Much more than a meal, the churrasco (barbeque) is a social ritual for Brazilians. In the south of Brazil, the meat was originally roasted over charcoal, in a hole in the ground.
Today, churrasco is prepared on a barbeque, especially designed to grill the meat. Each cook has his own secret for a tasty churrasco. The preferred choice of meat is picanha, cooked medium rare, with only a bit of rock salt.
Grilling some meat on the barbeque is a great excuse to invite family and friends. The men usually prepare the meat and the women make the side dishes. Popular appetizers include grilled pork sausage and garlic bread. To accompany the meat, we usually serve a potato salad, a German influence, together with some farofa, rice and a green salad. Drinks are essential, of course. A caipirinha or a cold beer go very well with a good churrasco, completing the ritual and livening up the party.
- Purchase special barbeque charcoal at any supermarket.
- Purchase the meat of your choice; Brazilians generally prefer picanha. Plan for 500 grams per person, for boneless meat, and 700 grams, for meat with bones.
- Clean the meat. This is an important step in bringing out the flavor. The amount of fat has to be just right, enough to ensure flavorful and tender meat
- Put some rock salt on the meat and place it in a dish.
- Place the charcoal on one side of the barbeque. Only when the flame is strong and steady, spread the charcoal across the entire barbeque.
- There are several techniques for lighting the charcoal. Some use alcohol with newspaper, but there are also specific products available at the supermarket. One product is Lumix, a natural product made from sugarcane that releases no toxic fumes and isn’t explosive.
- Put the meat on a skewer. There are different sizes of skewers for different types and cuts of meat. The correct position is to hold the skewer in the right hand, parallel to the table, while supporting the meat with the left hand. When putting the meat on the skewer, the excess salt will fall off. Don’t worry, it’s supposed to happen!
- After lighting the fire, wait at least half an hour before placing the meat on the barbeque, to allow the barbeque to warm up and prevent high flames from burning the meat.
- The distance between the meat and the fire should be approximately 30 cm for boneless meat and 50 cm for meat with bones.
- Once the meat is on the grill, the cook has to pay close attention. The skewer has to be turned to allow the meat to cook evenly. As it turns the rock salt will fall off.
- To remove excess salt and serve the meat, hold the skewer in the air, still over the barbeque and hit the meat with the back of a knife.
- Now it is time to serve the churrasco! Large cuts of meat can be sliced directly on the skewer and the remainder can be placed back on the grill to cook some more. Smaller pieces can be removed from the skewer and cut before serving. Watch the grain of the meat to slice it correctly. Enjoy your churrasco!
It’s very important to prevent the meat from losing its juices. Some like their meat well done, others prefer it rare, but the key is the tenderness of the meat.