Grill lovers everywhere know that you never rest in your pursuit of the perfect barbecue. Whether it’s tweaking your favorite steak rub, experimenting with new cuisines to broaden your palate, or trying out new equipment, there are always ways to get better. And if you’re ready for a downright revolutionary improvement, the Argentinian grill just might be for you.
You might be saying: An Argentinian grill? I already have a grill! Well, slow your roll, cowboy (or gaucho, as they’d say in Argentina). Before you get all high-and-mighty about your ancestral charcoal grill or your newfangled propane rig, listen up, because you might learn something that’ll change grilling forever.
We’ve dug deep into the literature on Argentinian grills, not to mention taste-tasted plenty of meals. If you’re curious about our findings, look no further than these four reasons why an Argentinian grill is the very best grilling experience out there.
The first reason on our list is one that any grill lover should care about, which is that the grill simply produces meat that tastes better.
You might associate charcoal or wood grilling with acrid, even unpleasant flavors, but believe us when we say that it doesn’t have to be that way!
Essentially, this problem happens when food absorbs the smoke of fresh charcoal before it has crumbled into coal. However, Argentinian grills solve this problem–and even use it as an opportunity to innovate.
The solution? Special fireboxes, called braseros (braziers), are attached to the side of the grill rather than the space beneath. Their forms vary, but broadly speaking, braseros create a space for charcoal to crumble into embers, which then move underneath the meat to give it a richer, more well-developed smoke.
In most cases, these fireboxes work in the following way: a griller loads large wood logs or lump coal into the firebox, then lights it. When the logs or coal have broken up sufficiently, they fall between slats at the bottom of the firebox. At this point, the griller can use a stoker to slide the broken embers beneath the main grill space.
Other grills, notably, use the principle of the brasero in a slightly different way. They feature a firebox that hangs above burning coals. Grillers can slide wood logs into the burning coals, and when the wood breaks apart, it drops additional embers into the burning charcoal, creating a divine mix of delicious smoke.
Behind all of that jargon, though, is a simple truth: Argentinian grills ensure that your smoke can bring out the best possible flavors in your meat, without being tainted by any rank flavors.
The next benefit to an Argentinian grill is that they offer greater control over your cooking experience than pretty much any other grill.
The reason is closely related to many Argentinian grills’ shape, which, to Anglo eyes, might look rather strange–with its cords and wheels, the grill might look more like a Victorian steamship or medieval pulley system than a grill. But hark, the little lower layer, as master griller (probably) Captain Ahab once said!
The reason for these devices is the Argentinian grill’s claim to fame, which is the ability to raise and lower the grates. By operating the pulley system, whether by cranking a wheel or pulling a level, you can raise or lower the grate’s elevation about the flame.
Any veteran griller can tell you why this is a wonderful thing: control. When you need to cook your meat low and slow, you need to ensure that it stays at a consistently low temperature. And when fire itself is less-than-consistent, you need to adjust your meat to account for the lost or added heat.
Just added some logs and need to make sure the meat doesn’t overheat? Crank the wheel and raise the grate away from the flame. Need to make the most out of a dying fire? Move the meat a little closer. This technology is a dream for anyone who has ever obsessed about getting their meat just right.
The pulley system’s control has another gift, which we’ll outline below.
Every at-home grillmaster has had one of those hectic cooking experiences where there’s just too much to do. Maybe you needed to run inside to get the asparagus in the oven while you cooked the steaks outside and then ended up burning both.
Maybe you had to juggle searing some chicken cutlets while slow-cooking steaks, and you were left with a chaotic mess.
Nobody likes these experiences, and they all emerge out of one thing: a lack of versatility. You had to run between different techniques and technologies because you didn’t have one piece of equipment that could do it all.
And here, we return to our beloved Argentinian grill. The beautiful thing about modern Argentinian grills is that they see your pain–they recognize your desire to handle your whole meal in one place, and they love and support you for it. That’s why they have separate grill grates which can be raised to different heights independently, allowing you to cook two foods with diverse needs simultaneously.
Do you need to cook beef low and slow while also blackening some salmon? You can do it. Want to melt the cheese on a turkey burger while also letting the smoke drift into a succulent tenderloin? Done. Do you want to roast your vegetables while maintaining the perfect temperature for your flank? Done, done, and done.
Long story short, when you have a grill with modular heights, you can have it all.
All jokes aside, this modularity makes Argentinian grills an accessible experience for busy grillmasters, whether you’re simply working on a run-of-the-mill meal or preparing a gigantic barbecue feast.
If there is one great tragedy of barbecue cooking, it’s all the missed opportunity for fat.
When meat cooks low and slow, its fat slowly renders from solid into a liquid state, sluicing out, dripping in golden rivulets to the flames below. And then it’s gone! All that flavor, all that moisture, lost to the grill gods.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. The Argentinian grill has learned two lessons from its distant cousin, the Dutch oven, about the importance of collecting rendered fat.
First, it has a way for juices to escape from the meat–v-shaped grates, which allow rendered fat to drip away. Second, it comes with a dripping pan, which helps you collect that precious fat and use it for multitudinous purposes.
To use your rendered fat, you can baste your meat in its fat, sealing in the flavor and adding extra moisture. But you can also take the fat and refrigerate it to make tallow or lard, which can work for everything from hash browns to confit.
The sky’s the limit, and the Argentinian grill is there to help you reach it.
Frequently Asked Questions
If these reasons didn’t fully convince you of the Argentinian grill’s merits, allow us to clear up any lingering misconceptions with these frequently asked questions.
What is an Argentinian grill?
In short, there is no hard-and-fast definition for Argentinian grills–after all, Argentinian grills are as robust and complex as Argentinian grilling itself.
That said, the standard features of an Argentinian grill include tools for adjusting the grates’ height, v-shaped slats on the grates, and brasero fireboxes to help reduce the cooking medium into embers.
What is the difference between a Santa Maria grill and an Argentinian grill?
A Santa Maria grill functions in a subtly different way from an Argentinian grill in that it does not have a brasero.
While the brasero works in Argentinian grills to preheat masses of coal and/or wood, allowing you to slide the embers beneath the meat at your own pace, Santa Maria grills lack this function. Instead, grillers place logs or embers directly below the grill, allowing smoke to inundate the food.
The resulting flavor is rich and smoky, but not better or worse than the standard Argentinian grill.
How does a gaucho grill work?
In short, Argentinian or “gaucho” grills work by letting you position your coals and meat at your own pace. Once the wood or coals have reduced to embers, you use a stoker to slide them below your meat.
How do you make a parrilla grill?
Building a parrilla grill is a complex process in itself. However, the key is to construct a pulley system that allows you to raise and lower the heights of your grill surfaces.