How Traditional Argentinean Asado Grilling Differs From Other Styles

Food and entertainment are intertwined and what's a good meal without companions to enjoy it with? There's something extra special when such an affair occurs outside and around an open fire. Similar to traditions like regional barbecue in the U.S., asado is a form of grilling popular in South America, particularly in Argentina. Referring to both the preparation and the event, asado involves a large amount of meat sourced from various cuts. While it is a very meat-centric meal, it's also accompanied by side salads and sauces like chimichurri, per Taste Atlas.

Although the grilling and entertaining may come across as effortless, there are actually many factors to consider for this occasion. Infamous chef Francis Mallman, who popularized Argentine open-fire cooking abroad, notes that details like the table for serving or wood for grilling, must be carefully chosen (via GQ). And while there are convivial commonalities to open-fire cooking traditions globally, there are unique qualities to Argentinean asado. So prepare your appetite and let's slice into this gastronomic tradition.

In Argentinean asado, every animal part is grilled over an hours-long feast with friends

Asado's most defining quality is quantity. Areco Traditions states that guests should expect over 1 ½ pounds of meat per person that is prepared over several hours. An asador, or the head of grilling, carefully selects the order, with less remarkable cuts like tripe first, and steaks as the conclusion (per Areco Traditions).

The cooking is carried out over a specifically designed grill called a parilla. The construction includes a large metal grate suspended over a bed of embers (per Delighted Cooking). A bed section is without a grate above it, so the asador can readily rearrange coals based on cuts and cooking times. Furthermore, the heat source differs depending on the circumstance: Parilla al carbón, or coal, is for city cooking, and con leña, with wood, is done in the countryside, explains Delighted Cooking.

The social aspect of the asado carries equal weight to the preparation. The event is the social highlight of the week with families and friends alternating hosting. Guests even accompany cooks to the butcher, and, once preparation starts, lots of fernet and wine will be involved, states Vagabundo Magazine. Asado is an event made to relish, and, if an opportunity arises, always accept an invitation.