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Korean BBQ is so delicious that it is popular not only in North and South Korea but also all across the world.

Traditionally, Korean BBQ consists of some kind of meat, usually chicken, beef or pork, that is grilled in an open setting. Some kind of gas or charcoal grill is usually used in order to impart a crispy, smoky feel to the meat. In many Korean restaurants, portable stoves are actually given to the patrons in order to cook the meat themselves.

In this article, we discuss one of our favorite Korean BBQ recipes, emphasizing a unique take on a classic dish. In particular, we walk readers step by step through how to concoct a Korean BBQ burger. This burger will utilize bread, sauerkraut, onions, and cucumbers. Towards the end of the article, we offer our final thoughts on Korean BBQ, noting some predictions for the future of the food industry.

Sourcing the Meat for Cooking

Before we cook the meat, there are several things you should accomplish.

First, you obviously need to source your meat. For this recipe, we use local beef, which can be purchased from local farmers markets or co-op grocery stores.

We think local beef is usually of a higher quality than beef that has been transported many miles. Beef that has been transported this far is not as fresh and is often quite expensive. Local beef, on the other hand, is often times fresher and thus tastier. Also, since you are buying more directly from the farmers, this meat is usually more affordable than beef manufactured from larger factory farms.

a butcher holding knife for cutting meat

Additionally, local beef is often held to much higher standards when it comes to the humane treatment of the cow. We recommend only sourcing beef that has been organically produced, as this means that the meat is free of preservatives, additives, synthetic hormones and genetically modified organisms (GMO’s). This organic certification also means that the cow’s feed was free of antibiotics.

However, just because beef has been certified organic does not make it an ideal choice. In recent years, grass-fed beef has become the new gold standard when buying beef, as these cow’s diet is held to even higher standards than the organic certification. Yet, grass-fed cows might still be given antibiotics and hormones. They also might be eating grass laden with pesticides.

It’s also important to note that just because a farm has not been certified organic does not mean that they don’t use organic farming methods. We recommend asking farmers directly about their methods, as this will allow you to get around all the marketing lingo.

Ultimately, the most important thing is that you connect with the meat you are about to consume. If the meat you buy does not align with your values, it will likely be hard to digest and not tasty.

Prepping the Meat for Cooking

Once you’ve sourced your beef, the next step is to prep it for cooking.

The first step here is to fire up your grill, as this will allow the grill to heat up while you are seasoning your beef.

In order to season, we stick whatever meat we are cooking in a bowl with some herbs and spices. In particular, we use the following ingredients for our seasoning:

grill on fire
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Minced garlic

We keep it really simple, as we prefer the boldness of this burger to stem from the high-quality meat rather than our seasoning. Keeping the seasoning simple will allow the beauty of the beef to shine through.

We usually don’t specify quantities for our seasoning. Instead, we just try to cover the entire surface of whatever meat we are cooking.

Cooking the Meat on the Grill

Once the grill is sufficiently hot, we put our meat on it, making sure to close the grill afterwards. This allows the grill to retain its heat, cooking the burgers quickly and evenly.

We try to avoid moving our burgers around on the grill, as this can cause them to come apart.

grilling meat

While the burgers are cooking, we usually set up a burger making station with all of our complementary ingredients laid out. We usually use two buns, homemade kimchi, and cucumbers.

The kimchi really distinguishes this burger from traditional American burgers that use lettuce, tomato, and some kind of sauce. Kimchi can be easily made at home using a mason jar, allowing you to control its ingredients. Traditionally, Kimchi has utilized napa cabbage, radishes, chili powder, garlic, ginger, and onions. However, you can use any vegetables you want. Many people include bell pepper, beats, and cucumber in their fermentation.

Preparing the Bread for the Burger

We recommend toasting your bread, as this will help the bread retains its composure when the beef burger is placed on it.

To do this, just take your buns and place them on the grill next to the beef. Allow the buns to cook for about 1-2 minutes on each side, or until a golden-brown color is evident. You don’t want to overcook the buns, but at the same time, under-cooking them is not optimal, as these kinds of buns often fall apart when adding the beef.

grilling burgers and buns

While the beef is cooking, we cut some onions and put them on the grill. We prefer grilled onions to raw onions, as these are tender and sweet and lack the bitterness of raw onions.

Finalizing the Korean BBQ Burger

Now that our burger station is set up, and our beef, buns, and onions are cooking, it’s time for the last part of this Korean BBQ recipe.

In particular, we like to take some melted butter and gently spread it on both sides of our beef. This makes the beef richer, creamier, and juicier, all of which will be appreciated when it comes time to consuming this meal. We also coat our onions and buns lightly in butter.

korean BBQ burger

The burgers will be done when they are crispy on both sides with a slight pink at the middle. Right before we take our burgers off the grill, we put some sauerkraut on the bottom bun. Then, we stick two slices of cheese on the burgers while they are still on the grill, letting this cheese melt for another minute. Then, we plop the burger on top of the sauerkraut.

Next, we add some sliced cucumbers and our grilled onions. The final step is to add the top bun and cut the burger in two halves, sticking a reusable toothpick down the middle of each half. This will allow the burger to retain its shape while you eat it, making it easier to hold and bite.

While we didn’t mention it above, we typically use some kind of raw milk cheese in order to distinguish this burger from classic American types. For example, we love to use raw cheddar cheese, as we love the savory taste of this product. Raw cheddar cheese will pair well with the sauerkraut as well as the garlic we used in the seasoning.

Additionally, while any butter can be used to coat the burger, we typically use ghee butter, as we think this is one of the healthiest butters available. This is also a butter that is frequently used in South Asian and middle eastern cuisine, making it ideal for this Korean BBQ burger recipe.


The Future of Korean BBQ

We love all the tastes and textures associated with Korean BBQ, so we don’t think these will become obsolete anytime soon.

However, we do think the emphasis on beef will change in the future as the world moves to a plant-based diet. Instead of beef, we anticipate nuts, seeds, legumes, and grains being used to make plant-based burgers. Furthermore, we anticipate plant-based cheeses becoming more popular than they are now.

In the near future, we think animal products might still be used in Korean BBQ recipes simply because people are so used to these foods. At the very least, we hope that people will buy more organic animal products in the future from local farmers. This is especially important considering the connection between global warming and food transportation. Cars and planes often rely on non-renewable energy to transport our food, which releases greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. This can lead to global warming, which could ultimately wipe out our entire food supply.

In this sense, transporting food long distances is absolutely counterintuitive to permaculture and sustainability, as it could lead to a lack of food sources in the future due to extreme weather fluctuations.

Regardless of what happens in the future, it’s hard to deny the deliciousness of this meal. We recommend taking time to appreciate the meal before you eat it, as this can be a good way to ground yourself in the present moment and disconnect from any anxieties of the day.

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