There’s no more quintessential Argentine tradition than the asado. Combining social connections with culinary craftsmanship, the asado is far more than just a simple barbecue. It’s a custom dating back to a time when wild cattle roamed the plains of La Pampa, in central Argentina. Back then, gauchos lived entirely off the land, eating the tender meat of this wild cattle, which they slow-roasted over an open flame.
Today, an asado looks quite different than it did in the mid-nineteenth century, but certain traditions are still upheld every time a group gathers around the grill. To ensure your next asado is authentically Argentine, here are six essential elements you’ll need to include.
At its core, asado is meat grilled in its purest form. Traditionally, the fire used to cook the meat is made with a combination of red-hot coals and firewood, though the exact type of wood may vary from region to region. Additionally, an authentic asador, or grill chef, won’t use lighter fluid to start the fire, as it can taint the flavor of the meat; starting the fire without flammable liquid is considered an important part of the asado ritual.
Once the fire is started, you need to wait for your grill to heat up. In Argentine asados, a simple iron grill called a parrilla is used. They come in all shapes and sizes, from compact versions that can fit in your apartment to massive commercial ones for restaurant use. Most parrillas are equipped with an adjustable height for the grill, which helps the asador regulate the temperature of the meat.
Perhaps the most important part of any asado is the meat. Generally, you’ll want to plan for about a pound of meat per person, and there are many meats to choose from. Beef is the obvious first choice, and the heart of the meal; every cut is served, from ribs to sirloin to skirt steak to ribeye to flank to tenderloin. Beyond beef, though, there are sausages, chorizo, chicken breasts, sweetbreads, chitterlings, and morcilla, or blood sausage. No matter which meat you’re grilling, the only seasoning that should ever be used is a coarse BBQ salt.
While meat is the main event at an asado, a host of accompaniments help to round out the meal. Simple salads, grilled vegetables, and peppers add a bit of greenery; fresh bread is served to sop up juices; and homemade condiments, such as chimichurri and salsa criolla, enhance the natural flavors of the delicious, slow-roasted meats.
No asado is complete without a glass (or two) of fine Argentine wine. As the 5th largest wine producing country in the world, Argentina produces many varieties of both red and white. Once the meat is grilled and the salads are assembled, it’s time to sit down with a heaping plate of food and a heavy pour of Argentina’s flagship sweet and spicy red wine, Malbec.
Above all, the tradition of asado is one of social gathering. They’re held to celebrate rites of passage, holidays, and other special occasions, but the sights and smells of an asado can be found taking place on any given weekend in Argentina. Invite your family, friends, and neighbors to enjoy this delicious meal, and you’ll make memories to last a lifetime.
Enjoy an Argentine Asado at Puerto La Boca in Little Italy, San Diego
If you’re hungry for an authentic Argentine asado, but you don’t have a parrilla of your own, let Puerto La Boca prepare it for you. Our parrillada (“El Conventillo”) is a sizzling platter of short ribs, skirt steak, culotte steak, chicken breast, chorizo sausage, blood sausage, and sweetbreads, prepared in traditional asado style, and big enough for two people to share. Pair it with a bread and chimichurri basket and a bottle of Malbec for a genuine Argentine experience.
Voted the #1 steakhouse in San Diego by Channel 10 News, there’s no better place to enjoy a night out with friends or family than Puerto La Boca Argentinian Restaurant. Call us at (619) 234-4900 to reserve your table today.