Grilling takes skill; for some of us, it’s an art form! If you’ve been in charge of the grill at get-togethers with friends and family, you know grilling is not just throwing meat over the fire. That’s why sometimes you find yourself in front of a just-OK steak, and others facing a juicy, smokin’ piece of heaven.
Grill masters in Argentina, or parrilleros, have perfected the art of cooking with fire after a long history of cattle raising in the open plains. Grilling has become part of Argentina’s cultural identity: This is the Asado, and for purists, it’s the only way to cook a perfect steak.
How to Cook the Perfect Steak
Asados are social events that revolve around the fire. You can cook everything from birds to fish in the Argentine grills, but beef is the grand prize. Take a closer look, and you’ll see that it’s now only prime cuts on the grill, its sausages, chorizos, sweetbreads and kidneys. No part of the animal goes to waste.
For the ideal fire, you must use hard-wood charcoal and light it only with rolled newspapers. Once the embers glow and you can see white seems in between the cracks, you’re ready to cook.
Throw a few fistfuls of grain salt to the coal before adding the meat, a typical practice between skilled grill masters. Salt will help control the flame outbursts, will keep a steady heat and will reduce smoke.
Then bring out the meat. From all delicious prime cuts, one renders the best steak: the Ojo de Bife, or ribeye. There’s no need to marinate the meat if the quality is good, and in Argentina, that’s always the case. A delicate salt crust is all you need to liven the flavors and end up with an extraordinary steak.
Place the meat in the grill with the fat facing down and wait; here’s where intuition is most handy. Flip your steak only once and don’t overcook it.
Serve your juicy meat with enticing chimichurri sauce and remember to save some meat for you! Because everyone will want doubles.
The Perfect Grill
To cook a proper steak, you need the perfect grill. Meat has to be at the right distance from the burning ambers; the height of the grid is critical since the Argentine steaks are cooked by radiating heat and not by bursts of flame or smoke.
The perfect grill must have plenty of ventilation in the coal chamber, too. It will not only diminish the amount of smoke in contact with the meat; it will ensure that the coals are well fed with oxygen and that the heat is even and intense.
Lateral access to the coal chamber is widely appreciated too, and it’s a sign of a well-made grill. It might be common sense, but you don’t want to move your grid once in place, although you still need to distribute the coal evenly at regular intervals.
The Secret Ingredient
Mastering the grill takes time and patience, the more often you light up the fire, the more opportunities you’ll have to hone your craft. Having said that, always remember the secret ingredient: passion, and love for what you do.
Every time you light the fire is a celebration, grilling brings people together, and that’s a great responsibility, so do your best and remember grilling is all about sharing!