In Argentina, the average person consumes more than 120 pounds of beef per year — that's the second most of any nation on the planet. There's good reason for this too, as a traditional parilla, the name given to an Argentinian steak house, has a unique approach to preparing meat that can't be beat by any steakhouse tradition in the rest of the world.
What makes an Argentinian steakhouse better than the rest? There are a number of reasons, with the first one being the importance of Argentina's beef industry, and the renowned quality of its steak. At more than one million square miles, the South American nation is the world's eighth largest by surface area. A full one third of Argentina's land is comprised of the grassy plains known as the Pampas.
This geographical advantage has helped make beef a $50 billion dollar industry. In the Pampas, there's a long tradition of Argentinian cowboy, called gauchos, grazing cattle on their vast swaths of wild grasslands. Argentinean grass fed beef is prized for its superior flavor, leanness, and high omega-3 content. With six different breeds of cattle, a variety of cuts contribute to the popularity of Argentinian barbecue, or asado.
Argentina's butchers approach beef differently than their American counterparts, resulting in a few different cuts of meat. Rather than some of the sectional cuts favored in the US, Argentinean steaks are cut based on texture. For example, where Americans are used to t-bones and porterhouse steaks, in Argentina the tenderloin and New York strip are cut individually.
Of course, the Spanish speaking nation gives these cuts different names as well. In a parilla, a tenderloin or filet mignon cut is referred to as lomo, while the strip steak is called bife de chorizo (not to be confused with chorizo sausage, another staple of Argentinian asado). Other prized cuts include entraña (skirt steak), churrasco (a center cut of the sirloin), and bife ancho (bone-in ribeye).
Another reason Argentinian steakhouses are better than the rest is the approach to cooking meat. The American approach to grilling steak typically involves propane or charcoal briquette, whereas the steak is seared to seal in juices while cooked quickly over open flame. However, true asado burns wood or high quality briquettes to produce high heat, and the eat is never placed directly over any flaming element.
Furthermore, an asado grill is built into brick or ceramic over rather than metal casing of the American backyard barbecue. These materials do a better job containing high heat over a longer period of time. This allows a steak to cook slowly, smoking it rather than searing the outside and leaving the inside rare. This results in such flavorful and tender steak, it's little wonder Argentinians eat so much beef!
An Argentinian Steakhouse in San Diego
Puerto la Boca brings the parilla tradition to Little Italy, with lomo, entraña, churrasco, bife ancho, and other Argentinian cuts of steak, served with chimmirchurri, empanadas and other staples Argentinian cuisine.