Gaucho Grilling: Asado 101

If there’s one thing Argentina is known for, it’s beef. And if there’s one thing every visitor wants to experience most during their visit, it’s an authentic asado, the famous Argentinian-style barbecue.

Gaucho Grilling
© Timarie Chan

Extending west of Buenos Aires throughout central Argentina lie the Pampas, vast plains that are the country’s agricultural center. The fields are also well suited for raising cattle, whose meat, thanks to the animals’ excellent living conditions, is tender and flavorful.

But Argentina hasn’t always been the beef capital of the world. During the Spanish colonization of South America in the 18th century, conquistadors from Spain brought cattle and other livestock into the country’s pampas. The gaucho emerged soon after, and is, still today, inextricably linked to the pampa and asado.

Indeed, we have the gaucho to thank for inventing the as ado. A close equivalent to the American cowboy, gauchos are wanderers of the pampa, independent from institutional authority, and systematically on horseback. They transformed the cattle they raised into a tender, flavorful, succulent meat dish simply by cooking racks of beef seasoned with salt over a slow-burning flame. Weekend barbecues of contemporary Argentina keep this tradition alive, though they’re anything but the gaucho’s solitary version from several centuries ago—a typical afternoon of grilling is always shared with the whole family.

Gaucho Grilling
© Timarie Chan

It’s hard to experience an authentic asado in a restaurant—the real version isn’t so much about the food as it is about the grilling event and the people it’s shared with. For the culinarily ambitious grillers, here are some tips to making the perfect asado at home. Be sure to serve your meat with the chimichurri from your box, and experiment with the malbec marinade.

1. Use wood, not charcoal as the heat source.

2. Season with salt and pepper—nothing else.

3. Cook meat over indirect heat for a minimum of two hours. Low heat over a long time makes for tender and juicy meat.

4. Serve with simple sides, such as tomato salad, and lots of wine.

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