For decades, Argentina’s wine makers were worried about making and exporting more wine of mediocre quality than smaller, finer batches. However, as the consumer’s need changes, so does the industry. One aspect of Argentine culture that has not changed through time is the tradition of asados. What is an asado you ask? Well, it’s a barbeque. Just not the type of barbeque you know. Ditch those hotdogs and burgers, where we’re going we won’t need them.
Similarly to American barbeques, asados are suitable for every occasion—birthdays, holidays, or just having a few friends over on a Saturday. Unlike their (North) American counterpart, asados differ in several ways.
Argentines typically don’t use propane or charcoal bricks. Instead, wood or lump charcoal is utilized. While your neighbor may place their grill on high heat and quickly sear their tuna steaks, the asadores (grill masters) slowly cook their cuts using low heat. The most important factor is to use hot coals, not flames! This technique will make the meat more tender and flavorful.
There are two ways to prepare an asado: the parrilla and the asador. The parrilla is much like a contemporary grill. They can be small and portable or built out of cement and attached to a building. It includes a crank to lower and raise the meat during the grilling process. Commonly, this type of grill is used to cook sausages and smaller cuts of meat.
The asador is usually used to roast larger cuts of meats or even whole animals (suckling pigs or lamb). A large fire is prepared on the ground and the meat is hung over or near the fire while roasting. Large quantities of wood is needed for this method and will often take hours to cook the meat. However, when there is a large crowd of guests, this method is preferred.
The Asador or grill master is usually the only that will even think about touching the parrilla. Just like when your mom would smack your hand away when reaching for cake batter, the same will happen with the grill. While many barbeques in North America include steak sauce, rib rubs, or marinades, Asadores will usually only use salt and brine to season the meat. The true taste of the meat should come from the cooking methods and quality of the cut.
Now, for the most important part! There are many choices when deciding which type of meat you’d like your guests to enjoy. Before you can serve your main dish, you’ll have to prepare some achuras. Though they are basically appetizers, they’re still meticulously created and absolutely delicious. The most common achuras are chorizo (pork/beef sausage) and morcilla (blood sausage).
When it comes to the main course, there are few very common cuts: bife de chorizo (sirloin), vacio (flank), tira de asado (ribs), and for the more adventurous, extraña. While some cuts may seem very foreign, don’t feel overwhelmed. The most important part is going to an authentic Argentinian butcher (which may be hard in small towns).
For food as good as succulent beef cuts and tender chorizo, the right wine is needed. The quintessential varietal wine of Argentina is the Malbec. It is a rustic red wine that pairs perfectly with various cuts of beef, strong cheeses, pasta, and tomatoes. While the Malbec variety was popularized in France (where it is known as “Cot”), it was able to adapt very well to the landscape of Argentina when it was brought to the new world hundreds of years ago. Suggested Winery: Bodega Septima
While an asado may seem like a simple barbeque to others, it is a cultural event. It is more than a meal—it’s a tradition that has been passed down for centuries. If you‘d like to carry on that tradition, get the asador in your life the right grilling accessories—perfect for birthday present, father’s day gift, or groomsmen gift, go here. Next time they volunteer to host the family barbeque, they’ll be grilling and hosting like an Argentine. Who knows, you just might like it enough to give the wonderful country a visit.