BBQ Marinated Beef Short Ribs (Galbi) is one of the standouts of the world famous Korean barbecue! The unique thing about Korean BBQ marinades is the exceptional tenderising quality which can be applied to traditionally tougher cuts such as short ribs, making them tender in a way you never thought possible.
Sweet, savoury and rather garlicky, the Koreans know a good BBQ!
Korean BBQ Marinated Beef Short Ribs
Korean barbecue is one of the first things that come to mind when people think of Korean food. And it’s world famous for good reason! I love that it’s as much of a social event as it is an eating one, enjoyed with groups gathered around grills embedded in tables to cook marinated meats, seafood and vegetables.
Interactive food, I call it. And I’m 100% on board!
And of all the marinated meats, I am pretty sure that Korean Short Ribs is one of the most well known. Prized for the extra beefy flavour, and the unique way in which a cut that is typically associated as one best slow cooked to break down tough fibres is left overnight in a Korean marinade to tenderise, then grilled until caramelised!
Korean Barbecue Marinade for Beef Short Ribs
The DIY cooking experience aside, one of the things that makes Korean BBQ so great are the Korean barbecue marinades. There’s a few things makes Korean barbecue marinades so distinctive:
Exceptional tenderising effect – Korean barbecue marinades use fruit such as nashi pears, standard pears, apples, kiwis and pineapples which have natural tenderising qualities. These fruits break down the fibres of otherwise tough meats – such as the short ribs we are using today – so they are exceptionally tender, even if you overcook them!
Distinctive sweet-savoury flavour – It’s familiar Asian flavours, but unique. Strong on garlic – it’s the Korean way – leaning towards the sweet more than savoury. But because some of the sweetness comes from fruit rather than sugar, it’s very different to the sugary-sweet of some Western foods. It’s also very well balanced with a generous dose of finely grated onion which adds a a great boost of savoury flavour.
Ingredients in Korean BBQ Marinade for Beef Short Ribs
Here’s what you need for the Korean Barbecue Marinade:
Nashi Pear OR normal pear or apple – The unique ingredient in Korean Barbecue Marinades, these fruits have natural tenderising qualities that can tenderise the fibres of even the toughest cuts of meat such as beef short ribs which are typically slow cooked until fall apart tender (such as in this recipe and this recipe). “Nashi” is the Japanese word for “pear”, and it’s also known by various other names including Korean Pear, Asian Pear, Chinese Pear, Apple Pear and Sand Pear, to name a few.
Shaped like a round apple rather than the distinctive pear shape, but with a flesh texture like ordinary pears. Except – dare I say it – juicier and tastier!
Nashi Pear is typically available throughout autumn and winter, though often I see them well through spring.
Best substitute – normal pears or red apples. Very similar flavour and tenderising effect in end result;
Garlic – Korean food is known for being heavy on garlic, and Korean marinades are no exception!
Ginger – The garlic plays such a dominant role here, I consider ginger to be complimentary and highly recommended but not essential;
Onion – Essential savoury flavour base, especially with the unique way in which it is finely grated;
Mirin – Japanese sweet cooking wine which adds depth and complexity into the marinade, and anything it comes into contact with;
Soy sauce – This adds the salt into the beef;
Sesame oil – Similar to garlic, Koreans are very fond of sesame oil, and we do not complain!
Sugar – Adds the sweet flavour as well as terrific caramelisation on the beef; and
Black pepper – For a touch of warmth.
Beef Cut used for Korean BBQ
Beef ribs are a thick meaty cut that are typically slow cooked whole in Western cooking, to break down the tough fibres until they become “fall apart tender”, such as these Beef Ribs in Red Wine Sauce.
In contrast, for Korean BBQ, beef short ribs are cut into small, ready-to-grill bite size pieces or “butterflied” into one long thing piece of beef that unrolls still attached to the bone. The latter, butterflied beef short ribs, is what I’ve used today. Both these cuts are rarely found at Western butchers, you need to get them from Korean or Asian butchers. But don’t worry, see below for an easily accessible substitution!!
The photos below show what butterflied beef short ribs looks like. The top photo is how it is sold at the Korean butchers, with the meat rolled up on the bone. The second photo shows what it looks like unrolled.
Best substitutions for Korean cut beef short ribs
The best substitution for Korean cut beef short ribs are:
Boneless beef ribs, sliced – this is simply short ribs without the bone; or
beef oyster blade which is known as Flat Iron in the US. It has similar cooking and flavour characteristics to beef short ribs in that:
it can be slow or fast cooked;
similar beefy flavour; and
when sliced thinly and marinated in a Korean BBQ marinade, it stays nice and juicy even when grilled long enough to caramelise (which technically overcooks the thinly sliced beef).
While Oyster Blade might not be a well known cut of beef here in Australia, it is in fact even sold at large supermarkets (Coles, Woolworths, Harris Farms) and is one of the better value cuts of beef.
To use oyster blade, simply finely slice it and use per the recipe in place of the beef short ribs. If you get the oyster blade in steak form (which is how it’s typically sold at supermarkets), then slice it thinly on an angle to get pieces with a larger surface area (partially freezing it helps).
How to make Korean BBQ Beef Short Ribs
One of the distinguishing techniques used in Korean marinades is that onion and fruit (nashi pear, in this case) are finely grated to extract maximum flavour for the marinade.
Finely grate onion, nashi pear, ginger and garlic, then combine with remaining marinade ingredients;
Unroll the Korean cut butterflied beef short ribs;
Place beef in a ziplock bag or container then add the marinade;
Marinade beef for 24 hours. Don’t shortcut this – beef short ribs are a tough cut of beef so it needs the full marinating time to ensure it is properly tenderised;
Cook beef preferably on a BBQ but even a stove is fine. I like to use my BBQ so I can cook the beef strips whole – because it looks so good! But practicality rules when indoors – just cut them up into pieces that will it in your skillet.
It takes around 2 – 3 minutes on a hot BBQ to caramelise each side, by which time the inside of the thin slices of beef are beyond well done. But do not worry about overcooking the beef! In fact, know that you WILL overcook it, but the marinade keeps it tender. In fact, I’ve cooked it for well over 10 minutes and it was still unbelievably tender.
Seriously. This Korean marinade is magic!
Remove from the BBQ or stove, then serve! Unlike other types of Korean barbecue meats which have a dipping sauce, this beef is infused with and dripping with flavour so I guarantee you do not need a sauce!
What to serve with Korean Marinated BBQ Beef Short Ribs
Korean food is known as much as for the wide selection of small side dishes (Banchan) as it is the main affair. My website is sadly lacking in such selections, however I can offer up some recipes I’ve used from other websites:
Pictured in post are Kimchi Fried Rice and Ginger Smashed Cucumbers which are a sensational pairing with this juicy Korean beef. I love the fiery red colour of the fried rice, which looks much more fierce than it actually is in taste!
And here are a few more options for you:
Enjoy! – Nagi x
Watch how to make it
Galbi – Korean BBQ Marinated Beef Short Ribs
Do not worry about overcooking the thin slices of beef. The marinade is magical, it keeps the thin slices of beef incredibly tender even if you cook it for over 10 minutes which would ordinarily turn the beef into inedible dry cardboard!
- 1 kg/ 2lb beef short ribs, butterflied Korean style (pictured) or thinly sliced through the bone (Note 1 for subs)
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil , for cooking
Korean Barbecue Marinade:
- 1/3 cup soy sauce (all purpose or light soy, not dark or sweet)
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 2 tbsp Mirin (Note 2)
- 1/4 cup onion , finely grated (including juice)
- 1/4 cup nashi pear , finely grated including juice (sub normal pear or any red apple, Note 3)
- 2 tsp garlic , finely grated
- 2 tsp ginger , finely grated
- 2 tbsp water
- 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil (Note 4)
- 1 tsp black pepper
Make Marinade: Whisk Marinade ingredients in a bowl.
Marinade 24 hours: Place beef in a ziplock bag, glass or ceramic container. Pour over Marinade, mix well to coat. Cover and marinade for 24 hours.
Remove beef from Marinade, discard Marinade.
BBQ – Heat on high until smoking hot, then brush grills with vegetable oil. Lay beef on BBQ and cook for 2 minutes until caramelised. Turn and cook the other side until caramelised. Remove, loosely cover with foil, cook remaining beef.
Stove – Cut beef strips into pieces that will fit your skillet. Heat skillet with oil over high heat. Add beef and cook for 2 minutes until caramelised, then turn and cook the other side for 2 minutes.
Slicing through the bone requires special butchery equipment, butterflying short ribs requires not only nifty knife skills but also beef ribs that are not as fatty as the usual Western ones that are intended to be slow braised until meltingly tender (such as in Red Wine Sauce or BBQ Sauce).
I opt to buy mine pre cut from Korean butchers! I go to Hahn’s Quality Korean Meats in Eastwood (Sydney) which is a Korean neighbourhood. Korean cut beef ribs can also be found at many Asian butchers.
a) Boneless short ribs, sliced; or
b) Beef Oyster Blade which is called Flat Iron in the US. Similar cooking characteristics (able to be slow cooked or fast cooked) and similar texture + beefy flavour. Best to buy it in a roast form then slice 0.5cm / 0.2″ thick, marinade and cook per recipe. Oyster steak is sold at large grocery stores in Australia (Woolies, Coles, Harris) – for these, freeze for 1 hour (makes it easier to slice) then slice across surface on the diagonal so you get larger surface area thin slices.
2. Mirin – Japanese sweet cooking sake, adds complexity and depth of flavour to anything it comes in contact with. Best substitute: 1 tbsp Chinese cooking wine (Shaoxing wine), or cooking sake. Otherwise, leave it out.
3. Nashi Pear – Prized for the natural tenderising qualities for this tough cut of beef, and sweet flavour it brings! Substitute with normal pear or any type of red apple.
4. Sesame Oil – toasted sesame oil is brown and has more flavour than untoasted (which is yellow). Default sesame oil sold in Australia is toasted, untoasted is harder to find.
5. Storage – marinated beef can be put in the freezer immediately, then it will marinate as it thaws overnight in the fridge. Cooked beef will keep for 4 – 5 days, but it’s truly at its best freshly cooked!
6. Nutrition assumes all the marinade is consumed which of course it is not. Impossible to calculate the actual calories per serving because of this, but suffice to say it is less!
Life of Dozer
When I cheated on Dozer in Tasmania!!! This is Oscar the trail dog, owned by a friend, who is actually able to keep up on mountain bike riding trails. Dozer, on the other hand, is no long distance runner, so he stayed at home with the golden retriever boarder. This is in Derby, Tasmania – just got back last night!
And here is Dozer and I, reunited. He knows I’ll always be faithful to him…..!!