How to Enjoy Korean Barbecue: Know Your Meat!

Though there are many Korean dishes that are widely known around the world, I think Korean barbecue is most popular part of Korean culinary culture. Korean barbecue commonly refers to a way of enjoying meat by directly grilling it on the dining table. Barbecue is usually considered an outdoor activity in other parts of the world, so Korean style barbecue comes as an unique culinary practice. Another interesting factor in Korean barbecue would be the use of scissors for cutting the meat. As a person who is used to this culture, it was a surprise for me that many foreigners find this completely unheard of. Korean barbecue is a huge part of Korean dining culture you must experience while you are here. In this article, I would like to talk about different types of grilled meat (focusing on pork) you have to know in advance before you enter the world of Korean barbecue.

Types of Pork Cuts (Source:


This is an image that shows different types of pork cuts. Those parts marked with red boxes are most frequently consumed in Korea. They vary in both taste and texture, so it would be really useful if you know the differences among them.


  1. Moksal (목살; Boston butt)

Moksal (목살) is probably the top 2 most consumed cut of pork in Korea along with samgyeopsal (삼겹살). Moksal literally means “neck meat” in Korean, and at this point you would already have guessed what kind of meat it is. Moksal doesn’t have much fat in it compared to samgyeopsal, so the texture of the meat is relatively stiffer than that of samgyeopsal. However, its somewhat stiff and tough texture makes it really good for grilling. If you choose to have a thick cut, then you can enjoy a good serving of moksal steak too!

There’s a really good barbecue place in Wangsimni (왕십리) where you can enjoy one of the best moksal in Seoul. It is a bit pricy (15,000 Won per one serving) compared to typical barbecue places near the campus, but it’s really worth the money.



Address: 21, Haengdang-ro 17-gil, Seongdong-gu, Seoul, Republic of Korea (서울특별시 성동구 21 행당로 17길)

Open from 4PM to 12AM everyday except national holidays.


  1. Hangjungsal (항정살; Pork jowl)

You might find the texture of Hangjungsal unfamiliar when you taste it. It tastes a lot different from what comes up in your mind when you think of typical meat. The very first bite is almost crunchy, but it gets chewy as you keep eating. You can only get about 200 grams of hangjungsal from a whole pig, so consumption on hangjungsal is less than that of more accessible cuts like moksal or samgyeopsal. I personally like hangjungsal very much because of its unique texture, but I also recommend that you don’t have too much hangjungsal at one time. It’s richer and heavier in terms of texture and taste compared to other pork cuts. From my experience it was best when you focus on other cuts and have just a little bit of hangjungsal in between.


  1. Samgyeopsal (삼겹살; Pork belly)


It is indisputable that samgyeopsal is the most popular pork cut among Koreans. Samgyeopsal used to be popular because it was an affordable alternative to beef, which is relatively expensive compared to pork. Nowadays it’s no longer cheap, but still remains as the most loved type of meat in Korea. Samgyeopsal is rich in fat, so the texture is a bit softer than moksal or hangjungsal. In fact the name “samgyeopsal” says it all.


Sam: meaning ‘three’ in Korean

Gyeop: meaning ‘layer’

Sal: meaning ‘meat’ (Did you notice all these types of pork cuts have ‘sal’ in their names?)


So as you can see from the name, samgyeopsal has three layers of meat and fat. Ogyeopsal is another way of cutting pork belly, which makes it similar to samgyeopsal. The difference would be that Ogyeopsal has pig skin on while samgyeopsal has the skin removed.

Recently there was a fad for ‘samgyeopsal buffet,’ where you can eat as much samgyeopsal as you can eat for only 10,000 to 12,000 won. I’ve been to a samgyeopsal buffet a couple of times and to my surprise it wasn’t so bad after all. If you don’t mind having mediocre samgyeopsal, it’s an option you can consider.


  1. Galbi (갈비; Rib)

Ribs are familiar parts to foreigners too. In Korea pork ribs are usually marinated (양념갈비) before grilling. One thing you have to know about galbi is that sometimes ‘pork ribs’ in Korean barbecue places are a combination of real rib and boston butt. Some people glue pork bones (with edible glue) to boston butt to make it look like real ribs. This is a common practice in Korean barbecue, and of course it’s not illegal so don’t worry about it.

Marinated galbi is my personal favorite because I think grilling brings out the best flavor of marinades. Marinated galbi also goes perfectly well with cold noodles (냉면), and there will be a further discussion on this topic(dishes that are good with barbecue) in my next article!


  1. Galmaegi (갈매기; Skirt meat)

Galmaegi is similar to hangjungsal for that you can only get about 200 to 300 grams out of a whole pig. It has a tougher texture than other types of pork cuts because it is the meat attached to diaphragm, which is a muscle used for breathing. Long time ago, galmaegi did not have any commercial value. Then there came barbecue places that started selling this meat at a cheap price. As it gained popularity for cheap price and chewy texture, many barbecue places specializing galmaegi formed a sort of group based on certain regions like Mapo. It wasn’t long before people began to relate Mapo and galmaegi together. These days there are barbecue franchises named ‘Mapo Galmaegi,’ and now you know how they got their name!


This article is the first of two articles I’m writing on Korean barbecue. In the next article, I would like to discuss more on different dishes or side dishes that go well with barbecue, and ways to enjoy barbecue even better!


Article by Jieun from Korea, a Senior in Business Administration

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