There’s grilling, and then there’s grilling. From cooking on a stove-top grill to roasting meat over a wild open fire, there are many ways of making smoky, tender and aromatic grilled beef, chicken, pork and fish.
If you’re reading this, chances are you’re part of the tribe. For you (and us), there’s no better way of cooking meat than kissing it with fire, whether it’s over burning embers or infused with smoke, cooked over hardwood or a steaming grill; fire makes food better.
There might be many ways to cook with fire, but the grilling iron cross is, without a doubt, the most dramatic, exciting, and satisfying method out there, so let’s take a closer look at it.
The grilling iron cross, the legend.
Argentine cowboys, or gauchos, roaming the Argentine flatlands or pampas, have been raising premium cattle for centuries. Grilling with fire, the art of the Argentine Asado was perfected because people needed to make hearty meals to feed the hardworking country laborers.
Asado is, of course, not only about nurturing cowboys, it’s a celebration. The grill takes center stage and allows the grill masters to cook prime cuts, sausages and other delicacies. The iron cross serves another purpose; it allows you to slowly cook whole pigs, lamb or veal to tender perfection.
The name of the game is indirect heat since it’s the radiation from the fire during lengthy periods what will render fork-tender meat and crispy skin.
The seasoning? You need little more than salt. Fire and smoke will do the rest.
How to choose a proper iron cross?
What you need is a proper rectangle-shaped iron cross with a stable central spine, an adequate inclination and a broad base in angle. The support is essential since the cross might carry some serious weight.
Learn how to cook a whole pig in the iron cross.
Because we can’t miss the opportunity of sharing a good recipe to use an iron cross, here’s an authentic one for a 12 kg / 27 pound pig.
What you’ll need
A 12 kg / 27 pound whole pig, cleaned.
Half a gallon of brine (salted water)
A high-quality grilling iron cross
Wood to make and maintain a fire for at least five hours (hardwood is better).
Clean the pig and open through the rib cage. Strap it tight to your iron cross, head down.
Find a place for your cross 1.5 meters (5 ft) from where you’ll light the open fire. Place the cross facing the fire with the ribs towards the flame.
Take care of the wind direction, since the pig will cook with the radiant heat from the fire and not the flames themselves. You don’t want the wind coming from the back of your cross.
Build a roaring fire, don’t worry about the size; you can always move the cross to adapt.
Cook for three hours, monitoring carefully, then turn the cross to cook the pig’s skin for two more hours.
Sprinkle the brine over the pig during the entire process, this will season the meat and help moisturize it.
Getting it right takes time since you have to adjust the distance and the flame intensity during cooking, but it’s immensely satisfying.
Don’t think for a second, there’s nothing to do besides lighting the fire, this is hands-on grilling. And we know hand-son is what you’re all about.