In its most basic comparison, asado is the barbecue of Argentina, but it’s probably unlike any barbecue you’ve ever had. Why? Because asado is cooked in the simplest form; meat, grill, and fire. This produces a taste and texture unlike anything that’s ever come out of a charcoal or gas-fueled barbecue. Asado is most commonly enjoyed by entire families, which come together weekly to enjoy the delicious meat and each other’s company.
The process of asado begins when the asador (the person who makes the asado) forms a pile of charcoal followed by firewood from the quebracho tree, which is known for producing little smoke and a lot of flavor. This pile is formed on the left side of the grill, and is lit using pinecones.
As the fire grows, the grill is scrubbed clean with newspaper. As it dies down into glowing charcoal, it is spread across the length of the grill. The grill is then lowered to about fifteen centimeters above the embers before the meat is added, starting with the largest cuts first. Half of a kilogram per person is standard. Asado is never marinated or seasoned in cooking. Instead, only a bit of salt is rubbed into the meat. The cooking process generally takes several hours, as most Argentinians prefer their meat cooked medium to well done. This time is usually taken to socialize and enjoy company. Fiddling with the meat during the cooking process is frowned upon.
Beef usually isn’t the only thing added to the grill. An asador often adds sweetbreads called mollejas, as well as cow intestines, blood sausages, and other organ meats. A large variety of vegetables can also be added to grill. This most commonly includes onions, red pepper, courgette, corn, or sweet potatoes, but is open to whatever one chooses.
When the meat is finally ready, it is taken off of the grill and served onto large, wooden chopping boards alongside salad and whatever else was cooked with it. Salad isn’t a necessity, but can be perfect in balancing out the unmatched richness of the meat. To add even more flavor, a sauce based off dry oregano called chimichurri is added to the food. No plates and cutlery is necessary. Asado is enjoyed with the hands and is eaten straight off of the cutting board, best enjoyed with a glass of malbec.