An Argentinian grill, just the name brings to mind cattle grazing on the pampas, gauchos, asado, and woodsmoke. In his book Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Way, Francis Mallmann describes seven ways to capture the flavor of open-fire cooking. His beautiful book has been called “a love letter to flame,” and it’s an inspiring read for owners of wood-fired ovens. (ModernFarmer.com)
Argentina and beef
Mallman says that Argentinian beef “is an article of faith among Argentines that you can never prepare too much meat.” (p. 14)
Argentina has the world’s second-highest consumption rate of beef, with yearly consumption at about 216 pounds per person, compared to 89 pounds per person in the US* (Grist.org)
Why so good?
What makes Argentinian beef so good? Some say the best of Argentinian beef is grass fed. The cows never see a feed lot or ingest hormones and antibiotics. A number of ranchers are committed to the traditional model of raising grass-fed beef, in contrast to the growing corn-fed cattle industry. Others add that the Argentinian way of asado (barbeque) emphasizes smoking meat rather than the American barbeque style of charring and sealing meat. (Grilling enthusiasts will debate this!)
Chef Judd Servidio describes the perfection of Argentinian grilled beff, “I think it’s the whole package. Cows roam the countryside grazing on good quality grass. Argentinians use grills and normally just season with salt and let the wood do the rest.”
Argentinian grill basic design
The Argentinian grill takes advantage of high heat and temperature control. The grill is an adjustable grate placed over a high heat wood fire with a wheel (winch? Crank?) to move the grate up or down. The asador (cook, grill master) controls the temperature of the meat by raising or lowering the grate, with the goal of creating a smokiness without burning the meat or failing to cook it sufficiently.
The adjustable grate is slightly inclined and made of v-shaped channels which carry cooking fat into a drip pan and prevent fiery flare-ups.
Argentinian grill and wood-fired oven duo
Mallman and other chefs increasingly use the Argentian grill along with traditional their wood-fired ovens for versatility. Speaking of his oven, “I keep mine going all through the day, using it to cook at high heat and then, as it cools down to bake breads and pies.” (p. 21)
We’re getting requests for the duo—an Argentinian grill along side a wood-fired oven. Although you can grill in a wood-fired oven and get meat with great smoky flavor, the Argentinian grill allows for particular temperature control.
Dave feels that every fireplace should be a cooking hearth. If you have some firebrick and a grill grate, you can assemble a make-shift Argentinian grill and get cooking.