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How/where can I learn how to cut beef short ribs traditional Korean style (wang galbi, king style, not LA style)? [moved from San Francisco board]

I'm getting into Korean BBQ and I want to learn how to cut beef short ribs traditional Korean style. My butcher can cut it L.A. style, across the bone, bue I want it traditional/king style (aka, wang galbi), with the meat filleted out from the bone into a very thin strip. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galbi for details. I doubt my butcher would do this, because he probably wouldn't know how, and even if he did, I doubt he'd be willing to spend the time doing it. Besides, the local butchers are not consistent in terms of how thinly they slice the meat, and I want it extremely thin. I know I could probably buy wang galbi at a Korean market, but I want to use grass-fed beef, and grass-fed beef is not available at my local Korean market (in Oakland, California). Any suggestions as to how I can learn how to cut this meat myself? I looked on Youtube, Amazon, and Google, but I couldn't find anything. Thanks in advance for your help!

Bonus question: Does the meat cook/taste better king-style, in your opinion, compared to L.A. style?

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  1. Go to a good butcher where you can get grass fed beef, like 4504 meats or similar, and ask for what you want. I'm sure they'd be into it, i.e., into something a little different.

    2 Replies
    1. re: ML8000

      i agree. Bring your wiki requirements and give Local Butcher in Berkeley a try. They might be amused by the challenge. Of course this means $$$$

      Or ... ask a Korean butcher how much it would cost for them to cut up some meat you brought in.

      1. re: rworange

        You guys are probably right. It's just that different butchers seem to have different interpretations of what it means when I say "as thin as you can possibly cut it, like a tenth of an inch, not a quarter of an inch like you often see Korean BBQ, but as thin as humanly possible." Sometimes they give me 1/10 of an inch. Sometimes they give me 1/2 of an inch. Even if they seem to understand in person, something seems to get lost in translation/transcription/delegation on the phone, and I prefer to phone in the order so I don't have to wait a long time. That's why I'm tempted to do it myself.

    2. http://eatingandliving.blogspot.com/2...

      It's not complicated, but you'd need some pretty precise knife skills to get it really thin.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Robert Lauriston

        Thanks so much for the link! Finally, instructions on how to cut it. I'll give it a try :)

      2. Here's something you can try. Just ask him to cut the ribs, what, 3 inches thick, instead of flanken style, and not to separate the individual ribs. Then you lay them out flattened with a weight on top and partially freeze. Then slice thinly.

        3 Replies
          1. re: damian

            I'm not sure that freezing is a good idea for this cut, since it would tend to crack at the turns.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              I agree. That would only work if I decide not to butterfly, just to cut small slices (my preference is to butterfly).

        1. I just found a photo of what I'm looking for:


          Do you think that was done by hand? If so, I'm extremely impressed.

          2 Replies
          1. re: damian

            I can't imagine how it could be done other than by hand. Note how those were also scored. I wonder if they might have been pounded a bit to make them more consistent?

          2. I saw Steve Raichlin do it on his Primal Grill show a few seasons back.

            recipe with directions here


            Place a short rib on a work surface meat side up. Cut the meat off the rib by running a sharp knife between the top of the bone and the fleshy part of the meat. Youll wind up with a rectangle of meat. Starting at a long end, thinly slice the meat sharply on the diagonal with the grain. The idea is to cut slices of meat that are 1-1/2 to 2 inches wide, 2 to 3 inches long, and about 1/8 inch thick. Set aside the bone, which will have a little meat attached to each side. Repeat with the remaining short ribs.

            4 Replies
            1. re: rasputina

              Odd, the picture on that page is of the butterflied cut damian is asking for, but the instructions are for something else entirely.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                Good eye, Robert. I noticed that too.

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    Kaibi gui means grilled rib meat.
                    The recipe on that page is just a variation of kaibi prep and includes the fixin's for kaibi ssam - rib meat wrapped in lettuce.
                    It looks like they may have taken the meat completely off the bone and cooked both on the grill.
                    This is another variation of the kaibi prep.

                1. Okay, I found a video that shows how to butterfly the meat. The video also recommends pounding LA style ribs for thinness:


                  So my question now is: Is there any advantage to using king-style ribs instead of pounded LA style ribs? The latter is obviously like a lot less work, but I'm willing to do the extra work if I can get a better result. My primary goal is to get the meat as uniformly thin as possible. King-style seems easier to eat, because the bone isn't distributed throughout the meat, but that factor's not particularly important to me.


                  7 Replies
                  1. re: damian

                    You can take the same cross-bone cut you'd use to butterfly the long strips and simply slice it into rectangles, as described in the Steve Raichlin recipe.

                    I don't see any practical advantage to butterflying the meat, it just looks cool. I've always found those long butterflied strips with the bone at the end it harder to cook evenly than shorter slices.

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      Thanks, Robert. Good points.

                      At first, I was very excited by the option of king-style ribs, because I thought I could get it thinner than LA-style ribs, but now that I learned about the option of pounding the LA-style meat, I think that might be my best option (though I welcome opinions to the contrary).

                      Thanks again for your help!

                    2. re: damian

                      Awesome, great thread. Thank you. Rib is such a flavorful meat. You can never know enough about ways to do short ribs.

                      1. re: damian

                        The original reason for the traditional butterfly or accordion cut was to expose more meat to the marinade, resulting in more flavor being absorbed. Traditional Korean butchers didn't have the powered meat saws available today so the LA style cut didn't evolve until Koreans in the U. S. (Korea town in Los Angeles or in Honolulu Hawaii - some contention about the origin) adapted the flanken cut for kaibi.

                        Both cuts work about the same so it's mostly a matter of preference and/or presentation.

                        1. re: hannaone

                          Thanks, hannaone. Very helpful.

                          I've read that almost all of the top restaurants in Korea serve king-style instead of LA style. Do you think that's solely for reasons of tradition, or might there be another reason?

                          1. re: damian

                            Koreans are getting in touch with "Traditional" in a big way. Many of the upper class restaurants have embraced this by returning to variations of the original royal dishes. (possibly a result of the hugely successful Korean historical drama Dae Jang Geum, a drama based on the first Korean woman to ascend through the Royal Kitchens to King's Physician)
                            The traditional cut is easier to eat in the Ssam (wrap) style, just cut a portion of the meat off and wrap it, not so easy with the LA style as you have to cut the meat away from the small piece of bone first.
                            Also, presentation/appearance has always played an important roll in Korean royal cuisine - the traditional cut just looks better when served than the LA cut.

                            1. re: hannaone

                              That makes a lot of sense. Thanks very much for the explanation!

                      2. You can order a whole bone out short rib, this will look a little like a brisket, I would then partially freeze it and slice. But I also think that a good butcher could do it for you and I would do it on a slicer or, if I had one, a band saw :-)! (but the it would have to be frozen all the way)

                        9 Replies
                        1. re: harryharry

                          Makes sense, Harry, but I'd prefer not to freeze my beef if I can avoid it. Seems it affects taste, tenderness, and juiciness, discernible by a trained palette. See, for example http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/...

                          1. re: damian

                            Freezing for one day will not impact the meat. Freeze and hacksaw away

                            1. re: zzDan

                              I would like to think you're right about freezing for one day not impacting the taste of the meat, but the scientific journal article I cited suggests otherwise.

                              The article explains, "When meat is frozen the cell membranes are damaged (Rahelic & Puac, 1985) which results in a lower water holding capacity and a higher cooking loss (Wheeler et al., 1990) and consequently a risk of less juicy meat." So duration of freezing shouldn't matter in terms of juiciness—any freezing at all will damage the membranes through the formation of ice crystals, which break the membranes upon thawing.

                              The article also says, "It is known that freezing beef also influences tenderness."

                              And the article demonstrates that the taste, juiciness, and tenderness are all degraded by freezing, according to the perception semi-trained tasters.

                              So I would prefer not to freeze beef if I can avoid it.

                              1. re: damian

                                Yes the cell structure will be impacted a little, but - two things:
                                1. If you partially freeze it - it won't be as effected - you can freeze a sheet pan and put the slices on the cold sheet pan so that they will defrost slower.
                                2. I just really don't think that it will be that noticeable in such a thin cut.

                                Also, just fyi - the freezing doesn't necessarily destroy the cell structure - its the quick defrosting - the sharp edges of the ice crystals cut the cells walls as they defrost- for future reference - the best way to defrost any product is very slowly - on ice in the fridge - it should take two days.... .I don't know anyone who really does this - the best I have ever done is over a day in the fridge w/out ice.

                                1. re: harryharry

                                  There is a big difference between freezing for one day and freezing for weeks or months. One day freeze does nothing much to cell structure. Just my take on this

                                  1. re: zzDan

                                    I'm sitting here trying to figure out what expertise you have so that we should just take your word for it... I've decided that you must have been cryogenically frozen for a day and defrosted and since you're still alive you know that one day of freezing is easier on the "meat" than months and years :-)

                                    1. re: harryharry

                                      I agree, Harry. My understanding is that freezing causes ice crystals; defrosting of ice crystals causes cell damage. I don't see how freezing time could be relevant to this particular phenomenon, though I understand what you're saying about the importance of defrosting slowly, and I believe that freezing time could affect the meat in other ways.

                                      1. re: harryharry

                                        I saw a big difference between chicken frozen two days and two weeks.

                                        1. re: zzDan

                                          Freezer burn? Seriously the surface gets more dried out the longer it's frozen if exposed to air

                          2. Hello again damian,

                            The beef in the picture you sent looked mighty fine, wangyu in fact. The method I described was taught to me by a Korean, so I assume it was authentic. Just flatten the strip with the flat of your cleaver.

                            10 Replies
                            1. re: Joebob

                              For those who don't know what method Joebob is referring to, I'll paste it from what he wrote in a separate discussion:

                              "Put the short rib on its side, take a very sharp knife, cut starting at the outer edge, make a slice as thin as you want, cutting parallel to the bone/outer edge of the meat. Stop cutting just before you reach the underside of the meat. Bend the slice out a little so you have a clear idea of where the cut ends. Turn the bone over and repeat cut over and over just inside of the previous cut until the meat is cut in a zig-zag pattern almost to the bone. Gently flatten the resulting ribbon. Actually, I don't think it tastes different, except if one is in the know and appreciates the extra effort involved."

                              This might be called accordion-style. Another user, Fourunder, suggested what might be called ribbon-style:

                              "I would suggest you start closer to the bone and slice across...then rolling out to cut the ribbon. The technique is similar to how a Sushi Chef would roll out paper thin cuts of a cucumber or daikon radish before he juliennes them. As for knife skills, the criss cross pattern may be more easily achieved by a gentle tapping, rather than swift fine slicing, to prevent from slicing through the meat."

                              Anyone want to try to argue that one method is preferable to the other?

                              1. re: damian

                                What happened to the other discussion?

                                1. re: fourunder

                                  It's still accessible at http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/828309

                                  But as The Chowhound Team posted at the end of that discussion, "We're going to close this thread, as there is another one at http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/828310."

                                2. re: damian

                                  you can score the meat by draping the butterflied meat flat and then laying wooden skewers on either side of it. Slice into the meat at an angle using a long, straight blade but using the skewers to stop you from cutting the whole way through it. Then cut at the opposite diagonal angle for the other part of the crosshatch. If the meat is really thin, you might be best off splitting the skewers in half lengthwise before crosshatching. Use a light hand because a sharp knife can easily cut through the skewers.

                                  BTW, the same trick works really well when cooking octopus, albalone, and any other meat that has a tendency to be overly chewy when cooked.

                                  1. re: cowboyardee

                                    Thanks, Cowboy.

                                    I'm trying to picture this in my mind's eye, but I can't figure out how the skewers stop you from cutting through the meat. Would you mind explaining a bit further, or posting a photo or sketch?

                                        1. re: cowboyardee

                                          True, but yours was more descriptive.

                                      1. re: damian

                                        ________/___ <- skewer
                                        ............/............| <-- meat
                                        .........../ <- knife |
                                        .____/________ <- skewer

                                        In other words you lay the meat in between the skewers on the cutting board and use them as stoppers to make sure you don't cut the whole way through the meat.

                                        1. re: cowboyardee

                                          Brilliant. Thank you. I'll try it.

                                3. On the other thread about this there was a question about the LA cut, so here is a picture that shows LA kaibi.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: hannaone

                                    I usually see that called flanken cut.

                                  2. I just bought myself a sashimi knife (for king-style) and a tenderizer (for scoring), and I already have a rubber mallet (for flattening). I think I'll try both styles myself. I'll try to remember to post here which one I like better.

                                    1. Those Korean style ribs are cut with a band saw. There is no other way to cut them, produce them, fast enough in a commercial establishment. You can try at home with a hacksaw on frozen or semi-frozen rib. A circular saw blade will do it too but will throw out lots of bone and flesh chunks so do that outside. My local fish monger uses a band saw to cut off fins and heads quickly and accurately. Butchers have been using them forever

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: zzDan

                                        All of my local butchers have band saws, with which they happily cut LA style short ribs for me. I'm looking forward to cutting some ribs king-style myself, so as to compare.

                                        1. re: zzDan

                                          They're cut across the bone with a saw, but butterflying into a long strip is too delicate a job to do with a saw.

                                        2. Okay, so, I finally *cooked* wang kalbi tonight, alongside LA-style Korean short ribs, and here are the results:

                                          The LA-style ribs were *much* better, for many reasons:

                                          1. THINNESS: Thinness is the most important characteristic for me when eating Korean BBQ beef (aside from freshness, quality, and other obvious characteristics). Without freezing the meat, my butcher was able to slice LA-style down to about 1/4 inch. This being my first time cutting wang kalbi, I was able to get it down to about 1/4 inch as well. With practice and patience, I'm sure I could get it thinner. But with partial freezing, my butcher can get it down to about 1/8 of an inch. Furthermore, the LA-style ribs flattened down to paper-thin with a bit of pounding. The king-style ribs, however, barely flattened at all in response to pounding. I'm guessing that's because king-style seems to be cut with the "grain" (i.e., muscle fibers), while LA-style seems to be cut across the grain. It's sort of like pounding a solid wooden board versus pounding particle board: the particle board is going to flatten much more easily. Which brings me to my second point:

                                          2. TENDERNESS: Regardless of thinness, the LA-style cut was *much* more tender. Again, I think this is due to the fact that the LA-style ribs are (apparently) cut across the grain instead of with the grain.

                                          3. UNIFORMITY OF THICKNESS: Simply put, a professional band saw (as found at my local butcher) can cut straighter than an amateur cook with a simple knife, and probably straighter than a professional cook with a fancy knife as well. The LA-style cut was thicker at the bone than on the fleshy side after I pounded it (because I can't pound the bone), but if I have the butcher flash-freeze the meat first, so he can cut it down to 1/8 inch, the thickness should be pretty uniform whether I pound it or not.

                                          4. MARBLING: With the king-style cut, the meat alternated between big chunks of muscle and big chunks of fat, due to the angle of the cutting. With the LA-style cut, the meat was almost perfectly marbled. This is pretty obvious in the attached photo of my handiwork, juxtaposed with my butcher's handiwork.

                                          5. EASE OF GRILLING: The shape and size of the LA-style cuts made them much easier to move around the grill than the king-style cuts. In fact, the king-style cuts were slightly too wide for my rather small grill, so I had to move them around until they shrunk.

                                          6. EASE OF EATING: The king-style cuts required cutting before eating. The LA-style cuts were easily eaten by hand. The bones were also a lot easier to chew the meat off of in the LA-style cuts, as opposed to the king-style cuts.

                                          7. PREPARATION TIME: The LA-style cuts required zero preparation, other than marinating. The king-style cuts took a long time to prep.

                                          CAVEAT: Keep in mind that this is my first time cutting king-style ribs. I found cutting them very thin and with uniform thickness to be extremely difficult and time-consuming. If I were a professional with years of practice at this particular technique, then perhaps I would enjoy king-style ribs as much as, if not more than, LA-style ribs. Not having eaten professionally prepared king-style ribs, I can't really say. I will say, however, that I did enjoy the challenge of filleting the ribs, but given how much better I liked eating the LA-style ribs, I don't expect I'll be making king-style ribs again anytime soon :)

                                          CUTTING STYLE: There was some discussion about whether it's better to cut "accordion-style" (flipping the meat after each cut) versus "ribbon-style" ("unrolling" the meat without flipping it). Even though the cuts were not as clean accordion-style, I decided to go accordion-style nonetheless, because it looked to me like the meat was going to come out be straighter and less curly that way.

                                          PHOTOS: The first photo shows the ribs I cut king-style alongside the ribs my butcher cut LA-style. The second photo shows the same ribs after pounding. If you look closely, you can see that the LA-style ribs got significantly flatter with pounding, while the king-style ribs did not.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: damian

                                            Thanks for updating and including pictures. Interesting that your results seem to indicate that LA style has a lot of advantages over king style anyway. My personal favorite kalbi that I've ever tried was cut LA style.

                                            From a purely knife-technique perspective, consider trying to cut a single rib 'ribbon style' some time. I mentioned on the other thread that I tried this out quickly with a medallion of pork - it wasn't that hard. But the same technique is very similar to a few other interesting knife techniques - things like removing the core and ribs from a pepper in one motion, or even skinning a fish fillet. It's a good basic cutting motion to have down.

                                            Again thanks for the enjoyable read and thorough follow up.

                                            1. re: cowboyardee

                                              My pleasure. Glad you enjoyed it. I won't give up on the "ribbon style" cut. If and when I try wang kalbi again—or next time I cut a pepper—I'll give it a try :)