Korean Steak

Here’s what I’ve learned from all the Korean cooks who’ve worked with us over the years: at the end of a long service, there’s nothing better than Korean barbecue. We like to go to Hahm Ji Bach in Flushing, Queens (I like Park’s in Los Angeles, too). But I wanted to learn how to make it myself. When I started asking Korean cooks about it, I learned that in every family recipe, there’s always one key ingredient in the overnight marinade for sweetening and tenderizing. Sometimes it’s Asian pears; sometimes it’s kiwi. But the most popular ingredient? The ultimate American flavor: Coca-Cola.

This Korean barbecue recipe is definitely not authentic Korean bulgogi: it’s my backyard version of that sweet-salty, late-night flavor. I like rib-eyes for my version, but you can use any kind of steak that you like to grill—and actually, you don’t need a grill to do it. Even if you’re using the broiler in your apartment oven, I guarantee it will come out seriously succulent and flavorful. I really love to serve this with Korean kimchee, which you may wish to consider optional, and grated daikon, even though it’s not Korean at all.–Andrew Carmellini

LC In Its Own Right Note

As the author concedes, this Korean barbecue recipe is most definitely–and defiantly–not Korean bulgogi. That’s a salty, sweet, supple, traditional Korean barbecue sensation that stipulates a specific cut of meat and a slew of other marinade ingredients. This is still salty, sweet, supple, and a barbecue sensation, though of a different (yet still darn enticing) sort. It’s also a cinch of a weeknight dinner. Just 10 minutes in the a.m. to toss together the marinade and plop in the steak and dinner is almost done by the time you kick off your heels shoes when you come home. The original recipe called for monstrous 2 1/2 pound rib eyes. We adore a swell steak, but we don’t often come across steaks of that girth, so thought we’d leave the exact size—and, yes, the exact timing—up to you.

Korean Steak Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 20 M
  • 1 H, 10 M
  • Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients

  • 1 cup soy sauce (preferably low-sodium)
  • 1 cup Coca-Cola
  • 1/4 cup toasted sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 4 scallions, minced
  • 2 rib-eye steaks (bone-in or boneless), or other steak, such as sirloin

Directions

  • 1. In a small bowl whisk together the soy sauce, Coke, sesame oil, and hoisin sauce. Add the garlic and scallions and whisk again.
  • 2. To get the marinade on the steak, do whichever of these floats your boat: Place the steaks in a large deep dish, pour the marinade over them, and cover the dish tightly with tin foil or pour the marinade into a large resealable plastic bag, add the steaks, seal the bag, and shake them around till they’re coated in the marinade. Either way, the steaks should marinate in the fridge for up to 12 hours but no longer than that.
  • 3. Pull the steaks out of the marinade, pile them on a plate, and let them rest at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes. Discard the marinade.
  • 4. If you’re using the grill, fire it up. Lay the meat right on the rack and let it grill until it gets a nice char, turning once. The timing will depend on the thickness of the steaks. You just want to get a nice char going, you don’t want to cook them through. Transfer the steaks to a cooler portion of the grill until the desired doneness, about 4 minutes for medium-rare, depending on the thickness. They’re done when the meat springs back to the touch [if you have a meat thermometer, the internal temperature should be 115°F (46°C)]. You could instead bring the steaks back inside and finish it on a rack in a roasting pan in an oven preheated to 400°F (204°C)…but why turn on the oven if there’s no need?

    If you’re using a cast-iron skillet or grill pan, heat it over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Sear the steak on each side for about 4 minutes, then check the steak for doneness. If you prefer anything beyond medium-rare or if you’re dealing with steaks that are larger than a pound or so each, transfer the steak and skillet to an oven preheated to 400°F(204°C) . The exact time that the steaks require in the oven depends on the thickness of the steaks. They’re done to medium-rare when the meat springs back to the touch [if you have a meat thermometer, the internal temperature should be 115°F (46°C)].

    If you’re using the broiler, turn it on. Put the steaks on a wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet, place the baking sheet on the middle or middle-high rack, and broil the steaks to the desired doneness. The exact timing will depend on the thickness of the steaks. They’re done to medium-well when the meat springs back to the touch [if you have a meat thermometer, the internal temperature should be 115°F (46°C)].

    No matter how you’re cooking the steak, transfer the meat to a cutting board and let it rest for 5 minutes before thinly slicing it.
Hungry for more? Chow down on these:

Testers Choice

Testers Choice
Testers Choice
Lynne Brenner

Aug 20, 2012

This is a great marinade that produces a flavorful steak–not too salty, not too sweet, and with smoky undertones. The flavors melded nicely with no one note claiming a dominant role (I was a tad concerned about the toasted sesame oil, since it can easily overwhelm). I marinated a flank steak in a resealable plastic bag for 10 hours. I found the 12-hour time indicated in the recipe just didn’t work with my schedule. The weather was not cooperative for outdoor grilling, so the steak was grilled on a grill pan over high heat for five minutes per side and allowed to rest for another five minutes. The meat was perfect–medium rare with a nice char outside.

Testers Choice
Natalie Reebel

Aug 20, 2012

Ever have those times when you think you have all the ingredients necessary for a dish and discover this is not the case? That happened to me when I went to make these Korean steaks. I had all the ingredients for the marinade, which came together in a snap, but I misread the recipe and purchased the wrong amount of steak. While frantically searching through my freezer for a good stand-in, I came across New York steaks weighing five pounds total. I followed the directions for the marinade and let them sit overnight in the fridge. When I cooked them on my indoor grill, they came out juicy, tender, and full of Asian flavor. The steak was great on its own, and also nice atop a bed of greens. A real delight and so easy. This marinade is so delicious, I believe it could be used on a variety of cuts of meats.

Testers Choice
Helen Doberstein

Aug 20, 2012

Let the grilling begin! What a simple and tasty marinade for a steak. I know the recipe calls for two rib eye steaks at 2 1/2 pounds each, but good grief that is a lot of meat! We ended up cooking and eating just one steak and still had leftovers for two lunches the next day. Since the grill still isn’t ready to fire up just yet, I used a cast iron grill pan to do the cooking. I seared it both sides and finished it in the oven to a nice medium rare. It was just like I’d been outside doing it at the BBQ. I will make the marinade again to use for the other steak later this week. The recipe is certainly worth doing again. This will be a real winner in the summer when grill season starts again. I do wonder: How would this be with a Pepsi?

Testers Choice
Steve Dunn

Aug 20, 2012

I’ve been a big fan of Andrew Carmellini since I first enjoyed his food when he was chef at A Voce. I haven’t yet had the good fortune to dine at his new joint, Locanda Verde, but it’s on been on my shortlist for a while. As I’ve never tasted authentic Korean BBQ, I can’t say for sure that Carmellini has truly captured the taste of the stuff, but to be honest, I don’t care. What I can say for sure is that this was among the best steaks I’ve had in some time. The recipe is so easy, and the results so tender and flavorful that this may be my go-to steak for the upcoming grilling season. I couldn’t find bone-in rib eyes, but rather used 1 1/2-inch boneless rib eye steaks that were beautifully marbled. They had about 10 hours in the salty-sweet marinade before I cooked them off on my Weber gas grill. The recipe calls for starting them on a grill (or under a broiler) and finishing them in a hot oven, but I was able to cook them to a perfect medium rare on my grill by starting them over a medium high flame for four minutes, then moving them to the other side of the grill where I had turned off the burner to finish for another four minutes of indirect heat. The exterior of the steaks achieved a lovely char while the inside cooked to a perfect medium-rare. The steaks had a rich Asian flavor and were unbelievably tender. Part of the tenderness can be attributed to their luxurious marbling of fat, but some, I’ve no doubt, was due to the magical tenderizing properties of the Coke in the marinade. Whatever the reason, if you’re a lover of beef, make these steaks…..you’re gonna love them!

Testers Choice
Beth Price

Aug 20, 2012

Asking your husband to test a recipe is usually a recipe for disaster–no pun intended. I had my “unable to follow a simple set of directions” husband make this for dinner. The results? Perfection. The timing is spot on and the flavors really sing. Be sure you use the “real thing,” none of that Pepsi nonsense!

Testers Choice
Lori Widmeyer

Aug 20, 2012

This is a nice but very subtle marinade, not the strong flavor I was expecting. I made the marinade the night before and added the meat in the morning so it would have time to marinate the entire 12 hours (I am not an early riser if possible). I made this recipe twice, the first time exactly as written with the very large rib-eye steaks, and the second time with eight-ounce filets mignon (what I had on hand and my family prefers). I am not usually a big fan of rib eyes, but thought it was very tender and had a nice flavor, I liked it enough that I wanted to try the marinade on the filets. The flavor was more intense and, to our taste, better on this smaller, more tender cut. The cooking instructions for the grill were perfect, resulting in a nice char on the outside but juicy.

Testers Choice
Valerie Curtiss

Aug 20, 2012

As I love bulgogi, I decided to try this steak. It was easy to put together, and though I did this at 6 p.m. and didn’t want to cook steak at 6 a.m., I put the steak in the bag, frozen, overnight. I grilled the steak on the broil setting in my oven as outside grilling in Montana in March is a little bit risky. We had thunderstorms today! I served it with fried cremini mushrooms and crab coleslaw. It was delicious, firm but extremely tender and the seasonings from the marinade were perfect. I would use this recipe again and again! Excellent!

Testers Choice
Linda Pacchiano

Aug 20, 2012

We really enjoyed this dish. We used rib eyes, which turned out incredibly juicy and flavorful. Marinating the steaks was super easy. I put all of the ingredients into a zip-top bag and let them marinate in the refrigerator. We used our outdoor grill and, as suggested, moved the steaks to indirect heat on the grill to finish cooking. I strongly recommend using an instant-read thermometer to know when the steak is at the correct temperature internally.

Testers Choice
Melissa Maedgen

Aug 20, 2012

I don’t usually have high expectations of recipes for steak which are based primarily on a marinade. Most marinades just don’t add that much flavor. But this one really delivered, giving us a steak with a slightly sweet and very aromatic crust that had my husband’s mouth watering just from the aroma when I brought it in from the grill. And the taste lived up to the aroma. The hoisin sauce was apparent, and the other flavors blended in a way that wasn’t obvious. I don’t think you would ever guess there was Coke in the marinade, but if you knew in advance, as I did, you would understand the sweetness and also the distinctive, somewhat clove-like flavor. If, like my husband, you were in the dark about the ingredients, you would just smell, and taste, one delicious steak. One important thing to note about this recipe is the size of rib-eye called for is huge–2 1/2 pounds for one steak! These are going to be much thicker than a typical supermarket rib eye. I really wish the author had specified the thickness. If your steak is a bit underweight, be sure to adjust the cooking time accordingly. Also, the recipe does not specify how hot the grill should be, but if you want to get a char in four minutes per side (or less, if you have a thinner steak), it does need to be a hot grill. If you are using thinner steaks, you could probably reduce the heat to medium hot, cook a little longer on the grill, and skip the oven step entirely.

Testers Choice
Joan Osborne

Aug 20, 2012

I did a half recipe for my son-in-law and myself, since my daughter doesn’t eat red meat. This is a delicious way to marinate steak. I wasn’t sure why the steak wasn’t cooked completely on the grill and next time I will try it that way. I did have to cook mine longer that suggested, maybe due to the fact we like ours medium rare. My son in law enjoyed this one so much he has already requested we make it again for his birthday in June. I also grilled some asparagus and made potatoes.

Testers Choice
Sofia Reino

Aug 20, 2012

Looking for a juicy, tender and tasty steak? Look no further. As soon as we started eating it I asked around the table what people’s thoughts were. My teen daughter’s answer was the best. She said, “It is not amazing. It is even better than that!” There is a nice sweetness to the meat, not salty at all and very aromatic. I am looking forward to trying it again but with a cut such as a London broil and leaving it marinated a little longer to see how it affects the meat.

Testers Choice
Brenda Carleton

Aug 20, 2012

This…ahem…”Korean” Steak was worth making and at the time I tried not to compare it with the familiar traditional bulgogi. I was intrigued. Soda (or pop) is common enough in many cooking recipes, but it was the first time I had heard of it in Korean Steak. I marinated my steaks in a bag for precisely 12 hours and brought them to room temperature before broiling. While my preference is still for pear in the marinade, this was delicious in its own way. The best part was the caramelization from the sugars that formed a lovely crust. The meat was tender and juicy and flavorful. We served it with an array of Korean fixings, including daikon. My husband has already requested that I make it again; he has a discerning palate and enjoyed it. Thankfully I was able to find a gluten-free hoisin sauce so the transition to gluten-free was an easy one.


Comments
Comments
  1. Yocheved Chana says:

    For a fruitier variation, I like to use Dr. Pepper. It adds notes of cherry and plum, with woodsy undertones. I save the marinade and cook it down a bit in a saucepan. It’s wonderful poured over a side of steamed rice!

  2. Ty says:

    Just want to say, my family loves this recipe! We always love to pair this with some steamed rice and radish kimchi. I even sent the recipe to my mother in law, and she was a huge fan.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Ty, terrific to hear! Many thanks for sharing the recipe and for letting us know!

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