I am doing a barbecued bulgogi tri-tip for our Sunday meal. This popular Korean dish is usually made with thinly shaved marinated beef and then grilled with onions. Daughter Miriam is off garlic and onions—I also did not want to spend time par-freezing an finely slicing my meat—I would have to adapt my recipe to her needs. I finally decided to marinate a whole tri-tip, barbecue it, and then slice the roast at the table.
Many of the recipes I looked at included mushrooms in their bulgogi. Daughter Eilene doesn’t like mushrooms. I though why should the rest of us be denied, so I marinated and skewered some button mushrooms to add as a garnish.
After Dinner Note: While my experiment produced a very tasty roast, no one would mistake the results for a traditional bulgogi—garlic and onions are necessary components.
Karl’s Bulgogi Tri-tip
1 small Asian pear, peeled and finely grated
½ cup chosun ganjiang (Korean soy sauce)
¼ cup dark soy sauce
2 Tbs. toasted sesame oil
2 Tbs. fresh ginger, grated
2 Tbs. gochujang (Korean hot pepper paste)
2 Tbs. brown sugar
1 tsp. black pepper, cracked
3 lb. beef tri-tip
1 lb. white button mushrooms
1 Tbs. water mixed with 1 tsp. cornstarch
4 green onions, green parts only, separate uses
1 tsp. toasted sesame seeds
1. Peel, core, and grate the Asian pear finely.
2. Put the peat in a small bowl and add the rest of the marinade ingredients—light and dark soy sauces, sesame oil, ginger, gochujang, sugar, and pepper.
3. Trim the tri-tip to your liking, and cut half inch crosshatches through the fat cap.
Tip: Try to cut through the fat without cutting too deeply into the meat below.
Note: Beef tri-tips are sold either “trimmed” of “untrimmed,” meaning that the thick fat cap that covers one side of the roast has be completely or partially trimmed away—some cooks think that this is a heresy. With Jan’s fat restrictions I prefer mine mostly trimmed—an eighth inch cap is OK, but not a three eighths inch slab of dense fat. Some cooks prefer to remove the entirely fat cap.
4. Place the tri-tip into a gallon plastic bag and add ¾ of a cup of the marinade.
Tip: Start marinating your meat at least 4 hours before roasting, but over night is better.
Note: Reserve the remaining marinade to brush onto the meat as it is roasting.
5. Place the remaining marinade in a seal-able quart plastic bag and add the mushrooms.
6. Squeeze the air out of both plastic bags, seal them tightly and put them in the refrigerator.
7. Marinate the beef and mushrooms for at least 4 hours.
8. One hour before you plan to start barbecuing, set the tri-tip on a tray on the counter and let it air dry.
Tip: This rest lets the meat come to room temperature and to allow the surface to dry out, so that you get a good sear when the meat hits the meat.
Note: Discard the meat marinade. Raw meat releases lipids that—while safe to eat—will clump together when heated and make your sauce gritty.
9. String the mushrooms onto bamboo skewers and let them dry as well.
10. Place the marinade from the mushrooms into a small pot and bring it just to a boil.
11. Stir in enough of the cornstarch slurry to thicken to sauce to your liking.
If using a charcoal grill:
12a. Start your coals and when they are ready build a bi-level fire and place an aluminum pan on the front side of the barbecue. Replace the grill and heat it for 5 minutes.
Tip: Push all of the coals to the back of the barbecue. This gives you a hot zone—to sear—and a cooler zone—to roast the meat.
If using a gas grill:
12b. Oil the grill and then set the burners on one side to high flame and the other side to low flame. Close the lid and let the grill heat for five minutes.
Note: Jan has finally talked me into going gas—we have had too many “spare the air” days spoiling our barbecues.
13. Place the tri-tip, fat cap side down on the hot side of the grill.
14. Place the mushroom skewers on the grill and brush some of the sauce over them.
15. Close the grill and sear the beef for 20 minutes.
16. Turn the meat over and place the thickest part of the roast at the edge of the coals/hot side of the grill with the thinner end slanted toward the cool side of the grill.
17. Rotate the mushroom skewers and brush the marinade the mushrooms and the beef.
18. Insert a constant-read meat thermometer, set to 129-132º F, into the thickest part of the meat and close the grill again.
Tip: Daughter Miriam likes her beef bloody (129º F), but wife Jan likes hers well done (140º F).
Note: The shape of the tri-tip allows you to please everyone. The thin end tips come out well done and the thick center part comes out medium or rare.
19. Continues roasting, covered and undisturbed, until the alarm rings, about another 20-30 minutes.
20. Remove the roast to a platter and brush on the remaining marinade.
21. Wrap the tri-tip in aluminum foil to rest for 10 minutes.
Tip: The covered meat will continue cooking until the internal temperature reaches 136-140º F, as the heat from the outer parts of the meat moves into the center and the juices migrate to the outer edges.
22. Slice the beef across the grain into serving portions.
Tip: I captured the juices and put them in a small bowl for people to spoon over their meat or the steamed rice I served on the side.
Note: A tri-tip is an oddly formed thin triangular piece of meat. The grain runs along the short side of the roast. The most effective way to cut across the grain is to cut the roast in half at the point of the triangle and the rotate each halves 90 degrees to make your slices.
23. Garnish the roast with the mushrooms, green onions, and sesame seeds.
24. Serve warm.