What is piquillin wood and why is it used in Argentine Asados?
Choosing the right wood for your Argentine Asado or grilling experience is key. In this article, I will explain why we use the famous piquillin firewood so frequently and why we get amazing results from this magical hardwood. The Piqullin asado firewood is used mainly in Patagonia in Argentina. Although this native fruit wood is available widely throughout Argentina and some parts of Latin America
The Piquillin Wood is also known as Condalia microphylla it is a native Argentinean fruit hardwood with a tanned reddish color on the inside and brown outer bark. This small tree is a slow grower in the harsh Patagonian climate. With temperatures in the Summer being above 40oc Celsius and in Winter -10oc Celsius the Piquillin has developed a resistance over thousands of years to reproduce and populate the Southern part of Argentina.
One of the biggest climate characteristics of Patagonia is the consistent strong breezes and gusts of wind.
Due to this climate, the Piquillin tree has developed its own defense mechanism and instead of growing up in height, it grows wide and with thick boughs.
The diameter of the average Piquillin log for our Argentine Asados is less than 30cm and varies between 10-20cm on average.
The Piquillin tree is extremely hard. Although it can’t be used for construction or furniture due to the nature of its size, for cooking it is a dream come true.
Hardwood is good wood. Hardwood gives you the best ingredients to create a good fire and great coals, this is why the Piquillin hardwood is our wood of choice.
The Piquillin wood before it is used for the fire is generally “seasoned” or dried for 3-6 months. This allows for the fibers in the wood to become more brittle and more suited for producing great coals/embers as all moisture and fungus have been removed from the wood.
The question that I get asked so often when I have guests around to my Argentine Asados is “Jason why does the meat taste so different?” “What's the tangy aroma in the meat?” “Why is the meat tinged slightly red”?
The Piquillin wood is at the heart of our cooking experience, without the Argentine Asado would not be complete. Although there are alternatives to Piquillin, in our opinion this is the #1 cooking firewood that produces the most consistent heat and leaves the best taste.
Let's break down these characteristics and why they are so predominant and important for our Asado.
One of the key aspects of Piquillin firewood is the aroma that is produced thanks to a very distinct smoke that the Piquillin produces.
The aroma is nothing like your standard Hickory chips, or the musty aroma of a Maple, Redwood, or Oak. It's a clean distinct aroma that resembles red fruits, chocolate, and the Patagonian mountains, a true Argentinean experience.
The meat or vegetables that are then grilled using Piquillin wood are then scented with this marvelous comprehensive aroma.
Creating coals for your Argentine Asado is the #1 reason why you will love Piquillin firewood.
The Piquillin firewood produces coals that stay hot for up to 45 mins. This allows the heat to consistently grill your meat or veggies.
Producing consistent coals will allow you to calculate the cooking time much more efficiently, allow you to dictate better when you should turn the meat, and give your a more fluent cooking session.
The Piquillin wood takes some time to light combust and turn into coals, but because of its extremely hard nature, the coals are unique in regards to their strength and heat.
The smoke that the Piquoillin produces is a unique grey-blue the reason this happens is of the outer bark and the deep reddish body of the log.
This smoke is the vehicle for the unique aroma that the Piquillin produces.
Predicting the heat is fundamental to not overdoing your Asado or burning your meat or veggies. If you can predict the heat better the more likely you will be able to calculate your cooking time and achieve a better result.
Also, the flames that the Piquillin produces are not big and overwhelming, allowing the fire that you are stoking next to your grill to not interfere with your cooking.
Also, because the Piquillin wood has very little sap or oxygen within its fibers there are very few sparks, but more deeper crackles as combustion takes place.
Here is a simple list of questions I get asked regularly on the YouTube channel.
The Piquillin wood is available to purchase in Argentina and some South American countries, although it is a native Argentinean tree it’s not widely available. If you are in the United States there isn’t a wholesaler that I am aware of yet. If you can contact me here on my website or via DM and I can share with you the best alternatives to purchasing Piquillin Wood.
Piquillin Wood provides all the elements to build a great fire that produces amazing coals that are at the heart of a good traditional Argentine Asado. I think it produces a great aroma and the heat that the coals give off is extremely consistent and predictable which leads to grilling succulent and extremely tasting food.
If you have time on your side Fire Wood will produce better coals and a more positive cooking experience. The charcoal or carbon on the other hand will light easier and produce coals faster. But the good heat for grilling won’t last nearly as long. The charcoal will last around 15-20mins and Fire wood will last around 30-40 mins, and Piquillin can last up to 60 mins.
What are the alternatives to Piquillin Firewood?
The alternative piquillin firewood that you can potentially locate easier in the United States or Europe are:
The majority of the fruit woods tend to be harder and better for producing great coals.