the meat on a wrapper and dip it in the sauce.
- You can add any toppings such as garlic slices, kimchi or daikon-radish slices. You should not overfill your wrap to ensure that it can be wrapped tightly.
- This is the correct way to eat the wrap, so don’t overfill it.
Dduk bo ssam (rice paper wraps)
This is a non-traditional way to eat KBBQ. It is more popular on the West Coast, where rice paper was influenced heavily by Vietnamese cuisine. Rice paper is my favorite way to eat KBBQ.
- Layer the rice paper and the daikon slices on your plate.
- Add the meat to a sauce of choice, and then top it with a daikon slice.
- You can add veggies like kimchi, garlic, and/or salad.
- Take one bite of the rice paper and roll it over.
You can wrap your Korean BBQ in dduk bossam in many different ways. It’s difficult to use chopsticks because of its slippery texture. It can also be difficult to eat rice paper the way that I do.
You can also add salad to your plate and top it with meat. Then, place the rice paper over everything and pinch it together like an upside down taco. You can also eat your KBBQ with just a bowl of white or Korean purple Rice.
Korean BBQ: The Best Grill
Ensure air circulation
A well ventilated space is essential before you can talk about Korean barbecue at home. There have been many times when I walked into restaurants and was engulfed by smoke. It was illegal ventilation. It’s not something anyone wants to do while they eat.
It is best to have a KBBQ on the patio or in your backyard. If I don’t have the space, I place the table near a sliding glass door and open all windows to allow for air circulation.
If you live near an Asian grocery store, it is easy to find a stove for your Korean BBQ.
A portable propane stove is one of the easiest heating appliances you can use for your KBBQ. These stoves are readily available in Asian grocery stores and come in four-packs. We usually use one to two gas cans for each KBBQ session.
A small charcoal charcoal grill is another option. I use the Weber, but this grill is more difficult because you have to light the charcoal and monitor the temperature throughout the meal. To ensure safety, the barbecue must be done outside.
A mobile induction stove is also available. However, these are not hot enough to be used for KBBQ. You will need a grill plate that can work on an induction stove.
To cook the meat and vegetables, you will also need a grill pan. I searched for the best place to purchase a grill plate and was pleasantly surprised to find many Korean grocery stores near me. The Hanaro Multi-Roaster pan was my choice (Amazon alternative). There are many types of grill plates available. However, I recommend that you choose one that is flat so that heat is evenly distributed. Also, it has a drip tray to collect any fat.
Tools & Place Setting For KBBQ
You don’t want the tools or table setup to go missing once you have your grill and bbq plates. These are the things I forget most often because I am so excited about the prospect of fresh vegetables, char-grilled meats and a variety of banchan. Here are some practical tools and props to make your home a great place for a KBBQ.
- Many tongs: They are useful for cooking meats and serving side dishes. At least three tongs are my favorite.
- Scissors are great for cutting meats like pork belly and vegetables quickly, without the need to use a cutting board.
- Serving plates – These are for meats and vegetables.
- Individual plates: Each guest can make their own wraps or eat their meal.
- Chopsticks and Spoons : Most Korean utensils (though some might find them difficult to use) are usually made of metal. However, it is okay to use wooden spoons and chopsticks . We found all of these utensils in our local Korean market. Korean spoons are also longer than traditional spoons.
- Rice bowls – If you and your guests enjoy eating rice, especially purple rice, small bowls are a great choice. They take up less space on a plate.
- Small plates and bowls: There are many side dishes, rice paper, pickled daikon, and banchan to be served on the table. It’s best to use small plates that can be passed around the table. If the side dishes are smaller, you can fit more on the table.
- Dip bowls: These shallow dipping bowls work great with all sauces
- Shot glasses and glasses
You want the grill to be the focal point of your KBBQ table. This is because you will be using it throughout the evening and eating char-grilled treats from the spot. Place all other plates, dishes, or serving utensils around your grill.
Korean BBQ: Best meats
Mmmmm, meat. This is the main focus of all KBBQ. There are many options when it comes to grilling meat for KBBQ. Here are my top picks:
- Chadol brisket: These are my favorite cuts of beef. They’re super thin and non-marinated. To get the right balance, make sure you buy marbled meat. It can become tough if it is too lean, and large chunks of fat can make the meat chewy.
- Bulgogi: thinly sliced marinated beef or pork.: marinated pork or beef with a sweet and salty flavor. It is thinly sliced and seared to perfection. If you aren’t comfortable cleaning up or changing your grill, you may want to keep all the marinated pieces. The sweet marinade will quickly blacken your grill.
- Galbi: This beef short-rib is also marinated with a similar sauce as bulgogi. However, it’s a completely different cut of meat that tastes just as good. You will need to use scissors to remove the bones from this bone-in cut. Some people find gnawing on bones very satisfying.
- Samgyeopsal: Thin slices of pork belly, which are not marinated and then grilled. Then they are cut into smaller pieces by grilling. To balance the fattiness of the pork belly, this is great with grilled Kimchi.
- Seafood: If you are looking for something different than beef or pork, shrimp, cuttlefish and salmon are all options. These choices are great for pescatarians and if you just want to have variety. H-Mart sometimes offers salmon strips at a discounted price. They’re great for even shabu or grilling.
- Other protein: There are other types of protein, such as dak-gui (marinated Chicken), (small intestine),(large intestine), or (beef tongue).
What amount of meat should you purchase for a Korean barbecue?
Hosting a KBBQ at your home can be difficult because it is hard to estimate how much meat you will need (along with other side dishes). About 1/2 pound (8 ounces) of meat is what I purchase per person. If I know that I will be hosting heavy-eaters, I may adjust my purchase to 3/4 to 1 pound per guest. If you are concerned about how much meat to purchase, ask your guests what they eat.
There are many other options for food, including banchan, vegetables, fruits, and rice paper. Some of us may have eaten so many AYCE (all you could eat) KBBQ, that we are unable to judge volume. We eat less to satisfy our hunger and eat more to justify the admission fee. It’s much easier to make it at your home. You can relax and eat as you like. No matter how many times we have done KBBQ, there are always leftovers.
Grilling meats and other proteins is possible, but grilling vegetables is also possible. Onions, winter squash, kabocha and all kinds of mushrooms are some of my favorites to grill. To top your wraps, I recommend adding some garlic and jalapenos.
Some restaurants will give you lettuce leaves as a side to your wraps. However, some restaurants offer rice paper and pickled daikon (radish) slices to help you make other wraps. These rice paper wraps can be dressed with greens, sliced onions, and sometimes carrots.
Side dish ideas (banchan).
If grilled meats, vegetables, greens and rice paper weren’t enough to fill you up, then no KBBQ meal would be complete without banchan (or Korean side dish). These are our top choices for banchan:
- Kimchi is a spicy, fermented, cabbage that has been seasoned with gochugaru (Korean Red Pepper Powder), garlic, fish sauce and sugar. This may also contain Korean chives and carrots as well as radish or other vegetables.
- Seasoned dried shredded squid (ojingeochae-muchim): dried squid seasoned with gochujang (Korean red pepper paste), garlic, rice syrup, and sesame oil
- Fish salad (gamjasalad).: Mashed potatoes with carrots and boiled eggs. Then, season with mayonnaise and rice syrup.
- Cubed Radish Kimchi ( Kokdugi): Another version of kimchi with cubed daikon and radish.
- Spinach side dish – (sigeumchinamul): Broiling spinach with sesame oil and garlic, sesame seed, salt, pepper, and sesame seeds.
- Spicy cucumber side (oi-muchim),: Cucumbers seasoned with gochugaru (Korean Red Pepper Powder), onions, garlic and sesame oil.
- Kelp noodles salad (cheonsachae): Cold kelp noodles and sliced vegetables, seasoned with mayonnaise and rice vinegar, rice syrup and salt.
You can make your own banchan, sides and other items, such as japchae or chicken-mu or gamja salat. However, it is easier to buy it at one of my local Korean markets, H-Mart, Zion or Zion, which saves you time. For four people, I prefer to have between four and six options for banchan.
Korean BBQ dipping sauces
KBBQ dipping sauce is the perfect finishing touch to every bite. There are many dipping sauces available, but we like the three Korean BBQ sauces: sesame oil, salt and cho-ganjang.
Every restaurant offers its own version. You can personalize each one at home based on your taste preferences and seasoning.
KBBQ is not complete without drinks. Drinks are a big part of the experience, if you ask my friends. You can get soda, beer, and soju at KBBQ. It’s also available at home.
Korean bars usually carry a few brands light lagers like OB, Hite and Cass. My favourite soju flavors include lychee and mango. These can be found at your H-Mart, Asian grocery stores, and other places. You can also get sodas and ice water if you don’t want to drink alcohol.
Korean BBQ: Where to Buy Everything
Find a Korean grocery store near you to make it easier on yourself. There are many fresh, frozen, marinated or fresh meats available. They also have a variety of freshly made rice paper, banchan, and vegetables. You can also find stoves, grill plates, as well as serving ware. H-Mart and Zion Market are my favorites.
You don’t need a Korean market to get your meat or cooking tools if there isn’t one nearby. Online shopping is a good option for certain condiments and tools such as grill plates.
How to make Korean BBQ at Home
- 1 portable butane heater
- 1 grillplate
- Optional: 1 small bowl to use as a drip pan if you have a Kbbq grill plate with drip.
- 1 portion of vegetables
- Serve the barchan with 4-6 small plates.
- 1 pair scissors
- 3 stainless steel tongs
- 4 plates
- 4 sets of chopsticks
- 4 glasses or shot glasses
- 4 spoons
- If people desire rice, they will need 4 small rice bowls
- 12 small dipping bowls to serve 3 different sauces
- 2-3 lb meat, brisket, bulgogi, pork belly, boneless short rib, chicken see above for options
- 4-6 types of banchan see above for options
- 2 heads lettuce
- 1 medium onion sliced
- 1 small kabocha sliced
- 1 package mushrooms sliced
- 1 bulb garlic sliced thinly
- jalapeno sliced
- 32 oz rice paper package or 2 c short-grain rice
- 4 servings ssamjang
- 4 servings sesame oil salt dipping sauce
- 4 servings cho ganjang
- Take a look at your guests before you host. Determine the number of food and meat to buy. You might need to inventory the tools you have collected, such as a gas stove, grill or Kbbq plate. You can also reuse plates and dishes that you already own. You do not have to make it fancy.
- Buy all meat, veggies, sides, rice paper, dipping sauce ingredients, and other items at your local Korean grocery store, such as H-Mart or Zion Market, Arirang or Arirang. You will need to marinate your meat before you make the dish.
- Make sure you have the sides ready: A. Rinse the lettuce and shiso leaves and let them dry. B. Rinse and toss the salad just before serving. C. Cut the ricepaper into 3×3-squares E. Cook the rice in a rice cooker F. Clean and chop all vegetables (onion slices, mushrooms, garlic slices or jalapeno).G. Prepare the dip sauces.H. You can either transfer the banchan to dishes or you can serve them straight from their packaging.
- Place the stove and grill pan in the middle of the table. You can fit more items if the table is larger. Place the salad, side dishes, and meat plates around the grill. Each person should have one plate, one pair of chopsticks, one spoon and the dipping bowls for each sauce.
- Grill your meat. Turn on the stove and start grilling. Grill non-marinated meats first, to ensure a cleaner grill. The marinated meats will quickly turn your grill black because they have sugar in their sauce. Once the meat begins to brown, and then turn it over. If your drip pan has a bowl, be sure to check the fat level throughout the night to see if it needs replacing.
- Grill vegetables: Place vegetables on the edge of the grill plate.
- You can eat the banchan while the meat is being cooked. Make sure you refill your banchan and other side dishes like rice paper or daikon radish during the meal.
- Once the meat has been grilled, make your wraps with lettuce, shiso and rice paper. Add the meat to the wrap and dip it in the sauces. Take a large bite and fold the wrap over with your hands or chopsticks if using rice paper.
- Enjoy the meat and veggies as soon as possible after they are cooked.