Food & Beverage

Oct 1, 2015

From The Pampas to your Plate

Argentina, South America, where nature spawned wonderful landscapes, perfect tangos, savory wine. Where food plays a role in the country's history, especially meat.

The country has a long tradition of carne – beef. Carne means meat, but in Argentina, it is assumed to be beef, and they have several types of cut. The most typical way of cooking is asado – barbecue – with steak and beef ribs being the most commonly used.

The quality of the meat in Argentina is said to come from the happy cows. Cows need exercise, and in Argentina most cows spend their lives outside under the sun while eating grass!

Back in the 1800s, there was not that big of a national market for this meat, because there was a huge production all over the country. With the arrival of railway building and the invention of refrigerated carriages and ships in the end of the 19th century, Argentina was able to finally export this much prized product. Add to that the flipped seasons between the Northern and Southern hemispheres, and you have a perfect combination! When Argentina is at its top in production, that's when the northern part of the world most needs what they offer.

Today, the main importer of Argentinian frozen beef is China, with sales to the country up 248% since 2014: 22,135 tonnes of fresh beef were exported to China in the first six months of 2015, resulting in Chile, formerly Argentina's largest market, being relegated to second place.

Cut to the chase

In Argentina, the meat is consumed with a lot of dedication. The parrilla is both a grill and a restaurant specializing in grilled meat, and they offer several types of cuts. An asado is the event of a barbeque, but the technique of asado is different to barbecuing. It's far slower and only slightly smokes the beef rather than sealing it, and only briquettes are used to start the fire. Wood is the standard, and for a real asado you need a real parrilla, which is made of ceramic thermal bricks or volcanic stones. This is because the meat takes longer to cook, and black metal BBQs weren't design to resist high temperatures for hours on a row, and actually burn to the ground after even a small asado.

There are several types of different cuts of meat, but some are more appreciated, and known than other. Here, we present to you a few of them:

Bife de lomo

This is the cut that most order the first time they're in a parrilla. It's the most expensive cut, and it's tender and juicy. However, sometimes the flavor is not particularly special. Under the surface, a steak should have 'marbling' - the lines of fat running through the meat - which dissolve during the cooking process and give it a good taste. Lomo doesn't have enough marbling to please some people.

Entraña

A favorite among Argentineans, it's a thin cut of meat but very flavorful. It's not as tender as other cuts, so if you order it, be prepared to exercise your jaw a little.

Asado de tira

The way they serve ribs in Argentina is different from what most are used to: they're cut very short. They have a lot of flavor and are usually deliciously crispy, and they're also very cheap. Sometimes they may not have a lot of meat on them, but the taste makes it worth.

Vacío

This cut is not one that's often served outside of Argentina. It's a thin cut of meat from the flank of the animal that's characterized by a layer of fat on the outside but none on the inside. If cooked properly the exterior fat gets crisp and the inside beautifully tender and juicy.

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