Sous Vide Korean-style Beef Ribs

Korean food brings together so many of the flavors that I love: Garlic, spicy red chile, green onions, sesame, tangy fermented kimchi, and grilled meats.

We are fortunate to live in an area where there is easy and ample access to international foods.  Restaurants and markets for virtually any style of cuisine can be found within minutes.  In particular, we have a few large, competing Korean markets very close by.  I love these places; the produce, fresh fish, meats, and specialty items make it very easy to envision new culinary creations and expand our horizons beyond the tried and true recipes.  Eventually, some of the new things become part of the routine in my kitchen, and some even become the newest favorites.

My first exposure to Korean food was a business trip to Korea in the early 1990’s.  Landing in Seoul, I immediately detected garlic.  I was instantly hungry.  My colleagues and I found a restaurant specializing in different types of fried rice.  I watched as the chef piled fresh ingredients on a hot griddle, and then mixed in cooked rice and other seasonings.  I asked for garlic fried rice.  The chef started my dish with a full cup of garlic dumped on the griddle.  Yes, I really liked this place!  Those weeks in Korea included garlic everything!!

Korean chilies for bulk sale — I got some!


I needed more garlic.

Back home, I sought out Korean food.  I brought home a few cookbooks from my trip, and set to work on replicating the flavors I craved.  Soegalbigui (sometimes written galbi or kalbi), grilled beef ribs, became an instant favorite in our house.  Easy to make and easy to eat!  The Korean markets already have the meat cut for quick marinating and grilling to perfection.  The normal cut I go for is cut about ½” thick across the bones.  There is a nice cap of fatty beef attached to the bones, just right to hold in your hands and gnaw off the meat.

Along came sous vide, and of course, a long cooked short rib is a delight prepared by sous vide.  The flavors are concentrated, the meat remains beautiful and fork tender.  What about cooking the Korean ribs this way?  The first thing is to find ribs in a larger piece.  The smaller pieces I would usually grill would fall apart in the sous vide.  It turns out the Korean markets sell larger pieces made for braising in soups.  These would work just fine.   One chunk of meat with three bones about 1-3/4” wide makes a very good 12-14 ounce serving per person.

Start the prep by making the marinade.  For 4 pounds of meat, mix:
1 cup minced garlic
6 T rice wine (most times I have a bottle of sake in the fridge, but this time I used Chinese Shiaoxing wine)
5T sugar
1 bunch scallions, finely chopped
3T low sodium soy sauce
5T roasted sesame seeds
6T sesame oil
1T fresh ground black pepper

Place the ribs in the bowl with the meat, and let it come to room temperature.  Then place one rib in each vacuum pouch, and evenly divide the marinade among the pouches.  Seal the pouches.  Set up the sous vide.  I use an Anova model clamped onto a 20 quart Cambro.  I put 15 quarts of water into the Cambro.  I bought an extra lid for the Cambro and cut a notch out of it.  This helps retain heat and almost eliminates evaporation during the long cooking time.  Set the re-circulator to 145F.


When it is up to 145F, drop in the pouches of meat, and let it go for 48 hours.  After 48 hours, remove the pouches from the water bath and allow them to cool.  Open the pouches and drain the liquid into a sauce pan.  Put the sauce pan on the stove and boil to reduce the liquid to a glaze.

Start your grill.  You could also sear these in a hot cast iron skillet or with a torch, but I like a little bit of charcoal smoke flavor.  When the coals are hot and the grill is ready, carefully place the ribs on the grill directly over the coals.  Keep an eye on them.  They are already cooked, so all you need to do is get a crispy crust.  The ribs are very well cooked, fork tender, so you have to handle them with care so they do not fall apart.  I lose a few bones, but the meat remains whole.  A happy dog gets a little treat.  The connective tissue that holds the ribs will help keep the meat in one piece.  When the ribs are crisped on all sides, remove them from the grill, and cover with foil until ready to serve.


Serve with the Korean or other side dishes of your choice.  I definitely like to have some steamed brown rice to soak up some of the juice!  Plate a rib for each person and dress it with the reduced juices from the sous vide pouches.  This not only makes the meat shine, but it adds a lot of the rich depth from the long cooking time.  The ribs are soft enough to cut with a fork, and full of the wonderful essence of Korean barbecue.


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