What is Argentinan BBQ? SoutH American Asado
Along with Messi, Fútbol, and Pope Francis, Asado has a special place in the hearts of Argentinians. But why is this dish so highly esteemed?
If you have read about Asado, it’s easy to be confused by the astounding variety in meats, sausages, and traditions of Asado.
Fret no more!
In this article, we will explain every last detail about Asado – from the meats used to the traditions followed!
What is Asado?
Asado (lit. roast, roasted) is both the culinary technique of slow char-grilling (or open-air roasting) as well as the social gathering where meats are cooked.
It is a cultural tradition practiced in many Latin American countries where family, friends, and coworkers gather together to enjoy outdoor cooking and food. It even is the national dish of Argentina!
An Asado can be cooked in two styles – ‘al asador’ or ‘a la parrilla.’
The ‘al asador’ Asados are more prevalent in the countryside. In this style, the meat is roasted whole or in large cuts. A fire is ignited on the ground, or fire pit, and the meat is skewered on iron crosses called asadores and perched vertically near the fire.
A La Parrilla
The ‘a la parrilla’ Asado is a typical style of Asado found in Argentinian cities. Once the coal is ready for barbecuing, the grill grate is placed for cooking the meat.
For this article, we will be focusing on the ‘a la parrilla’ style of Asado.
What is the History of Asado?
In the 1800s, the inhabitants of the Río de la Plata (Gauchos) developed a love affair with beef, since cattle were easy to come by and maintain in the Pampa. Gauchos were traveling horsemen who lived in and around the fertile lowlands of South America, i.e., Pampas.
Since barbecuing beef is arguably the tastiest way to consume it, it gave rise to the popularity of roasted meat, i.e., Asado.
Asado was beef (sometimes lamb or goat) roasted over a slow-burning fire using a skewered metal frame called an ‘asador.’ The wood used for cooking was from the quebracho tree. They used this wood as it imparted a rich flavor to the meat while causing very little smoke.
Asado, accompanied by a traditional South American drink – maté, was the staple gaucho diet, and this technique still lives on today. However, it has evolved from ‘al asador’ to ‘a la Parilla,’ with the introduction of the modern grill.
The Parrilla & The Asador
The Parrilla is a specially designed grill for cooking meat.
Parrillas come in all shapes and sizes, but the most common one in Argentina has a two-part design. One section, called the Brasero, is used for heating the wood or coals, and the other section, called la Parrilla, is a metal grill used to cook the meat.
Many parrillas are equipped with a crank and chains to adjust the height of the grill. This helps to regulate the temperature properly.
When the meat is cooked with wood, it is called ‘parrilla a leña.’ Fire woods are commonly used in the countryside, lending a smokey flavor to the meat.
Firewoods are hard to obtain in the cityside, so it is more common to use charcoal. This is called parrilla al carbón.
The art of starting a fire is an important ritual of Asado. Adding any kind of flammable liquid to start the fire is looked down upon.
The Asador is the person who takes the role of managing the grill. One or two people may take up the job. And quite the job it is!
The Asador’s job includes preparing the meat by keeping track of the meat’s doneness, moving the coals around to maintain the temperature, and maintaining a steady flow of perfectly-done meats for the guests.
It’s pretty challenging!