Beginners guide to Argentine Grills
Argentines love their meat and their grilling. If you’re a fan of Argentine barbeque, you’ll want to invest in an Argentine grill. Find out all you need to know about these Argentine grills and why they’re the best.
What is an Argentine Grill?
An Argentine-style grilling system has a slopey V-shaped cooking surface and adjustable height. It is commonly called Santa Maria grill, Argentinian style grill, Asado grill, or Gaucho grill (which translates to cowboy grill).
These grills have a pan or charcoal grate at the bottom of the unit. The cooking surface moves up or down for intense, high-temperature grilling or lifted for a smoky, low-temperature, slow- cooking experience. The adjustable height of the grilling surface allows for precise temperature control, allowing for uniform cooking in the thickness and temperature of the meat when grilling Argentine Asado meats.
The sliding V Grate of the grill removes fat from the fire to prevent flare-ups that could damage the flavor of the meat. Argentine Asado Grills are designed to be used at social events, such as barbecues, and can use either wood or charcoal instead of propane to impart a light smoke flavor to the meat.
Argentine Grills: The asado BBQ history
During the colonial times of the 1500s, the Spanish brought cattle into Argentina, and beef became an integral part of the national cuisine. Their love of cooking gave birth to the asado, which means roasted. In fact, it’s a tradition that goes back to the gauchos, the legendary cattle-wrangling figures.
Towards the 1800s, long before San Francisco became unlivable and Hollywood gave us the unwatchable Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the gauchos were nomadic cowboys of the vast Pampas plain.
They would gather wild cattle, slaughter them, and roast them on sticks deep in the earth. This tradition was the first form of practice combining Argentina’s cooking rituals and myths.
Nowadays, asado is more of a social event, and the person who cooks is the asador or grill master. Families and friends gather to savor different cuts of slow-braised meats. Instead of the classic propane grill, the asado preparation is on a traditional parilla. The main ingredient in an asado is beef, but you can also add chorizo and sweetbreads. Chicken and grilled vegetables are also popular options.
Common Types of Argentine Grills
Argentine grills have two main categories: traditional Parilla and Santa Maria grill. Parilla come equipped with an adjustment arm located on the side of the grill that controls the grates. On the other hand, the Santa Maria grills feature an overhead assembly with a wheel that can lower and raise the grates.
An Argentine parrillada is a BBQ consisting of meat like beef, pork, chicken, and lamb. Argentine Asadores use classic cuts such as ribs, steak, flank, and abdominal walls.
You will not find just hamburgers or hot dogs. There are chinchulines or intestines, morcillas or blood sausages, mollejas or sweetbread, and more.
In addition, the Asados cook pork with specialties like the classic sausages called chorizos and the ribs called costillas. Some exotic types of Argentine Asado may also include meat from horses or goats.
Asadors use the whole animal and leave no part behind. Their main course consists of offal or achuras. It includes kidneys, intestines, tripe, sweetbreads, and so forth. While we all know meat is the star, grilled veggies are something to write home about as well.
If you do not have a butcher near you, check out the meat section at local food stores for some tasty innards to add to your Argentine BBQ.
How to use your Argentine Grills
Grilling in Argentina is not just about the food. It’s about ritual and ceremony. To get the knack of Argentina’s grilling tradition, we’ve gathered the top tips and tricks from world-class master chefs of Argentine grilling and cuisine. Here are a few ways you can grill like an Argentinian Gaucho this summer.
Use high-quality ingredients: Grilled meat is of the highest quality in Argentina, thanks to the grass-fed cattle of the Pampas. Similarly, you can use leaner and healthier cuts with high-quality food in chicken, pork, fish, and vegetables. Grilled meat is made on the grill, not in frozen patties. This choice allows for outstanding flavor and texture.
Cooking on fire: We don’t advise cooking over a fire with burning flames. Open fires require a low heat that’s well controlled.
Grilling with coals: Coals are the old-school way to cook in Argentina. Keep the fire going until you have a nice, deep pile of coals, about 2-3 inches deep. This method can take from an hour to an hour and a half. You can add more if needed to keep the coals in good shape while cooking. Coals provide the most consistent heat, but wood-fire can have a subtle smoke flavor.
Cooking over wood: In Argentina, gas grilling is a sacrilege. There is another tradition of grilling done with a wood fire. Most Argentine BBQs have a little in-built nook where the wood gets burned. Once the wood is coal-hot, place it under the meat for grilling. Grilling over the wood fire enhances the flavor of your cuts, so you don’t need to marinade or rub it. A chunk of fresh-cut lamb can develop a wonderful smoky flavor that isn’t overwhelming.
Be careful of the flames: Upon closer inspection, notice how Argentine grills have a V-shape design. This system helps to trap and contain the oil and fat that dries up in the fire. Instead of dripping into the flames and causing a flare-up, the fat slips into a slot for reuse to baste the meat. This method also makes it easier to clean the grills. Fire is the enemy when grilling in Argentina - and one of the biggest secrets. If you come into contact with direct flames, you could end up with burning or over-carbonized meat, which can be bad for your health and taste.
Slow meat crusting- the Argentinian grilling secret: If the heat is too high on cuts, you’ll end up with black and blue meat—burned on the outside but raw inside. So low heat is essential, as is loading your grill in the proper order. Put the slabs of meat on the grill, as they take longer to cook. Next, place achuras on top, followed by organ meats and sausages. The sausages are a vital part of an asado. You want to keep it close to the grill so that it forms a thin, brown crust. It keeps the juiciest flavors from flowing out.
Argentina’s leading chefs urge that the crust keeps the meat moist by keeping the juice from spilling out. If you watch Argentine grilling, you’ll notice that the asador or grill master doesn’t flip the cuts around. The art of grilling is to cook your meat with the correct heat to get a nice brown crust without burning your food.
Seasoning and chimichurri sauce or herbs for that twist: Asado meat is usually seasoned just before or immediately after it hits the grill with pebbly barbecue salt or gruesa. Medium crystals dissolve more slowly than coarse table salt, consistent with the Argentinian low heat and slow-cooking technique for chunks of meat cuts.
The famed sauce for grills in Argentina is chimichurri. The sauce ingredients are parsley, red pepper, olive oil, garlic, oregano, and vinegar. You can add it to your meat as a last-minute touch before you eat.
Using only salt and herbs can help you focus on the meat and avoid overpowering sauces. Or, if you feel adventurous, you can make it at home. Plan to have it ready the day before the BBQ.
As the sauce ages, it gets more and more flavorful.
Observe the Argentine grilling ritual: Grilling in Argentina is a well-respected traditional process. The asador is the grill master, learning from his fathers and grandfathers. He uses a long and slow cooking approach. The most popular appetizer served at an Asado is chorizo.
Offals and different cuts of meat are regular items. The BBQ has everyone clapping for the asador to show their appreciation. You can also create a grilling ritual to show appreciation for the food and share moments with family and friends.
Benefits of a Parrilla Grill
Here are some benefits of using a Parrilla grill:
The truth about Parrilla grills is that it's more work than just adding charcoal and go. It's not plug-and-play as with the gas grills.
But for the true BBQ enthusiasts, that's part of the fun experience; the ability to control all the variables is much more fun and provides a much wider cooking variety.
There's also something about lighting up wood and using charcoal to grill…it's a beautiful art.
Another huge benefit associated with Parrilla grills is the better flavor. The grill is known for adding an intense smoky flavor to your BBQ food, devoid of the acrid or rank flavors of other wood/charcoal.
Greater Cooking Control
You already have an idea of the adjustability feature of the Parrilla grill. An adjustable height cooking area gives you the ultimate control of the cooking temperature.
The greater cooking control makes it much easier to achieve the perfect sear and doneness for different meat cuts.
Also, adjusting grates makes it easier to top or move the fuel source around using a charcoal rake. Most wood/charcoal grills lack this feature, requiring you to disassemble the entire grill off the BBQ with food on.
Allows Repurposing Fats
True Parrilla grill design is designed in a specific way and has its grill at a slight V angle. The V shape of the metal grills acts as a trough and helps to channel down the fats and oil from the meat into a small drip tray.
Channeling fats and oils from your meat helps prevent unnecessary flare-ups. More importantly, it ensures you don't miss the fat opportunity to the grill gods!
Versatility and Variety
Finally, the Parrilla grills have separate individual grill grates, which can be raised independently to different heights, allowing you to prepare different foods with different needs simultaneously.
The grills are also available in different shapes and sizes. For example, for a home, you can find the freestanding or bricked options, and for commercial use, you'll find the big charcoal grill often mounted on larger trailers. Talk of versatility.
Requirements for Parrilla Style BBQ
If you're interested in a Parrilla-style BBQ experience, here are the supplies and equipment needed:
A Parrilla grill is needed for Parrilla BBQ. You need a large grill with an open flame for grilling.
- Fuel Source
Parrilla grills rely on wood or charcoal for fuel. Understand the choice of wood can impact the flavor of your meat.
Ideally, the best type of wood that will impart a distinct and flavorful taste to your meat are oak, Applewood, and mesquite.
- Other Accessories
You'll also require other culinary supplies, such as tongs, a spatula, and a meat/heat thermometer.
- Preparing a Meal- Meat Selection
Traditionally, beef is usually the centerpiece of a classic Parrilla BBQ experience. While pork, chicken, lamb, and sausages are popular dishes, beef cuts remain the prize meal.
- Cooking techniques
There are two main cooking techniques in Parrilla: direct and indirect heat. Direct heat sears the meat quickly, while indirect cooking is ideal for cooking slowly over time.
Choosing the Ideal Parrilla Grill
Here are the tips to follow when selecting the perfect Parrilla grill for your needs:
-Traditional Vs. Modern Grills
The traditional Parrilla grills provide a more authentic grilling experience and are usually crafted by skilled artisans. On the other hand, the modern grills are more "techy" and incorporate more technology and features for convenience. The latter doesn't compromise on flavor.
-Size and Portability
When selecting a Parrilla grill, consider your grill space and grilling needs. Parrilla grills come in different sizes, from small portable grills for simple backyard gatherings to the more humongous grills for commercial use.
Quality and choice of material are important when selecting a grill. Parrilla grills constructed from high-quality materials can withstand the rigors of outdoor grilling and are more durable.
Ensure your choice of grill has an adjustable mechanism to grant you better grilling control.
Tips and Tricks for an Authentic Grilling Experience with a Parrilla Grill
Embrace Traditional Cuts: As mentioned above, beef cuts are the mainstay of Argentinian grilling cuisine. Therefore, to experience an authentic Parrilla grill culinary experience, consider the different beef cuts, such as Asado ribs and flank steak.
Marinating is Key: Marinating and seasoning meats is crucial in a Parrilla grill culinary experience. Consider marinade and condiments like chimichurri, parsley, garlic, and garlic.
Patience is key: Typically, grilling on a Parrilla is usually at a lower temperature, thus taking time. The meat is also usually placed a distance from the fire, and therefore, you must be patient and give the meat enough time to absorb the smoky flavors and tenderize it.
Sharing is Caring: Finally, just like drinking, Parrilla BBQ is a communal event, and you should embrace the communal aspect by inviting and sharing with friends.
Get the best Argentine Grills!
Take your grilling to the next level with an Argentinian barbecue. Show your guests what you can do with this ultimate guide to Argentine grilling.
Experiment with different cuts and flavors, and remember to add chimichurri sauce for a tangy finish. And for something more unique, try Salsa Criolla, a mix of tomatoes, peppers, onions, chilies, cilantro, vinegar, and oil. No matter what type of Argentine grill you choose, you will have an unforgettable season on the grill!