Cristian’s Insider Guide to Asado in Argentina

Argentina asado grilled beeef

An expert asadero’s how-to: The best cuts of meat to grill, sides to sear, and 12 ways to succeed at the Argentinian parilla

The asado is sacred in Argentina: a holy joining of meat and fire, served expertly and often to family and friends. Cristian Marchiaro—the brother-in-law of one of our favorite Argentina-born, L.A.-based foodies, Melina Adduci—is familia-famous for his parilla.

Trust us: that is saying something. Cris’ and Melina’s extended family in Buenos Aires are known for their way with comida Argentina—from his mother-in-law Alicia’s flan mixto con dulce de leche and whipped cream and her eggplant provenzale to his father-in-law’s traditional locro stew with hominy and beans to his cuñada Melina’s chimichurri.

We asked Cris for his insider’s guide to traditional Argentinian asado and he obliged! Gracias, Cris, for your tips of which cuts of carne to grill, how to know when the charcoal is hot enough, and los mejores sides to serve with all that charred beef. Read on for his expert rules for success at the parilla.

Part 1: Say “Cheese” and Serve the Provoleta

Start with queso, as is traditional in Argentina. A wheel of provoleta is the go-to appetizer and always served before the meat. Cris explains: It’s basically a wheel of provolone-like cheese, topped with oregano and smoked paprika. The queso is placed in a small cast-iron pan that is placed directly on the grill—and quickly melts. Sprinkle on the spices for a crusty topping. Serve with bread, sizzling hot.

provoleta asado argentina
Provoleta is the go-to appetizer and eaten before the meat is ready. Serve with bread: hot!

Part 2: Get Ready for the Meat: Beef & Pork

Here are Cris’ recommendations for the best cuts of beef and pork to serve at a traditional asado in Argentina.

Argentina asado grilled beeef

Ojo de bife or rib eye is a tender cut, boneless and very delicious, thanks to its intramuscular fat—or marbling.

Asado banderita or asado de tira are beef short ribs, cut transversely across the cow’s rib cage, in thin strips. You cook one side and then flip it once—and that’s it. Be sure to serve it when it’s still juicy. This cut is known for its delicious flavor because the meat is so closely connected to the bone.

Molleja de corazón or sweetbreads are offal at its best. They are tender, greasy and rich in fat. It’s important to first clean the molleja thoroughly, stripping away the membranes and fat. Then you boil it before putting it on the grill in a mix of equal parts milk and water, with a few peppercorns and laurel leaves. Boil for about 5 minutes. Dry them very well, sprinkle salt on it and set aside.

Chorizo y morcilla (matrimonio) is the pairing or marriage of meat sausage and blood sausage. The ideal chorizo is 100% meat or pork. The most delicious morcilla in Cris’ opinion is morcilla Vasca: Argentinian sweet blood sausage, which has raisins and nuts. The chorizo sausage is usually eaten with sandwich bread and called choripán. The blood sausage goes on the grill to warm it and give it a crispy texture.

Asado sausage
The ideal chorizo is 100% meat or pork, says our asador Cristian Marchiaro.

Part 3: Prep the Sides

Curious about Cris’s favorite guarniciones or side dishes? Here are his top four:

Grilled Vegetables: Papas al Plomo & Cebollas al Rescoldo

Vegetables. Cris loves vegetables cooked on the griddle. Slice eggplant, zucchini and mushroom. Marinate them in olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper and lemon peel and let sit for 15 minutes. Cook the vegetables on a griddle or on a cast-iron pan placed on the grill over low heat until they look tender and still intact. Be careful with the eggplant, because if it’s not fully cooked thorough, its texture is as tough as cork.

asado vegetables argentina

Papas al plomo are whole potatoes cooked on the grill. First, wash the whole potatoes well. Leave the skin on. Wrap them in aluminum foil and when they are cooked through—in about 30 minutes, slice them open and drizzle each with olive oil, kosher salt, fresh rosemary and a dash of chile flakes.

Cebollas al rescoldo or grilled onions with their skin that are placed directly on the embers. After about 30 minutes, they are charred on the outside and sweet and juicy on the inside.

Morron con Huevo or Grilled, Stuffed Red Peppers

Argentina asado grilled beeef
A melted-cheese filled morrón con huevo or grilled red peppers with egg are a popular vegetable side.

Morrón con huevo is a grilled red pepper filled with an egg. Cut the top layer off each red pepper, horizontally. Take out the seeds and trim the inner membrane slivers. Place on the grill open side down to give it a crisp edge, about 5 minutes. Turn over, so that the open side faces up. Add about 1/4 cup of shredded provolone cheese and then crack a raw egg inside the pepper. Sprinkle salt, pepper, grated parmesan cheese and dried oregano over the egg. Place the red pepper boat on the grill over low heat until its skin softens and the egg looks cooked.

asado grilled eggplant
Marinated and grilled eggplants are a favorite at an asado.

Cris’ 12 Guidelines to the Asado Argentino

1. The average meat portion is between .8 and 1.25 pounds per adult, depending if the cut  has bones or not. Plan on 1 pound per person.

2. The grill must be hot and clean before adding the meat.

3. Calculate twice as much charcoal as meat. In other words, for every 1 pound of meat you should use 2 pounds of charcoal.

4.  The charcoal must be set up with care. Make sure there are no black patches on the coals directly below the grill before you start cooking the meat.

5. The best way to gauge the right level of the grill temperature is by pointing the palm of your hand down over the coals. If you can’t stand the temperature for at least 6 seconds, the heat is too high or you are using too much charcoal.

6. I recommend brushing the cuts of beef with a mixture of olive oil and butter before you grill them and while you are grilling them. This allows the cuts to stay juicy, especially the ones that take longer to cook.

Argentina asado grilled beeef

7. Add salt and seasoning to the meat before putting it on the fire.

8. In Argentina, meat is only turned over one time. Start by placing the bone or fat side down on the grill. You will know you need to turn it over when you touch the top of the meat and it feels warm.

9.  I personally like to smoke my rib eyes with applewood briquets that I place directly on the coals. The rib eye should always be eaten when it is still juicy.

11. The chorizo sausages should be cooked through. I usually cut them in half the long way for grilling, butterfly-style.

12. The sweetbreads should be crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside.

Fernet & Coke
The Italian digestif Fernet is traditionally sipped straight at an Argentinian asado, but can be mixed with Coke.

Thirsty? What to Drink at Your Asado

Regarding what beverage to serve at an Argentinian parilla. Start with the go-to liqueur, the digestif Fernet, straight or mixed with Coke. It helps increase your appetite and process the meat after you have enjoyed it, say Argentinians. As to with your beef? Cris’ cuñada Melina offers this beverage tip. There is only one option: “Red wine— and it has to be a malbec, always a malbec for asados.”

Cristian Argentina
Asado expert Cris Marchiano with his family in Buenos Aires—from left: wife Ivi, son Salvador, and daughter Josefina.
Cris with his family in Buenos Aires—from left: wife Ivi, Cris, son Salvador, and daughter Josefina.
Joined by another family fan of his asado: Pomelo, the Jack Russell, 4.

Photos of asado: Michelle Ezratty Murphy

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