The term asado (from asar, to roast) originally referred specifically to a particular cut of beef, the brisket, meant to be slowly grilled or roasted, but now is applied to any barbecued meat. Since barbecues are an integral part of life in Argentina, it’s good to know your way around the vocabulary of beef-eating, especially as beef in Argentina isn’t cut in the same way as in the rest of the world – cuts are sliced through bone and muscle rather than across them.
Argentines like their meat well done (cocido), and indeed, some cuts are better cooked through. If you prefer your meat medium, ask for a punto, and for rare – which really requires some insistence – jugoso. Before you get to the steaks, you’ll be offered achuras, or offal, and different types of sausage. Chorizos are excellent beef sausages, while morcilla, blood sausage, is an acquired taste. Sometimes provoletta, sliced provolone cheese, grilled on the barbecue till crispy on the edges, will be on the menu. Otherwise, it’s beef all the way.
After these “appetizers” – which you can always skip, since Argentine parrillas are much more meat-generous than their Brazilian counterparts – you move on to the asado cut, followed by the tira de asado (ribs; also called costillar or asado a secas). There’s not much meat on them, but they explode with a meaty taste. Next is the muscly but delicious vacío (flank). But save some room for the prime cuts: bife ancho is entrecôte; bife angosto or lomito is the sirloin (referred to as medallones when cut into slices); cuadril is a lump of rumpsteak, often preferred by home barbecue masters; lomo, one of the luxury cuts and often kept in reserve, is fillet steak; bife de chorizo (not to be confused with chorizo sausage) is what the French call a pavé, a slab of meat, cut from either the sirloin or entrecôte. The entraña, a sinewy cut from inside the beast, is a love-it-or-hate-it cut; aficionados claim it’s the main delicacy. Rarely barbecued, the peceto (eye round steak) is a tender lump of flesh, often braised (estufado) and served on top of pasta, roasted with potatoes (peceto al horno con papas) or sliced cold for vittel tonne – a classic Argentine starter made with tuna and mayonnaise.
Mustard (mostaza) may be available, but the lightly salted meat is usually best served with nothing on it but the traditional condiments of chimichurri – olive oil shaken in a bottle with salt, garlic, chilli pepper, vinegar and bay leaf – and salsa criolla, similar but with onion and tomato as well; everyone jealously guards their secret formulas for both these “magic” dressings.