Argentinian Asado: History, Info, Interesting Facts

Argentinian Asado: history, info, interesting facts


Asado is, without doubt, the most typical Argentinian food: enjoying it in company of the local people gives the opportunity to understand the true spirit of the country. Let’s deepen the knowledge of this delicious specialty, finding out its fascinating history and how it’s made. Let’s visit the most traditional restaurant to savor its original taste.

Argentinian Asado: Asado by an Argentine gaucho.


The gauchos eat asado.

Argentinian Asado: El Asado (img-04)

The literal translation of the word ‘asado’ is ‘roasted’. Centuries ago, the Spanish colonizers spread their passion for this method of cooking to the peoples of South America. A passion that took root almost immediately, also thanks to the great quality of the beef cattle that still today graze on the vast Pampa plains. So, it’s probably not by chance that the ‘gauchos’, drovers and undisputed masters of these plains, were the first Argentine ‘asadores’ (*1).

Argentinian Asado: Campesinos y gauchos chilenos (img-05)

The gauchos were Creole people (‘criolla’), born from the union of the European settlers and the local natives: very poor, but also very proud and independent. They survived thanks to their legendary skill as horsemen, gathering wild cattle and selling it in the cities. The lack of money forced them to eat a lot of meat, the only resource they had in abundance: this is probably why they became so good at cooking it. The technique they used is known as ‘a la cruz’ and consists in attaching the animal to a cross-shaped support, stuck in the ground in an oblique position, inclined toward the fire but not too near it. This way its meat is cooked very slowly and stays tender, juicy and tasteful: the result is simply delicious, a must for all those who like this kind of preparations.

*1: ‘Asadores’: specialists in cooking asado.


Argentinian Asado.

Argentinian Asado: The asador and his parrilla.

The skill in making asado is something many Argentines are very proud of. In this country, during the weekend, it’s a common habit to eat with friends and family. Time is spent chatting, listening to music, drinking red wine (‘vino tinto’) and eating tasty appetizers … until the main course is ready. Just one person, the ‘asador’, is appointed the fundamental task of cooking meat: a task of huge responsibility and, for this reason, performed with great care and expertise. In time, a good asador develops a sort of ‘sensibility’ that really makes the difference.

Argentinian Asado: Asado on a parrilla.

Argentines appreciate meat slowly cooked, that stays moist and tender on the inside. The ‘parrilla’, the classic grill, is generally preferred to the cross-shaped support used by the gauchos.
It’s a tradition that, when the meal is over if the guests have enjoyed the food, they say all together:

“Un aplauso para el asador!” (“an applause for the asador!”).


The meat for Argentinian Asado.

Asado can be prepared using the gaucho’s method (‘a la cruz’), attaching a beef or a lamb to a cross and exposing it to the fire, or using a ‘parrilla’, the classic grill.
A ‘parrillada’(*1) usually includes beef, pork (‘cerdo’), chicken (‘pollo’) and lamb (‘cordero’).

Beef is the true heart of an Argentine asado.
The mostly used cuts are:

  • The ‘Vacio’ (part of the flank);
  • The ‘Matambre’ (the abdominal muscles);
  • The ‘Costillas’ (the ribs);
  • The ‘Lomo’ (the filet);
  • The ‘Achuras’ (beef offals).

The ‘bife de chorizo’, the classic steak made with the loin cut, can be served as well.
Read more

Pork is also a very important part of the asado, with delicacies like:
The ‘chorizos’: the classic sausages.
The ‘costillas’: the ribs.
The ‘morcillas’: sausages filled with blood.

Some ‘exotic’ types of asado may include the meat of animals like wild horse (‘potro’) and goat (‘cabra’).

*1: The ‘choriceata’, made just with pork sausages, and the ‘polleada’, made just with chicken, cannot be considered proper ‘asado’.

Argentinian Asado: Preparing the embers.


The cooking methods.

‘A la cruz’

Argentinian Asado: Asado a la cruz.

This cooking method takes its name from the traditional cross-shaped support used by the gauchos. The ‘asado con cuero’ is prepared without skinning the animal: this way the meat keeps a great part of the liquids and remains juicy. Taking away the skin, the cooking is much faster, but the final result is not as good.

‘Al palo’

Argentinian Asado: Asado al palo.

The method known as ‘al palo’ (on a spit), is used especially in the Chilean Patagonia to cook lamb (‘cordero al palo’) and pig.
A steel or wooden spit (the ‘palo’) runs through the entire animal and is placed near the embers in a horizontal or oblique position.

‘A la parrilla’

Argentinian Asado: Asado a la parrilla.

This method takes its name from the ‘parrilla’, a metal grill: it’s frequently used in private houses since it does not take a lot of space.
Many Argentines have built special structures to accommodate their parrillas, some of them have pulleys to raise and lower the grill over the embers.


Not just asado!

Asado, the undisputed protagonist of many meals in Argentina, is often accompanied by other delicacies.


Argentinian Asado: Salami and cheese. Argentinian Asado: Empanadas.

When the asador is still busy cooking the meat, a wooden chopping board full of cheese, salami, olives and pickles is usually served to whet the appetite.
Some exquisite ’empanadas’ can also be offered as an appetizer. They are a true temptation and the risk to eat too many of them is very high.

Side dishes:

Different types of salad can be served as a side dish. The simplest one is the ‘ensalada’, its ingredients are just tomato and lettuce. The most traditional is the ‘ensalada de papas’, made with potatoes (‘papas’), onion (‘cebolla’) and mayonnaise (‘mayonesa’).
It’s also important to remember the exquisite ‘provoleta’: it’s a round slice of provolone cheese, a couple of centimeters high, cooked on the grill.


How to make the asado sauce: the ‘chimichurri’.

Argentinian Asado: How to make the asado sauce, the 'chimichurri'.

The best dressing for an asado has a nice and silly name: ‘chimichurri’.
This sauce is prepared with the following ingredients:

  • Olive oil (‘aceite de oliva’);
  • Vinegar (‘vinagre’);
  • Garlic (‘ajo’);
  • Parsley (‘perejil’);
  • Origan (‘orégano’);
  • Laurel (‘laurel’);
  • Black pepper (‘pimienta negra’);
  • Chilli (‘paprika’);
  • Salt (‘sal’);
  • Lemon juice (optional);

Its taste is very aromatic, just perfect for roasted meat. Its main flavor is that of garlic: very good but not very suitable for a delicate palate.


Starting with an ’empanada’.

Argentinian Asado: Empanadas.

‘Empanada’ is a kind of food very common in many countries in South America. It’s quite possible that the Spanish colonizers brought its recipe in this part of the world. It consists of a small piece of stuffed pastry that can be baked or fried.
There are many different types of filling. Some of the most famous in Argentina are:
‘Carne’ (meat): made with ground beef, onion, eggs and spices.
‘Jamon & queso’ ( ham and cheese): made with mozzarella cheese and ham.
‘Pollo’ (chicken): made with chicken meat, pepperoni, onion and eggs.
‘Verdura’ (vegetables): made with spinaches and onion.

WebFoodCulture: the most typical specialties, the most traditional restaurants and producers.

The most typical specialties, the most traditional restaurants and producers.


Gauchos: the soul of a nation.

The people known as ‘gauchos’, initially treated with suspicion, in time became heroic figures, acquiring an immortal place in the imagination of every Argentinean.
To fully understand the reasons for such a surprising evolution, it’s necessary to approach their myth: the first step is to study their origins, deepening the knowledge of the ‘gauderios’, their closest relatives.
Read more

Argentinian Asado: Banda Oriental. The ‘gauderios’: The ‘gauderios’ were an ethnically mixed group of people.
During the Seventeenth Century, they lived in a region known as the ‘Banda Oriental’.
Located east of the Uruguay River and north of the Rio de la Plata, at that time this area was right between the domains of Spain and Portugal: for this reason, it was almost completely ignored by both countries and got the nickname of ‘nobody’s land’.
The Gauderios prospered in this place, thanks to their good relations with the indigenous population, cattle trading and smuggling: an illegal business made much easier by the lack of controls at the border.

Argentinian Asado: The Gaucho(img-07) The first ‘gauchos’: The word ‘gaucho’ started to be used at the beginning of the Eighteenth Century for a part of the Creole population characterized by an attitude highly independent and unwilling to submit to the rules. They were under many aspects the heirs of the gauderios and, as such, they had a very bad reputation, being considered at best a bunch of vagabonds and adventurers, if not bandits and thieves. So it is not surprising that the first record in which appears their name is an official document sent to the authorities in Buenos Aires referring to them as a band of criminals.

Argentinian Asado: Gaucho of the Argentine Republic (img-02) The mysterious masters of the Pampas: An aura of mystery surrounded the first gauchos: that’s the reason why, at least initially, they inspired fear. In truth, many of them were just common people, trying to escape from poverty and all the rules imposed in the cities.
They embraced the freedom and the opportunities offered by the immense plains of the Pampa: wild and desolate places, where no ‘respectable’ citizen was supposed to go. Places where just a few skillful and tenacious horsemen could survive, driving and trading cattle.

The gaucho and his horse: There are no doubts that horses were essential to living in such a difficult environment: they were without doubts the most precious property of the gauchos. Their skill in riding them became legendary: thanks to the close relationship with these animals, they became the undisputed masters of the Pampas.

Argentinian Asado: The Pampas. The gauchos fight for freedom: Some historical events helped to mitigate the distrust of the people against these former ‘brigands’, transforming it in genuine admiration.
This radical change started at the beginning of the Nineteenth Century, during the Argentine War of Independence. Between 1810 and 1824, they fought with the patriots (‘patriotas’) against the royalists (‘realistas’), supporters of the colonizing nations.
They had no uniform and could be distinguished from the other soldiers for the ‘poncho’: a sort of blanket, part of their typical clothing.
Argentinian Asado: Martín Miguel de Güemes (img-03)

They fought as irregular troops: it was immediately clear the great value of their riding skill for the war effort. They were just perfect to perform guerrilla actions and reconnaissance missions, where their great knowledge of the territory proved to be a huge advantage against the enemy. The military campaign fought by the gaucho troops of the General Martin Miguel de Guemes, the ‘infernales’, to repel the royalist army from the Province of Salta, took the name of ‘gaucho war’.

Argentinian Asado: José Hernández (img-06) José Hernández improves the glory of the gauchos: The glory of the gauchos was further increased by literature. In 1872 the famous writer José Hernández published ‘El Gaucho Martín Fierro’: the protagonist of this epic poem defends the ideals of freedom, equality and purity, fighting the tyranny and the corruption of the European colonizers. Thanks to his courage he becomes a true national hero.
This poem has a huge importance since it is considered the highest example of ‘gaucho literature’.

The gaucho spirit, part of the Argentine soul: The Argentine people recognize in the poem by Hernández his true spirit. A ‘gaucho’ spirit: free, benevolent, romantic and adventurous. A spirit founded on equality and hospitality.

Argentinian Asado: Group of Argentine gauchos (img-01)


The Pampas, home of the ‘gauchos’.

The ‘Pampas’, home of the gauchos, derive their name from a Quechua word whose meaning is ‘plains’. They include parts of Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil.



It’s quite difficult to determine which is the most ancient Argentine restaurant preparing Asado. Until we find it out, please refer to the following list including some of the most traditional places in Buenos Aires.

Don Julio Parrilla
Guatemala 4691 (esquina Gurruchaga) Palermo Viejo, C.A.B.A. – Argentina
Official website
La Carniceria
Thames 2317, C1425FIG CABA – Argentina
La Cabrera
Cabrera 5099, Palermo, Buenos Aires – Argentina
Official website

Argentinian Asado: how Argentinian Asado is made (video)


How Argentinian Asado is made (video)

Here follows a video showing how to prepare asado. The animal (a lamb, in this case), is attached to a metallic support, the ‘asador’ (*1), inclined towards the embers.
The video also shows how to cook meat and vegetables on a ‘parrilla’, the classic grill.

*1: The word ‘asador’ can be used for both the support and the cook.


Asado, the translation.

Not surprisingly, the English traslation for the Spanish word ‘asado’ is ‘roasted’.

WebFoodCulture: only the most typical and traditional food & wine.



‘Asar a la fiamma’.

It’s a method to make asado that consists of exposing the meat to the flame. The distance should be great enough to ensure slow and uniform cooking.

Argentinian Asado: The origins of the name.


The origins of the name.

There is no certain information about the origins of the word ‘asado’. Its similarity with ‘gauderio’ is quite evident. Read more

Some scholars think that the term may derive:
From the Chechua ‘huachu’: whose translation is ‘orphan’, ‘vagabond’.
From the Arab ‘chaucho’: whose translation is ‘leather whip’.
From the Moorish ‘hawsh’: whose translation is ‘wanderer’.
From the Latin ‘gaudeus’: whose translation is ‘joy’.

Whoever is right, it’s interesting to notice that every one of these hypotheses is plausible, since they all correspond the traits of the gauchos.


Music for Argentinian Asado.

Here follows some traditional Argentine songs to get in the mood of the Pampa and to accompany a delicious asado:

Note: join Spotify and listen to the full song.


The doneness of meat.

In Argentina, when ordering grilled meat, it’s necessary to specify its level of doneness, using one of these words: Read more

‘Ben cocida’: stands for ‘well done’.
‘Al punto’: stands for ‘medium well’ or ‘well’.
‘Jugosa’: stands for ‘medium rare’.
‘Vuelta vuelta’: stands for ‘rare’.
‘Crura’: stands for ‘extra rare’ or ‘blue’.

It’s important to stress the fact that, generally, the Argentines don’t appreciate very much to eat rare meat.


Gauchos without cutlery …

Gauchos generally did not use cutlery: they usually ate asado just biting a big chunk of meat and sliding their knife (the ‘facon’) upwards to get a morsel of the desired size.

… and salt.

It’s also important to remember that they often did not use salt because it was too expensive for them.


A huge Argentinian Asado.

Here follows a very interesting video showing the preparation of a huge Argentinian Asado: so great to achieve the World Guinness Record in 2011.
These numbers can give a good idea about its proportions:
Read more

13.713 kilos of meat.
Almost 30 tons of wood.
80 ‘asadores’.
More than 500 assistants.
This meat fed 20.000 people attending the event at General Pico, in the Province of La Pampa, Argentina.

Argentinian Asado: The right beverage for asado.


The right beverage for Argentinian Asado.

What to drink with an asado? Clearly, much depends on the types of meat used to make it.
Read more

In general, a good choice is a red wine, medium warm, quite tannic, quite fresh and soft. For example, a Malbec.
The alcohol and the tannicity balance the succulence of the meat.
The acidity balances the fat of the sausages.
The softness balances the saltiness.


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The images bearing the logo ‘webfoodculture’ are copyrighted.

The following images are public domain:

img-01 (*) – A group of Argentine gauchos, 1890, Sotheby’s, N.Y. (Wikipedia Link) {PD-US}
img-02 (*) – Gaucho of the Argentine Republic, 1868 (Wikipedia Link) {PD-US}
img-03 (*) – Martín Miguel de Güemes, Eduardo Schiaffino, 1902 (Wikipedia Link) {PD-US}
img-04 (*) – ‘El Asado’, by I.Manzoni, XIX Cen., Nat.Museum of Fine Arts in Buenos Aires (Wikipedia Link) {PD-US}
img-05 (*) – Campesinos y gauchos chilenos, XIX Sec. (Wikipedia Link) {PD-US}
img-06 (*) – José Hernández (1834-1886), 1875 (Wikipedia Link) {PD-US}
img-07 (*) – The Gaucho, 1840, Sotheby’s, N.Y.: “Photographs” (Wikipedia Link) {PD-US}
img-08 (**) – Facon, 2008, J. Richino (Wikipedia Link)

The header image is pubblic domain:

Image 01 (*) – A group of Argentine gauchos, 1890, Sotheby’s, N.Y. (Wikipedia Link) {PD-US}

(*) The copyright of this image has expired.
(**) Image released in public domain by its author.