Difference Between Korean BBQ And Japanese BBQ Explained

by Joost Nusselder | Updated on:  June 11, 2020

Japanese and Korean BBQ are two different ways of cooking meat and also vegetables. However, these two have many similarities.

Both Korean and Japanese BBQ is traditionally cooked with different fuels, like electricity, gas, and charcoal.

But how do they differ?

grilled meat in the middle surrounded by many korean dishes

At first, we shall look at each type of BBQ independently before looking at the differences.

So, what is Korean barbeque?

Korean BBQ is becoming very popular in the country, and it has become a fascination for many people. Almost every major city in Korea has a BBQ restaurant, and interesting ingredients like gochujang and kimchi have found their way into the menus of these restaurants. Even though this cooking and eating style is not new in Korea, it’s becoming common in North America.

However, there is one question in the minds of many people. What is Korean BBQ? Well, this is a unique grilling experience, which focuses on cooking and eating. In a typical Korean BBQ restaurant, every person gathers around a grill, which is mostly placed in the middle of a table. Then, you will be served with plates of meat (raw), as well as other side dishes, like banchan, and then everyone can start to cook and eat their own food.

This is very interesting since you get the opportunity to bring your family and friends around the table, and have the chance to cook and eat as a group. In addition, everybody gets the opportunity to participate in the grilling process. This means that no one will miss out on the grilling fun.

Also read: the best tabletop Yakitori grills for a Japanese style grill

Here is the history of Korean BBQ

Korean BBQ has a fascinating history, and it has come a long way, from its primordial origins to the place where it is now recognized globally. So, how did the Korean BBQ get introduced to the word? Well, here is how it happened.

It is believed that Koreans came from the eastern barbarians of Maek, a group of nomadic people who moved from Central Asia to the east. The group finally reached Northeast Asia, which it today’s Korea. The most interesting thing about this group is that it came with a unique meat dish, which assisted them to beat the harsh elements they face during their migration.

The name of this dish was known as Maekjeok, and it consisted of meat cuttings that were already seasoned before being cooked. Their cooking technique was different from the techniques used in traditional Chinese meat dishes, where the meat is seasoned after cooking. This group pre-seasoned their food because of a simple reason—to save time when it comes to food preparation since they were always on the move. This style of eating seasoned meat before being grilled became popular across the Korean peninsula, and a lot of locals adopted it.

What’s the difference between Japanese BBQ and Korean BBQ?

When making a comparison between these two forms of BBQ, you need to compare several BBQ subcategories. First, it’s important to note that Korean BBQ has two main categories, known as galbi and bulgogi. Galbi consists of beef short ribs. Bulgogi, on the other hand, consists of beef tenderloin or sirloin. Before the grilling starts, the beef is sliced into thin slices and then marinated. Bulgogi is the most common type of Korean BBQ, and also popular in the western world.

Japanese barbecue, on the other hand, has its subcategories too. These include Teppanyaki and Yakiniku. It is believed that yakiniku originated from Korea since there is yakiniku done as bulgogi, which is designed to attract Japanese eaters. Teppanyaki basically means food grilled on an iron plate.

One notable thing about Korean is that it’s severed with a number or side dishes compared to Japanese BBQ. A lot of things, from dried squid to kimchi, and other interesting side dishes can accompany a Korean BBQ. The side dishes are known as banchan dishes. Japanese BBQ, on the other hand, consists of a selection of raw veggies, which are served together with the grilled meat.

A Korean BBQ relies on marinades for adding flavors, while Japanese BBQ relies on the sauce. The dipping sauces include mirin, garlic, and soy sauce, among other interesting ingredients.

Although beef is the most common meat used in these two BBQ styles, Korean BBQ also comprises or chicken and pork prominently. In the case of Japanese BBQ, beef is the most common ingredient, but chicken is also used in some cases. In Japan, grilled chicken is known as yakitori, and it’s served on skewers.

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Can you replace Korean BBQ with Japanese BBQ or vice versa?

As highlighted earlier, Korean BBQ relies heavily on marinades, and it’s not a must to use high-quality meat. Therefore, it’s a bit hard to confuse Korean BBQ with Japanese BBQ. In addition, a Korean barbecue cannot satisfy someone who is looking for the beefy intensity and clean flavors found in the Japanese barbecue.

The main focus of a Japanese barbecue is the taste of the beef. It’s important to understand that the Japanese are very serious with their beef, and this can be reflected in the various types of Japanese barbecue. This means that the Japanese rarely use marinades, and also the traditional sides are not so exciting. Therefore, a Japanese BBQ is not the right choice for you if you are looking for a meal with different flavors.

However, you need to note that both the Japanese and Korean BBQ consist of grilled meat, as well as Asian flavors. If you have not familiarized yourself with any, just know that both can offer you a memorable and enjoyable experience.

When can you use Japanese BBQ or Korean BBQ?

Korean barbecue is ideal in situations when you want to enjoy numerous side dishes, as well as the mouthwatering flavor of seasoned meat. It is said that Korean BBQ is for adventurous people who want to arouse the excitement in their taste buds.

Japanese barbecue, on the contrary, is usually reserved for high-quality beef, which is cooked using top quality fuel. Even though this BBQ comprises dipping sauce, the beef is the main star of the mean. In addition, you need to understand that Japanese BBQ can be costly, especially when using binchotan charcoal and wagyu beef. But, Japanese BBQ is ideal for small groups instead of larger gatherings.

Different types of Korean BBQ

You should never forget the sides when serving these meats. Every spread should be accompanied by saucers of doenjang—Korean fermented sauces (salty bean paste), as well as gochujang, a spicy chili paste, salt, and sesame oil. You can sprinkle or dip the sauces on your meat once it’s cooked. Also, if you can find konggarhu or soybean powder, it can be an amazing seasoning on your grilled meat. In addition to this, there are various vegetables like com, leeks, mushrooms, and asparagus that you can grill alongside your meat.

Also there the side dishes, which include lettuce leaves, kimchi, pickled cucumbers, slices of marinated garlic, and other interesting options that you can serve alongside the grilled meat.

Different types of Japanese BBQ

Korean Grills

grilled skewers

But first, how do you choose the best Korean grill?

Here are some of the things that you should look out for

Get your quick start in enjoying Japanese cuisine here with our top recommended tools

Chefman Electric Smokeless Indoor Grill

Elite Platinum EMG-980B Grill

CookKing CKMT Master Grill Pan

TeChef – Stovetop Korean BBQ Non-Stick Grill Pan

Japanese grills

Presto 07061 22-inch Electric Griddle With Removable Handles – perfect for Teppanyaki

Mr. Flame Son of Hibachi Portable Vintage Cast Iron Charcoal Grill

Bottom line

As we have seen, there is not much difference between Japanese BBQ and Korean BBQ. Mostly, it’s a matter of the ingredients that you use, as well as the additional spices found in Korean BBQ. However, these are two styles of barbecue that you can choose to try out in your home, whether with your family, or your guests.

In addition, the grills can be found easily in different online stores, and choosing the best one will allow you to have an unforgettable grilling experience. However, when choosing a grill, it is important to make sure that you choose a grill that will serve your needs, as well as one that will fit into the place you have intended to keep it.

Also read: these are the Japanese noodles varieties

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.