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Top tips for an asado-style barbecue

Grill-masters share their secrets for perfecting South American cooking technique

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Marinade steaks for as long as possible before putting them on the grill - 24 hours is perfect – and make sure coals are not too hot. you should be able to comfortably hold your hand 20cm above the coals for at least two seconds before the heat gets too much 

28 MAY 2009

Those inspired by the thought of summer may fancy trying asado-style cooking. It's a popular technique in South America's Pampas region and gives Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, and Paraguay their national dishes. We’ve got top tips from the guys at the Gaucho restaurants for doing it yourself at home.

  • To be totally authentic and barbecue like an Argentine cowboy you need to dig a metre-long, 30cm-wide, 20cm-deep pit in the ground - alternatively you could just buy a fair-sized barbecue!
  • Buy the best quality charcoal you can find
  • Heap hot coals to one side of your pit or barbecue and push the white hot pieces over to your 'cooking side' as you need them. This allows you to regulate the heat and avoid over-cooking on the outside and raw meat on the inside
  • Coals shouldn't be too hot. You should be able to hold your hand 20cm above them for at least two seconds
  • Take food out of the fridge before cooking and allow to 'rest' and come to room temperature before putting on the grill.
  • Marinade steaks and chicken for as long as you can - 24 hours is perfect - in all or some of the following: garlic, parsley, olive oil, tarragon, chilli, basil, mint, lemon or lime
  • Liberally salt one side of steaks when you put them on the grill - not before, not after. The beef will take as much salt as it needs whilst you are cooking the first side and the rest will fall when you turn it.
  • Turn steaks and burgers only once.
  • Prawns and chicken on skewers are fantastic for barbecues, so are lamb cutlets. Your butcher can also prepare and debone cuts for you ready to throw straight on.

Gaucho will be running masterclasses in asado at its Hampstead restaurant, Monday to Thursday, 12-9pm and 12-5pm Fridays and Saturdays during the summer. Classes last two hours and cost £35.

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