In Italy, your Sunday dinner may consist of pasta and meatballs. In England you might have a Sunday roast. In Argentina, no weekend is complete without an asado! Asado is to Argentina as barbecue is to the United States. The term is used for both a range of cooking techniques and the physical act of the social gathering. If you are lucky enough to be invited to an Argentinian asado, you will not be disappointed, and we can promise you that you won’t leave hungry!
At an asado, you will find a variety of meats being cooked on a grill, or parilla, or an open fire. For hundreds of years the vast grassy plains of La Pampa have provided Argentinians with an abundance of high quality beef. Even to this day, there are more cows than people in Argentina. Argentinians are very proud of their meat, especially the butchers who take pride in their mastery of specific cuts of beef. The key to a successful asado is getting a great cut of meat, and a lot of it. There is no special recipe that makes the asado what it is. The secret to achieving the mouthwatering meats? Salt. Lots of coarsely ground salt. That’s usually all that’s added to the meat before cooking. There are however, some secrets to securing the perfectly cooked asado; all of which differ from your typical barbecue. Here is what sets asado aside from your backyard BBQ.
- At family gatherings, the asado is truly a group effort. Many volunteers help tend the fire.
- An asado always begins with a fire made on the ground or in a pit.
- Cooking asado takes a long time; up to 4 hours! It is done at a slow and steady pace, carefully monitored to make sure it cooks just right.
- An asado must be cooked over a parrilla. A parrilla is the actual grill that you place the meat on. The meat is placed in a metal asadores or crosses that hold the meat in while it cooks over the fire.
- Usually, Argentinians will grill a whole rack of ribs, flank steak, lamb, chicken or goat. No burgers or hot dogs here!
Want to cook an asado at home but don’t have a parrilla? Not to worry, use a charcoal grill as a substitute and cook ribs instead of your usual meat. Top your meat with an Argentine chimichurri sauce with this recipe for some Argentinian flavor!
1 cup lightly packed chopped parsley
3 to 5 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
2 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves
2 tablespoons shallot or onion, minced
3/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons sherry wine vinegar, or red wine vinegar
Salt & pepper
3 tablespoons lemon juice
Place all of the ingredients in a blender or food processor and pulse until well chopped, but not pureed. While meat is on the grill, baste with chimichurri sauce, reserving some for finished meats.