When you’re in charge of grilling for the cottage masses, it’s always good to have an ace up your sleeve, an easy-to-use boot derringer you can pull out when circumstances demand. One of the very best is Korean kalbi marinade, a traditional flavouring for that country’s iconic barbecued beef. Taste-wise, it’s a sweetish soy concoction featuring garlic, onion, and fruit. But that’s like calling Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring a pretty good painting. The very smell of kalbi marinade makes my mouth water and it has a transformative effect on beef, particularly the short ribs often used in Korean barbecue. There is some magical property to the stuff, a perfect balance of sweet and salt and acid, that allows it to impart delicious flavour in just a few hours while still allowing longer overnight marinations without destroying the texture of the meat, a common failing of many overly acidic marinade recipes. I find it’s also a dynamite soak for big sirloin steaks, beef kebabs, and—my favourite— flank steak. And though it is engineered for beef, I’ve had customers use it on chicken and pork with glowing reports.
I’ve made lots of kalbi marinade from scratch, including one created by Steven Raichlen in his classic The Barbecue! Bible, which is a top-drawer recipe. But what makes this marinade a lifesaver is that store-bought versions (and I have tried at least six) are consistently delicious—and can be deployed at a moment’s notice.
As for meat, you can use thick short ribs with a long bone, often called English style, or look for thinner “Miami ribs,” which are also beef ribs, but cut across the bone into bacon-like strips. I like both cooked to well done for maxi- mum flavour and tenderness. Naturally tender steak cuts like sirloin or tender- loin, or steak-meat kebabs, can be cooked to your preferred doneness. Before marinating flank steaks, I jab both sides with a fork, then cook to no more than medium rare in the thickest part, and slice thinly across the grain.
Steven Raichlen’s Korean Short Rib Marinade
For use with 2 lbs (1 kg) beef short ribs, cut into 2-inch lengths & butterflied (or use Miami ribs).
1⁄2 Asian pear or regular pear, peeled and cored
2 cloves garlic, peeled
2 scallions, both green and white parts, trimmed 1⁄4 cup soy sauce
2 tbsp Asian (dark) sesame oil
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp sake or dry sherry
1 tbsp sugar
1⁄2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Coarsely chop the pear, garlic, and scallions and place them in a blender with the rest of the ingredients. Process to a smooth purée.
Looking for more grill inspiration? Check out the grill guide in our May 2017 issue—on newsstands now!