What is Brazilian Barbecue?
Guys, it’s not always easy to write about some subjects. Writing a blog post demands a lot of research to deliver a good article. But Brazilian Barbecue? This is my life!
So being very straightforward with the short answer for what is Brazilian Barbecue:
A legit Brazilian-style barbecue consists of preparing the meat over the fire in a churrasqueira, the Brazilian barbecue grill, using a skewer. The seasoning is simple, most of the time being only salt.
But don’t think that less seasoning means less flavor, it’s the opposite: with light seasoning is where you can enjoy the flavors of the meat, the smoke, the fattiness… all together with a good beer… Damm, my mouth is watering already.
This topic deserves a lot of information so let’s dive right into it because I’m excited to explain to you all about legit Brazilian Barbecue.
The origins of the Brazilian-style Barbecue
First things first. From now on, when you read “Churrasco” I’m meaning Brazilian barbecue.
Churrasco originated in the south of Brazil back in the 1800s. This cuisine was not invented by a chef or the food of special occasions, it was a necessity.
The gauchos – South American cowboys that used to work moving cattle from a city to another had to eat of their product: cattle.
In the beginning, they used to eat a simple fresh slice of meat seasoned with ashes and grilled over the ground by the heat of the ember.
After some time, the cattle workers learned from indigenous tribes how to salt and preserve meat by caring it over the shoulders of the horses. This way the sweat of the animal would salt the meat, seasoning and preserving it.
After that, it was only a matter of putting the chunks of meat in a skewer made of wood and put it over the fire. This is the origin of churrasco.
Brazilian Barbecue is Much More than a Great Meal
The most important thing to understand about churrasco besides the amazing taste and the different techniques is that it’s not just a meal for us.
The tradition stopped being a way to have dinner at work and became a moment for family and friends. While the men would butcher, skewer, and season large cuts of meat, the women and children would prepare side dishes.
It’s a moment of hospitality, the perfect occasion to bring people to your home, either to celebrate life, watch a game, have fun, and more often than any of the other reasons: an awesome excuse to drink beer and get drunk with your friends.
As the blog Flavors of Brazil once said, “churrasco can mean simply “grilled meat” but it more commonly means a prolonged weekend meal for family and friends consisting of several portions of meat grilled over wood or charcoal, outdoors, accompanied by numerous appetizers and canapes, side dishes, relishes and pickles, and lots and lots of icy Brazilian lager-style beer.”
This is how it goes down here. It’s part of our lives since we were born. Where I live, fathers start to teach their kids how to prepare a good barbecue since their very young. I started at 6 and intend to do the same with my kids in the future.
Brazilian Barbecue These Days
Over the years the technique has evolved, but the principles are still the same: roasting good and big pieces of meat using light seasoning straight over the fire. The essence of Brazilian-style barbecue is grilling it in a way that will showcase the flavor of the meat as it is.
The equipment has evolved as well. Every Brazilian house in the South of Brazil has a churrasqueira: the Brazilian-style barbecue grill.
There are different types of churrasco all over the country, but the most traditional and legit version is the southern one.
The Meats Used in Brazilian Churrasco
You can make a good churrasco from almost any cut of meat, but the most loved and used are the following:
Picanha is the most loved cut of meat in Brazil. Picanha is top sirloin that is folded in the skewer and grilled with a sea salt crust. It can also be prepared with some garlic.
This cut is fantastic, the flavors are incomparable with any other meat because of the fattiness of the cut and the salt only makes it even better.
One of the most flavorful cuts of beef, large meaty back ribs (known as Costela in Portuguese) is a favorite cut of meat in a traditional Brazilian churrasco.
Served long and flat, this bottom sirloin has strong marbling and is cut against the grain to maximize tenderness.
Alcatra is one of the largest cuts that’s served as a part of churrasco.
It should be perfectly seasoned with salt, then grilled with a layer of fat until most of it melts away, and the remaining fat becomes crispy.
The Best Side Dishes for Brazilian-style Barbecue
Churrasco goes well with almost every food, but I listed the top 4 most consumed side dishes with Brazilian Barbecue:
- Lots of Icy Beer
In Brazil there’s only 1 rule about beer: It needs to be icing cold. Serving up warm beer is considered disrespectful. Almost like an offering food that is not spicy to a Mexican.
With churrasco we use to drink a lot of beer for two reasons: it’s usually on weekends with family or friends and outside where’s is hot. Also, all the salt in the meat makes us thirsty.
Caipirinha is Brazil’s national cocktail. It’s made with distilled alcohol (“cachaça”), sugar, and lime. It goes well with churrasco because the acidity breaks a little bit of the fattiness of the meats.
Farofa, one of my personal favorites, is a crunchy, toasted yuca flour that can be prepared with other ingredients like diced bacon, sliced sausages, garlic, and a whole bunch of condiments. It’s perfect with meat for an additional crunchiness and flavor.
Brazil’s vinaigrette is made with vinegar or lime, salt, red and green peppers, onions, and tomato. Just a little bit of it over the meat is enough to enhance the flavors.
What is a Brazilian steakhouse?
You can find excellent places to eat good Brazilian-style barbecue anywhere in Brazil and even in other countries now since there’s a lot of places opening the doors for churrascarias brasileiras, great restaurants that prepare the southern version of churrasco usually in the all-you-can-eat model.
If you never went to a churrascaria brasileira before you should make a reservation right now. Just google for the one closest to your home. I’ll tell you why.
After slowly roasting the meat, usually, take the skewer to the table with the big chunks of meat on it and serve our guests straight from the good stuff. This is also how it goes on the Rodízio-style Brazilian Steakhouses, or “churrascarias brasileiras”.
This kind of restaurant became popular when churrasco made its way to the big cities. The way it works is very simple. You pay a fixed price and receive a color card on your table with the colors green and red.
As long as you keep the card on the green, you’ll continuously receive different cuts of meat straight from the skewers to your plate. It’s all-you-can-eat fashion in the best way possible.
I hope you have enjoyed this article
Writing this article was pure fun! Brazilian barbecue is something that I do every weekend forever.
If you liked to know what is churrasco and want some recipes, let me know in the comments that I’ll write a ton of content for you.
Also, share with a friend that don’t know why Brazilian-style barbecue is so important for us here in Brazil.
If you ever try churrasco, comment here how was you experience. I’ll love to read it.