The Argentinian-style Asado is internationally known to be one of the best grilling techniques in the world. It consists of slow-grilled or roasted meats and vegetables accompanied by the most delicious sauces such as chimichurri and provencal sauces.
Even though the Argentine way of grilling differs slightly from other cooking cultures, it’s not impossible to learn with the right techniques, tools, and ingredients.
The Asado which translated into English means grill, is also known in Argentina as “Parilla” (pronounced parisha) which also means barbeque or grill.
The following steps will teach you how to grill like an authentic Argentinian. Prepare yourself for a great experience and a fantastic grill session which will end in a true Argentinean meal.
Let’s break down the important must and mustn’t of an Argentine Asado. In this section, we will guide you through some of the most foundational rules of grilling like an Argentinean pro.
First, Argentineans do not overuse spices and condiments. Besides from choosing top-quality meats farm-raised beef, one of the secrets of Argentinian Asado is only to use course salt while the meat is cooking. Once the meat is done cooking, the sauces (chimichurri and provencal, for instance) and other condiments can be added but once the meat is cooked and served, these traditional sauces are not heavily spiced but made up of 100% natural ingredients.
Secondly, predominantly an Argentine Asado is beef, although we will see many Asados that include lamb, venison, pork, and even fish, the majority of the Argentine Grill is beef.
So knowing your meat is key and being open to trying various beef cuts, sausages, and organ cuts. an Argentinian Asado includes a great selection of alternative beef cuts and nearly all the parts of the cow can be consumed.
Here are some common Asado choices and cuts:
The number #1 rule of any good Argentine Asado is an epic fire! Good fires produce great embers and coals which we will use to grill the meat and veggies.
Get your fit lit the right way from the outset: the easiest way to get the fire going is to place wood kindling in a pyramid shape with cardboard or old egg boxes or paper as the starter. Personally, i don’t use firelighters or any chemicals to start my fire. Locate the minor pieces in the center; they light faster and will be the ones that support the larger logs once we start to build the fire up.
Argentine Asados are more wood than charcoal. Although charcoal is used here and there, Argentine “parrillas” are traditionally wood. There are a couple of reasons why we prefer wood: it’s cleaner, produces better coals/embers, gives off a lovely tangy smoke, and wood, burns at a more optimal and stable temperature.
Once you light your fire, start to stack on the hard firewood, (you can check out my firewood guide by clicking on this link). Add slowly but over a short period of time a good amount of wood until your fire looks something like this.
Let the wood burn and fully combust. This can take up to 30 minutes so don’t rush it, let the wood fully burn and produce hot embers/coals so you can use them for your Asado!
As the fire starts to produce embers, make sure to poke it (use a long poker) or coal shovel. Let the embers drop down under the fire.
Continue to feed and stoke your fire during the whole cooking process.
The key to an Argentine Asado is moving the coals from under the fire to the grill section where your meat or vegetables are.
This is what makes the Argentine asado so authentic and different from any other grilling technique.
This exercise of moving the coals from the fire to the grill will continue through the grilling session, and it is essential that the heat on the grill remains consistent.
The magic behind the embers or coals is that if produced for a hardwood, they will last for up to 15-30 minutes, producing amazing cooking temperatures, great taste, and consistent wet heat.
Move the coals under the grill to create like a “bed” of coals. You can make the bed to the size of the cuts of meat you intend to grill.
Once you have moved the coals from under the fire to the grill, make sure the grill has heated up fully a good way to test this is by holding your hand over 1cm above the grill, you should be able to count to 10.
It is very important to not overheat your grill, this will make the heat tough and chewy.
Now the grill has heated up, you have checked the heat of the grill, and pre-salted your meat it's time to get grill’n!
Slowly take your meat from your table or board and lie it on the grill. It's important that you grill each piece of meat bearing in mind which side is recommended to grill facing down first. (You can head over to my recipes to find out more about each individual cut)
Once you place the meat on the grill, don’t move it around. Let it sit on the heat and slowly sear. Each cut of meat needs its unique grilling time and you can find out more about this on my Argentine Grilling blog or YouTube channel.
Patience is a virtue.
Understanding the timing of each cut is the passport to success. Do not rush grilling, patient grilling produces succulent tasty, and enjoyable meat.
Cook the meat slowly and generally speaking a medium to low heat. During the grilling process continue to add coals under your grill and keep your eye on the heat to not overbook you
Every once in a while, add our famous “salmuera” to the meat from drying out.
Salmuera is an Argentine sauce that is applied during the cooking process to stop the larger cuts of meat from drying out if the cooking process is longer the 1-2 hours.
Salmuera is made up of a range of ingredients and each “Parillero” (Grill master) makes his salmuera with his own cocktail, so here goes our favorite version:
As soon as the meat is nearing serving time a good way to end the grilling session is throwing provolone cheese over the grill, you can use a iron pan or even a tin foil to cook it. Provolone cheese is very popular in Argentina, and nearly everybody enjoys it as a starter to the meal.
Finally, when the meat is cooked and ready for serving it is important to take the meat off the grill and let it sit for at least 3 minutes before it is served.
Now it is time to carve up the meat and serve your guest the full Argentine experience.
Now, this is the moment for another tradition among Argentinians, that is very unique to the grilling culture. It’s the moment to celebrate the “asador” or the grill master. Someone calls out for a round of applause, and everyone pauses, rises to their feet, and claps, congratulating the asador and the meal. It’s an excellent way of saying: a job well done!