Cooking with Fire: Six Authentically Argentinian Ways to Barbecue

What every good barbecue chef should know

Gustar

Restaurant Corte Comedor (2020-11-11) by Leo LibermanGustar

Cooking with fire

After soccer, Argentina’s greatest passion is, without a doubt, barbecuing. Every barbecue chef has his or her own technique and philosophy, whether it is a particular way of lighting the fire, the best seasonings, or the optimum cooking temperature. Wood or charcoal: the million-dollar question. 

Puesto de comida (2021-01-15) by Leo LibermanGustar

Outside of the larger cities, wood-fired barbecues are common (using woods such as quebracho, walnut, and olive). This gives the meat different smoky aromas. In towns and houses, people tend to use charcoal, bought from greengrocers and butchers' shops.

Puesto de comida (2021-01-15) by Leo LibermanGustar

1. On the grill

The grill—known in Spanish as a parrilla—is the undisputed king of the Argentinian barbecue. Almost every family has one at home (even those who live in apartments!). Experts say that the secret lies in the grill being very hot before putting the meat on it. The grill can be round or grooved. 

Puesto de comida (2021-01-15) by Pablo ValdaGustar

There are specific cuts of meat that cook quickly (such as steaks or short ribs) and others that are supposed to be cooked for longer (such as flank steak). It’s also ideal for cooking cheeses such as provoleta, and vegetables such as eggplant, zucchini, and bell peppers. 

Puesto de comida (2021-01-15) by Pablo ValdaGustar

Chivo (2021-01-20/2021-01-23) by Delfo Rodríguez / Carlos Púrpura PistarelliGustar

2. A cross spit

This is one of Argentina’s oldest and most traditional roasting methods. The meat (lamb or a rack of ribs) is cooked a short distance away from a wood fire. The cooking process can last three or four hours. The meat is positioned in the direction of the wind, and seasoned with brine.

Chivo (2021-01-20/2021-01-23) by Delfo Rodríguez / Carlos Púrpura PistarelliGustar

In provinces such as Cordoba, San Juan, and Mendoza, this roasting technique is usually used for cooking kid goats. In many places, the meat is seasoned with a sprig of rosemary, mustard, and oil while it is cooking.

Córdoba cabrito a la estacaGustar

Proceso de elaboración de un plato típico del NEA: Gallinada. (2020-12-26/2020-12-28) by Fotógrafo 2: Gonzalo Guendler.Gustar

3. In a disco

A disco is a type of flat Argentinian frying pan, made from thick iron with a handle on either side. It's called a disco, meaning disc, because the original versions were plow discs. The disc heats up over the fire and is coated in oil or animal fat.

Proceso de elaboración de un plato típico del NEA: Gallinada. (2020-12-26/2020-12-28) by Fotógrafo 2: Gonzalo Guendler.Gustar

It's ideal for cooking rice dishes and sautéed dishes containing meat, chicken, and vegetables. One of the most popular disco recipes is chicken in black beer, made with chicken, black beer, onions, thyme, rosemary, salt, and pepper. 

Proceso de elaboración de un plato típico del NEA: Gallinada. (2020-12-26/2020-12-28) by Fotógrafo 1: Julio Noguera.Gustar

Corte de punta de espalda a las brasas (2020-12-20/2020-12-28) by Sergio H. LeivaGustar

4. Spit roasting over a fire

As its name suggests, this roasting method involves inserting a metal spit into the meat, and cooking it directly over the fire. It needs to be painstakingly and continuously turned to ensure that it doesn’t burn on one side. 

Corte de punta de espalda a las brasas (2020-12-20/2020-12-28) by Sergio H. LeivaGustar

During the spit roasting process, the meat is sprinkled with a type of brine known as salmuera, made with water, course ground salt, garlic, and aromatic herbs such as bay leaves and rosemary.

Presentando el plato final (2020-12-20/2020-12-28) by Sergio H. LeivaGustar

Verdura en las brasas (2020-12-20/2020-12-28) by Sergio H. LeivaGustar

5. Ember roasted

The technique of ember roasting involves burying vegetables among the coals, so they are cooked in the fire itself. This gives them a tasty, smoked flavor. When they are removed from the heat, the ashes and burnt skins are removed. They are sprinkled with olive oil or a sauce such as Provencal sauce or pesto. 

Verduras asadas (2020-12-20/2020-12-28) by Sergio H. LeivaGustar

Bell peppers, eggplants, and onions are delicious when cooked in this way. A classic Argentinian barbecue dish is papas al plomo (potatoes in lead). Potatoes are wrapped in aluminum foil and cooked among the coals, then served cut open and seasoned with butter, salt, and pepper. 

Presentando el plato final (2020-12-20/2020-12-28) by Sergio H. LeivaGustar

Corralito, Cafayate (2021-01-11) by Humberto MartinezGustar

6. In a clay oven

Typical of rural regions and suburban houses, a clay oven is one of the oldest ways of cooking with fire and coals. They were used by indigenous people and during the Spanish colonial era, and are a wonderful way of cooking a myriad of dishes.

Corralito, Cafayate (2021-01-11) by Humberto MartinezGustar

Empanadas, pizzas, chicken, meat, breads … the possibilities are endless with a clay oven. In central and northeastern parts of the country, it is common for restaurants to serve several dishes and starters that are cooked using this technique.

Corralito, Cafayate (2021-01-11) by Humberto MartinezGustar

Credits: Story

Editor and text: Diego Marinelli

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