Parrilla – the South American BBQ

Parrilla BBQ

Aside from drinking yerba mate, one of the most important traditions in Argentina and Uruguay is the BBQ or ‘Parrilla’. In fact most houses have a brick barbeque with chimney! In more lavish properties, entire outhouses are designed around the ‘parrilla’ with other kitchen equipment such as a fridge, a bar, and shelter from the sun or rain. Some have wrought iron grills which are on chains to alter the height of the meat from the flame.

Wood is burned in a wrought iron bowl, and when the wood turns into burning embers, the cook ‘parrillero’ sweeps the embers under the grill, which means the meat is cooked slowly. Restaurants that offer BBQ also cook in this same way; ‘parrilleros’ working in restaurants need to be very skilled.

The most popular meat is beef, although all meat is eaten. Due to the very flat ground, Argentinian & Uruguayan beef is amongst the most tender in the word, and is an important export for both countries. All parts of the cow are eaten, and due to the high level of exports, often the most available cuts are the economic cuts. The favourite is the ‘asado’ which are flat ribs cut in strips across the cross section so several small sections of bone are present – extremely tasty!

Other famous cuts are:

  • Entraña: the skirt steak
  • Chinchulines: intestines
  • Molleja: sweetbreads
  • Vacio: a tender cut from the centre part
  • Riñón: kidney
  • Mondongo: thick tripe
  • Lomo: loin
  • Quadril: thigh
  • Picaña: upper thigh
  • Entrecot: rib eye

An important flavouring for meat from the BBQ is chimichurri made from garlic, parsley, chilli, oregano, paprika, pepper, bay leaves, oil and vinegar. This is usually bought in the form of a dry herb mix. To prepare the condiment from this dry mix, an equal amount of water and vinegar is added. Once it has soaked for a few minutes, it is seasoned with salt and oil, and served with the meat.

Steak with Chimichurri Sauce
Steak with Chimichurri Sauce

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