I was never really exposed to Korean food growing up in Florida, but I learned to LOVE it after moving to San Diego. I lived and worked near the Convoy district, the city’s great wonderland of pan-Asian cuisine, and that’s where Korean barbecue stole my heart. Sweet, salty, garlicky, fragrant with toasted sesame oil, utterly addictive – especially when devoured ssam-style, in lettuce wraps piled with rice and lots of kimchi.
I cooked a bunch of different versions of Korean barbecue at home, but the process finally clicked with my whole-foodie sensibility when I discovered a steak ssam recipe by David Chang (my ultimate contemporary celeb chef hero). His marinade was built on a foundation of apple juice – brilliant!! I use honeycrisp apple cider, and it is wonderfully flavorful. Wholesome sweetness without syrupy refined sugar overkill.
The skirt/hangar steak in Chang’s recipe make for quick work marinating/cooking, but I’ve found that I also like the same marinade on a big, grass-fed roast, seared and pressure-cooked in my Instant Pot.
I’ve seen recommended pressure-cooking times for beef roasts vary pretty widely, from as low as 40 minutes up to 2 hours. In my experience, 1 hour under high pressure is long enough to yield tender meat for a typical 3-ish pound roast (it takes prolonged cooking at internal temperatures upward of 160F/70C to convert tough/connective collagen into tender/juicy gelatin). The end result is neatly slice-able rather than “fall apart” tender. Grass-fed beef is significantly leaner than “conventional” meat – some people have trouble getting used to the lower level of fat, but I really prefer it the way nature intended.
[Instant Pot] Korean BBQ Beef Roast + Ssam
For the beef roast:
- 2 cups apple juice or cider
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 1/2 medium yellow onion sliced
- 5 cloves garlic roughly chopped
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- 3 lb. boneless grass-fed chuck roast
- 2 tablespoons neutral cooking oil
- green leaf lettuce
- cooked brown rice
- any other favorite Korean sauces like ssamjang or banchan
- The day before you plan to cook: combine the apple juice, soy sauce, onions, garlic and sesame oil in a gallon-size resealable food storage bag. Pierce the beef chuck roast all over with a fork to enhance marinade absorption before adding it to the bag, then seal and refrigerate overnight.
- The next day, add the neutral oil to the pressure cooker to cook over medium heat (with Instant Pot, press the ‘Saute’ button to begin cooking at medium saute heat). When the oil is hot, place the meat into the cooker (reserving the marinade) and brown well on the top and bottom surface (about 4-5 minutes on each side).
- After both sides are browned, pour in the marinade and cover the pressure cooker with the lid, ensuring that the valve is in sealing position. Cook under high pressure for 60 minutes (with Instant Pot, press ‘Cancel’ to stop saute mode before closing the lid, then press ‘Manual’ and “+” to select 60 minutes).
- When the cooking time is up, allow at least 10 minutes for the pressure to release naturally. Open the lid and carefully transfer the roast to a plate to rest for an additional 5-10 minutes before slicing against the grain into approximately 1/4 inch thick pieces.
- Serve the sliced beef ssam-style (as lettuce wraps) with fresh lettuce leaves, cooked rice and kimchi, along with any other favorite “banchan” (small plates) or sauces. Store leftover beef in an airtight container, with cooking liquid poured over the top to keep it moist.