Learn To Make Asado?

katti

Registered
I don't know - I don't think it's as easy as people think it is having watched several friends attempt and fail. I think the key is a) using the right salt to rub on the meat before cooking, b ) building the fire and keeping it at the right heat and keeping the meat at the right distance above it and c) judging the amount of time it will take and putting things on at the right time.

I adore asados and luckily enough, live with someone who is a master at them. So I just appreciate the results and don't have to deal with the work :)

As for where to learn - find a friend (yes, 99% of the time a male friend) and ask him to teach you.

ETA - Using carbon to do an asado? Heresy!!!! ;)

And David - don't know where you're eating but we always put vegetables on when we do asado. Roasted peppers, corn, potatoes and onions wrapped in tinfoil, etc.
I agree with everything. Also the quality of the meat is very important. My husband puts on the fire (with wood of course) about 2 h ahead. Maybe not the right salt but the right amount of salt, the right height of the meat : it should go slowly, if it is too close it goes fast, it gets burnt and it is not well done on the inside, and you should have enough burned wood to last until the meat is ready. Burned meat is totally unacceptable : You never put flames under your meat.

After all these years my husband is quite a good asador, he learned it through watching friends, and then inviting friends over and 'asking their heip'. they will be happy to say that all you do is wrong, but in the meantime you learn how it is done properly; And then practice, practice and practice. :)
 

Bajo_cero2

Registered
Well, there are some tricks for sure.
1) You can use the coal only when is full red with zero black areas or the meat is going to taste bad. Zero Fire!
2) add the fat salt the day before.
3) For vacio, if it is big, some people add lemon the day before to make it softer;
4) the fat should never be yellow;
5) If the vacio is big, it means that it is from cow. In that case you have to cook it super slow, 4 hours is great for super tasty and soft vacio.
6) The other 2 options are vaquillona (young cow) or novillo (young bull). Vaquillona is super soft but for me it lacks some taste. Novillo is soft enough but tastier.
7) Always cook it slow, very slow.
8) Chirozos has to be in water before cooking them.
9) Use strong heat for chinchulines
10) Cook the meat with its fat but cut it off for eating

Avicar is an easy way to buy excellent meat.
 

kurtdillard

Registered
It sounds like some of you have had some pretty crappy asado. A couple of my brother's-in-law took the time to teach me 5 years ago when we were living in Buenos Aires. Its not complicated, but doing it right takes time, skill, good meat, and decent wood or charcoal. When we first moved down here I was used to one of the most common American styles of grilling: cook expensive cuts of meat over a very hot propane grill with lots of seasoning. The Argentinian approach is very different: salt the meat, season it lightly with chimichurri or a mix of Italian herbs, cook very slowly over low heat. Its similar to how BBQ is smoked in many parts of the southern US, but not the same.

My wife and I try to find large slabs of untrimmed ribs and skirt steak (costillas y vacillo), we season with salt and our homemade chimichurri (we use a recipe that one of her uncles taught me years ago). I maintain a wood fire separate from where I'm grilling and add small amounts of burning coals below the meat as needed. I cook for 2 - 3 hours, I'll add the chicken when the beef is about half done, I'll add sausage, provaleta, sweet meats, etc when I think things are about 30 minutes from completion.

One of the things some of you appear to be overlooking is the abundance of sauces available with grilled meats in Argentina. Chimichurri and salsa criolla are the two most common, they usually aren't very spicy but they add a lot of flavor. Many restaurants offer other sauces with their steaks like peppercorn, 4 quesos, blue cheese, mustard, and mushroom.

Another thing to keep in mind: the quality of meat in general is declining because ranchers are adopting the factory-like feedlot approach to fattening up the herd before slaughter and using more and more hormones. They seem to be following the path set in the US over the last 40-50 years, which is unfortunate but I guess its inevitable since everyone wants to maximize profits. Lucky for us, most of the beef sold here in Corrientes is still free-range and grass fed, its noticably more flavorful than what we encounter in Buenos Aires. Another cool thing about living up here is that some restaurants still cook beef, goat, and pork "a la estaca" which means they mount the meat on iron racks and slow roast it over an open pit. Our favorite place, El Molino, serves brisket and ribs every Friday and Saturday that are as tender, moist, and delicious as any BBQ place I've visited in the US.
 

ElQueso

Registered
Kurt, you're absolutely correct about how many people in the States cook their meat. Absolutely disgraceful! :)

In Texas, many "immigrants" from other states continue to use propane (or charcoal), not knowing any better, but most Texans know how to slow-cook meat - particularly brisket (kind of similar to vacio, not sure the exact differences between the two cuts).

I used to slow cook a brisket in a smoker/grill (not a true smoker). It's a steel barrel cut in half length-wise and hinged (I'm sure most are familiar with the type of equipment though many may never have used one), with a firebox added to one side of the stationary bottom half of the cut barrel and a small pipe chimney on the top, hinged side - between an air gate in the firebox and a slide-able cap on the chimney you can control the temperature to within a few degrees and cook for hours, just adding fresh wood from time to time into the firebox. A good brisket may take 6-8 hours, and cooked with apple wood (not carbonized!), the light, sweet smoke that plays over the meat over that time, along with a number of different rubs or glazes or marinades, makes a barbequed meat the likes of which I rarely find anywhere else.

I don't do an Argentine-style asado, I never had anyone show me how to do it. I do, however, use the Argentine-style parilla simply because I had a house that had one, and now borrow a friend's house that has one. I've seen some barrel parillas here, but without the firebox and chimney to control heat it's just a slightly bigger "Weber" grill.

Everyone here that's suggesting you need to slow cook the meat is 100% correct. Many restaurants here don't have the time (or don't spend it) to really prepare meat correctly over a parilla. To me, even when cooked rare (I like "blue" personally) in many restaurants here, the meat can be a bit dry and/or tough and somewhat unflavored. Particularly vacio.

I do an asado (my style) most Fridays for a group of friends and acquaintances. The fire and paying attention to how much heat the meat is getting is very, very important. Also, because the Argentine parilla is not enclosed (depends - some are enclosed on 5 sides, but not all 6 ever - the front is always open), it is very important to turn the meat often (maybe every 5 or 10 minutes, depending on the size of meat, heat of fire, etc). If you don't turn often, when you look at a cross-section of the meat you tend to get dry, over-cooked meat on the outside, going more towards rare (or whatever destination you are shooting for) in the middle. Obviously, the more cooked in the middle, the outside.will be drier and more cooked if you simply leave the meat on one side, then the other, without turning it very often. When cooking ribs or sometimes tira de asado (when the meat is thick and the bones block a lot of the meat from the fire on one side, not when the whole slice of meat/bones is relatively thin) keep the time where the bones are down toward the flames about twice as long as the meat side.

I've heard so many people tell me the best way to cook meat is to cook it hard on one side for half the time (15-20 minutes with a big chunk of meat!), then turn it over and cook it hard on the other. Depends on taste, I suppose, but for me - NO WAY!. Personally, I feel like a good piece of meat should be nearly the exact same color in cross-section from the outside to the inside - but it takes repeated turning of the meat to do so when cooking over an open flame as opposed to a smoker (and with a smoker you don't tend to get things too rare anyway - but extremely juicy and tender). It takes a little longer my way, but the results speak for themselves.

As an aside, the guy who owns the house where we do our Friday asados recently bought a propane grill to put next to the Argentine-style parilla. He thought I'd prefer to use that to the parilla because it's neater (no wood/coals mess) and there's no effort starting the fire, maintaining it, etc. WRONG. Propane sucks. Go to the extra effort. Doesn't really take much... I refuse to use the propane grill for anything more than sometimes help keep some of my meat warm (far from the fire!) because the parilla I cook on is a bit small and I have to cook in shifts.

When I do our asado, I cook whole lomos, chicken brochettes with veggies and panceta stuck between the meat, salmon filets and chorizos. I've done barbeque chicken (pata muslo) and a few other things at times. I've done matambrito de cerdo (my personal favorite - particularly when the meat has a good little layer of fat on one side, not too thick - it gives a bacon-like flavor to the pork and grilled the fat is crispy and DELICIOUS!) I can't comment on cooking things like chinchulines and sweat meats because I simply don't like them and therefore don't cook them :)

With less-flavorful meat (like a lomo, for example), it's good to use a light marinade, about 12 hours in the fridge at least before you cook the meat. Don't use lemon juice with a lomo - it's already tender enough and doesn't give the meat a good flavor. With tougher meats like vacio, it would be a good idea to marinade in lemon water with whatever spices you might like. Ojo de bife and bife de chorizo make good meats to barbeque - being fairly tender, they have a lot more flavor than a lomo - don't particularly need to be tenderized or flavored apart from the rub you might want to put on them. The others Bajo_cero mentioned as well are good meats.

When I put a rub (chimichurri, sometimes salt and spices like cumin or maybe paprika, black pepper, etc) I like to use a little bit of olive oil coated on the meat. Cooked slowly, the olive oil doesn't "fry" the outside of the meat, but helps keep the spices attached and also helps keep the meat juices inside where they belong.

When you cook a piece of meat, cook it whole - don't get cuts (or cut them yourself) and cook them like steaks. You lose all of the juice that way and end up with a drier, less flavorful piece of meat. Get a whole chunk of meat and cut it into portions after it's cooked. After you take a meat off the grill, make sure you let it sit for 5-10 minutes off the fire before you cut it. The juices settle a little better. Also, remember the meat continues to cook a little once off the fire.

On an Argentine parilla, fire management is perhaps the most important thing. You need to keep a steady temperature to cook meat.

I have metal cylinders (bought at Easy) with handles on them and holes in the sides and bottom that allow me to build the first fire rapidly. Use leña, never briquets/charcoal. Put the leña in the cans with a fist-sized piece of cotton soaked in alcohol under the cylinder (a trick taught to me by a friend recently - much better than using wood or newspapers to get the fire started, leaves almost no residue, is hot and starts the leña rapidly. Even works if you just start a fire with a pile of leña without the cylinders - put the cotton in the center bottom of the pile). The fire I make for our asados, I use 4 cylinders of leña for the first fire.

When the leña is almost entirely white, spread the coals over the bottom of your parilla surface and make sure they are broken up into smaller, more or less equally sized pieces. Keep some of your coals to the side so that you can throw new leña on top in case you need to augment your coals as they go out. On parillas that have a grill that moves up and down, you can easily adjust the amount of heat your meat is getting. Otherwise, you have to control with the amount of coals under meat. Sometimes you need to use both methods. I usually use at least two medium-sized bags of leña for about 7 kilos of meat over an hour or so.

It takes a lot of practice to cook meat well (I don't mean well-done) on any open-coal fire. It's easy to just burn a couple of steaks (like on a Weber for example) on an open fire, but to get juicy, tender, equally cooked meat is a different story.

Not to toot my own horn, or to compare what I do too closely to Argentina asado, but you can't get meat cooked as good as I do it in restaurants in the city (at least I've never had any - maybe in very expensive places [which I don't frequent], or I just don't about some good home-style parilla somewhere). I've had some outside the city where they cook over open pits (where they stake the meat out beside the fire) and take a long time to cook the meat that and is very flavorful, tender and juicy (but not on a parilla). However, for the most part you don't end up with rare or medium-rare meats like that, but still the meat practically falls apart on your plate.

I admit it - I like blood :)
 

PhilipDT

Registered
El Queso. I don't like your asado style, but I do like your tastes. I bet I could change your mind about all this low and slow stuff. We really should organize some baexpat asados. I did them for a while last year under the guise of wine dinners but the admins got mad and deleted my posts.
 

rrptownley

Registered
I did not spend much time observing others in learning how to cook on the parrilla. I find a lot of asadores caseros have many bad habits.
Lessons are grudgingly passed down father to son, friends who haven't benefited from paternal advice remain the perpetual Asador Hydration Assisitant (aka. Waterboy), and foreign invaders are regaled stories exponenting the mysteries of the fire and the meat, much like the church did during the Renaissance period to suppress their wayward tendencies :p

I came to find myself inhabiting a property a few years ago that benefited from a large terrace with parrilla, which I found myself looking at quite blankly as my previous grilling experience was little more than burning sausages on a disposable BBQ by the boathouse back home.
My Argentine girlfriend took this as a great hosting opportunity and the very first weekend thrust a bag of carbon into my virgin, unsinged hands and pointed me towards the parrilla (little did I know at this stage that she had far more knowledge into the rituals and practices that make a good asado than I thought I did).
Thanks to being a bit of a pyromaniac I had little difficulty in achieving ignition: lashings of medicinal alcohol onto a smashed vegetable crate with crown of particularly placed coals (I have since refined this :p ).
Things were very messy; I lost an eyebrow, got blisters on my cheek, eyelid and several fingers, my arm hair was singed to a lovely, but curly, golden colour.
The meat, somehow came out well. Through my inability to regulate the coal temperature well, and my fear of burning the meat itself I had kept the grill high and the meat, roasting more than anything, ended up on the board a very English affair, with murmurs of "rosbif" from the present franchutes.

A few years later, many lessons learnt and having traveled a good part of the Argentine, cooking for quite a few events and dinners at friends parrillas, farms and such I feel I can call myself an asador. While my experience is still very limited, I can now knock out frequently complimented asados under various conditions without going to too much trouble.

In regards to your question, if you have the time and patience AND a parrilla at home I suggest to jump in at the deep end; buy the fuel and meat, invite your least critical friends over and give it a shot. After several attempts you will find consistency and an understanding into the process that produces a good asado.

Approach it scientifically.

Choose your received advice (different from any other activity I have attempted before, but there is a lot of misinformation out there)

Avoid buying the prime cuts, cook the popular Argentine cuts. Delve into the world of offal and vegetables. Variation is the key.

Use your hand as a thermometer, hover above the grill where your meat will be, if you can bear 4 seconds of heat this is a good temperature for sealing meat, 5 seconds for sausages and offal and 6 for a joint of meat.

Patience, the meat always needs a little longer than you think. Take your thumb and place it tip-to-tip with your little finger. Now squeeze the web of skin between your thumb and forefinger. This replicates the elasticity of a well-done peice of meat. Repeat the process until your forefinger to replicate a blue/muy juguso peice of meat (Some cuts with more fat and connective tissue will be naturally firmer). Using this you can gauge the status of the meat.

Be short with people who come to offer advice, soon you will have been pushed aside and no longer learning for yourself. You can spot these people immediately at your parilla. They are usually the types who change the music at a party.

Stay hydrated, it's hot work standing close to a fire for 4 hours+. Dont commit my frequent error by hydrating with wine instead of water (or do, if you would like an easy excuse for the quality if your cooking :p ).

Enjoy it! As soon as it becomes work, or you take yourself too seriously, you lose the character of the silent, stoic asador who deserves his applause at the end of it all. At the end of the day you are applying heat to meat, it's not as complicated as it appears to be. Making theatrics about how tough it is plays important to your drink supply and general being fawned over later :p

Get the ladies to whip up some sauces and side dishes and dont forget to profusely thank them for their contribution (or you will hear about it later).

There are some good books, in spanish, covering the basics that are worth reading to absorb the general idea of what you are attempting. A recent one is Siete Fuegos by Mallmann, which has been translated into English.

I could add much more to the whole process of cooking an asado, but you'll probably TL;DR it. Best to learn for yourself :D


If you don't find yourself in a situation to teach yourself, there is a puerta-cerrada restaurant that I know of that specialises in Asados that may offer a cooking class. Also another place recently opened that I know that teaches things like empanadas, I would have to ask if they do parrilla as well. Let me know via PM if you are interested.
 

Bajo_cero2

Registered
After reading your comments I have something to add regarding how much heat you need, just enough to listen the meat make noise.

I disagree about to move the meat every 15 minutes. The vacio should be turned up down when you see blood on the upper side. Otherwise you are "arrebatando" it (to burn it).

The big problem with many parrillas is that they first boil the vacio before they just pretend they cook it on the parrilla. They do it because the meat is from old cow and it also saves a lot of time.

Regards
 
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