Love Korean Barbecue? 5 Etiquette Tips That Can Help

With the rise of Korean barbecue diners, more and more people are keen on exploring this mode of dining. Korean barbecue is often communal and involves the sharing of servings; it usually lines up ribs, bulgogi, pork belly, cold meat slices, and other types of meat and veggie fixings. 

Maintaining cleanliness during the meal is an important aspect of Korean barbecue etiquette. Keep the grilling area tidy by discarding any used napkins or bones in the appropriate places. Use the wet towels provided at the beginning of the meal to clean your hands before eating.

Be considerate of others by not monopolizing the grill or the serving utensils. Share the responsibility of grilling if appropriate, and always be mindful of how your actions affect the dining experience of those around you. Here are some dining etiquettes which will help you during Korean barbecue meals.

Proper Use of Utensils

Korean barbecue involves a variety of utensils, including chopsticks, tongs, and scissors. Understanding how to use these utensils correctly is crucial for a seamless dining experience.

Chopsticks are primarily used for picking up and eating food. It’s important to handle them with care, avoiding gestures like pointing at them or sticking them upright into a bowl of rice, which is considered highly disrespectful. Tongs are used for placing meat on the grill and turning it, while scissors are commonly used to cut meat into bite-sized pieces. This practice might seem unusual to some, but it’s an efficient and accepted method in Korean dining.

Grill Etiquette

The grill is the centrepiece of the Korean barbecue experience, and proper grill etiquette is essential to ensure everyone enjoys the meal. Typically, one person, often the host or the most experienced diner, takes charge of the grill. This person is responsible for cooking the meat to perfection and serving it to the other diners.

It's important not to overcrowd the grill. Adding too much meat at once can lower the grill’s temperature and result in uneven cooking. Additionally, avoid using the grill as a resting place for cooked meat. Once the meat is ready, it should be promptly served and eaten to appreciate its flavour and texture at its best.

Mindful sharing

Korean barbecue is a communal dining experience, that emphasises the importance of sharing. Unlike Western dining, where individuals often have their own plates, Korean barbecue involves shared dishes. Side dishes, or banchan, are placed in the centre of the table for everyone to enjoy.

When serving yourself from these communal dishes, use the serving utensils provided. If none are available, use the opposite end of your chopsticks to transfer food to your plate. This practice maintains hygiene and shows consideration for your fellow diners.

Drink Etiquette

Drinking is often a significant part of the Korean barbecue experience. There are specific etiquettes associated with drinking that reflect the broader cultural emphasis on respect and social harmony. When drinking with elders or superiors, it’s polite to pour their drinks first and to hold your glass with both hands when they pour for you.

When drinking alcohol, turn your head away from elders or superiors as a sign of respect. It’s also customary to never pour your own drink; instead, pour for others and let them pour for you. This mutual exchange fosters a sense of community and connection among diners.

Pace Yourself

Korean barbecue meals can be quite long if it’s a curated menu. There is no need to rush through the meal. Instead, take your time to appreciate the flavours and textures of the various dishes.

Pacing yourself also means being mindful of how much food you are taking at a time. Since the meat is grilled in batches, take small portions to allow everyone to have a fair share. Engage in conversation, enjoy the side dishes, and make the most of the social aspect of the meal.