If there’s anything Argentina is known for worldwide – aside from Maradona and Messi – it’s their asado prowess. With beef that ranks among the best in the world, and a grilling technique honed by gauchos in the Pampa region, Argentina’s asados are more than meal: they’re a lifestyle.
If you’re looking to step up your grilling game this summer, we’ve broken down some key lessons from the Argentine masters that you can test out at your next BBQ.
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Find the Right Beef
In Argentina, cows are grass-fed and roam freely in the Pampas region. That’s why the meat they produce is so high-quality, lean and flavorful.
Argentine beef has been imported to the U.S. since the late 90s, but if you can’t get the imported stuff, focus on finding grass-fed beef for the highest quality flavor.
A classic asado will include a bevy of beef cuts, including whole roasts like bife ancho (rib eye); bife angosto (strip loin); and lomo (tenderloin).
Also keep an eye out for matambre, a type of flank steak, and tira de asado, a cut born in Argentina, in which the rib section is sliced across to create narrow strips of meat and bone.
But Go Beyond the Beef
Although beef is the star in Argentina, a classic asado also includes a variety of other meats like chorizos, morcillas (blood sausages) and mollejas (sweetbreads).
Experiment beyond your classic BBQ fare and try these flavorful and diverse cuts on the grill.
Use Hot Coals, Not Flames
Argentines are purists when it comes to grilling. You will never see them use treated woods or lighter fluids, because it affects the flavor of the meat. Instead, their beef is cooked long and slow, over wood fires – but not directly in the flames – allowing hot embers to do the work.
To achieve this cooking technique, you’ll need the asador’s most important tools – a shovel and rake – for moving embers around.
Use wood to start a fire, and when the flames have eased up a bit, you will have a pile of smoldering charcoal to the left of your grill, from which you should rake the glowing embers to the right side.
Then, starting with the biggest cuts, and cook the meat over the hot embers, taking care not to let it come into direct contact with the flames. (Pro tip: keep the hottest coals aside to avoid fat dripping onto them and causing flames to flare up).
Crust the Meat
Most Argentinos prefer their beef medium to well-done, so if you’re eating the Argentine way, it’s pretty impossible to overcook the meat. With that said, well-done doesn’t mean dry. To make sure your meat remains juicy, you should sear the outside with a thin, brown crust. This prevents the juices from escaping while the meat cooks.
Achieving the perfect crust is an art that takes practice, but it’s worth the effort to get the most juicy flavors out of your meat.
Smother in chimichurri, and feast.
As a final touch, dress your asado with bright green chimichurri sauce, made with herbs (parsley, mint, and oregano), canola oil, red wine vinegar and garlic.