National passion, the barbecue is celebrated on April 24 Photo: Debora Zandonal
Brazilians are so passionate about barbecue, who always finds an opportunity to gather friends and family around the coals – preferably in the company of a cold beer. And it is not for nothing that the barbecue has its own date in the country, namely April 24th. There are countless ways to make a barbecue, but experts in the field share some valuable tips below to upgrade the classic barbecue of the weekend.
But first and foremost you have to stand with your feet on the ground. With food prices soaring lately, it’s important to be realistic when planning your barbecue. It all starts with buying the right amount of meat per person, to avoid overspending. “The ideal is to calculate about 450g of raw protein per adult,” recommends Rodrigo Bueno, the American BBQ expert, pit master and member of the Tramontina Barbecue Society.
Although the picanha is one of the classic pieces for the barbecue, the price of the kilo of salt varies between R$80 and R$110 – values raised by the report in establishments such as butchers and supermarket chains in the capital of Sao Paulo. . That’s why it’s worth replacing it with cheaper cuts, like bife de chorizo (it’s nothing more than our sirloin steak) and rump bonbon, which cost R$60 to 80 per kilo on average. By the way, if the idea is to save money on the barbecue, it is worth being careful about the cuts with a foreign name. In butchers and meat shops you can find shoulder steak, the Americanized name of the palette, for about R$74 per kilo, as well as Denver steak, a higher-priced chuck steak, around R$180 per kilo.
Chorizo steak and rump bonbon are good options for the barbecue Photo: Klaus Einwanger
Justice be done. These more expensive cuts are usually sourced from cattle of European breeds such as Angus, which give softer cuts and full of marbling, ie fat embedded in the meat. “Until a few years ago, the forefoot of Brazilian cattle was synonymous with tough meat, but that has changed. There is no more first-class beef and second-class beef: there is first-class beef and second-class beef,” explains master barbecue José Almiro, who YouTube BBQwith nearly two million subscribers.
It’s also worth remembering that barbecue isn’t just synonymous with beef. In addition to the triad of garlic bread, sausage, and coalho cheese that everyone likes to get started, chicken, whether wing or drumstick, goes very well on the grill and is more comradely priced. “I usually make a marinade with white wine, garlic, parsley, chives, sage, salt and black pepper. I leave the chicken overnight to soak up the spices,” Bueno says. It is also worth betting on pork. “Today it is possible to find all possible cuts of pork. It’s an incredible option and much cheaper for the barbecue, as a kilo of pork back is R$26 on average,” said chef and pit master Paula Labaki.
Grilled vegetables are also great options for the barbecue, but if your intention is to feed your vegetarian friend, it’s best to leave a separate grilling area for that. Another important point is to make them very golden. “You can’t be afraid to burn, because the caramelization of some vegetables makes all the difference in the end result,” Paula learns. After vegetables like zucchini and aubergine come off the grill, the chef usually finishes them off with a mixture of olive oil with lemon juice and zest, fleur de sel and black pepper.
Not just for vegetarians: vegetables and veggies are also good options for the barbecue Photo: Deborah Zandonai
Potatoes can also be cooked with the skin right on the grill. “When they’re done, I cut them in half and stuff them with a mixture of cream cheese, Parmesan, and butter, and they go back to the grill. This is a great accompaniment to main courses,” teaches parrillero Chico Mancuso, from Rincon Escondido, a space in the city of São Paulo that offers courses and dinners dedicated to parrilla meat.
There are numerous techniques for lighting the barbecue, but be careful to avoid accidents. “The easiest way is to make a kind of cup with paper towels, add oil and place in the center of the grill. Then just make a ‘hut’ of charcoal and throw the match in the middle”, Paula learns. After you light the grill, you have to wait for the right moment to put the meat on the grill. “With charcoal, this process releases a lot of soot, which can get into the meat and leave a bitter taste. That is why it is ideal to wait until the coals are red hot,” Mancuso learns.
When the ember is done, is it time to open another beer? Yes! But it’s also time to barbecue. However, before you throw the first meat on the grill, it’s worth thinking about the order in which you want to serve your guests. “It’s good to start with what is ready the fastest, such as garlic bread and cabbage chicken cheese,” Almiro accompanies. The sausages go to the grill in order, but it is worth being careful about the temperature of the ember. “They should be cooked at a medium temperature so that they don’t crack on the grill,” Paula teaches.
The ember is a point of interest, as different types of preparation require greater temperature control. Photo: Renan Bossi
In the meantime, it’s worth leaving some space on the grill for pork and chicken, which require a longer cooking time and a not-so-strong ember. This also applies to whole pieces, such as beef ribs, for example, which can be grilled for 3 to 4 hours. Meanwhile, it’s worth grilling smaller cuts, such as flank steak, or steak cut meats, such as chorizo. If the idea is to serve skewers, soft coxão is a good alternative, as are chicken heart skewers – a classic of the Brazilian barbecue.
salt and rest
One of the aspects that sparks debate among barbecue experts is when the meat is seasoned with salt. There is no right or wrong: it has to do with personal taste and goals. Mancuso, for example, prefers to salt his meat before going to the grill. “If the goal is to get a rare meat, if the coarse salt over the meat on the grill becomes translucent and soggy, you can flip the piece. If the idea is more to the point, wait for the myoglobin, a liquid from the meat, to rise to the surface of the piece,” teaches the Rincon Escondido parrillero.
Almiro, on the other hand, is in the middle, tempering the larger pieces first. “Five minutes in advance is enough,” explains the YouTube channel host Churrasqueadas. On the other hand, Paula Labaki and Rodrigo Bueno prefer not to salt the meat until it is ready. “Without salt, the meat crust is perfect on the grill, well caramelized,” explains Bueno. But no coarse salt before serving. “I usually use fleur de sel to finish, which is much more delicate,” says Paula.
Herbs, rest, warm time: there are several debates when holding a barbecue Photo: Nico Diaz
Another aspect that is not a consensus among barbecue grills is the rest of the meat after it’s done. For example, Almiro prefers to cut the meat as soon as it comes off the grill. “I like to serve the meat very hot.” Bueno, on the other hand, thinks it’s best to let the cut rest for two to three minutes before cutting. “Due to the effect of heat, liquids move in the meat. To make it juicier, it’s worth waiting for the liquids to redistribute before slicing,” he says. And another care to be taken with the meats is the way of cutting them. “Always on the other side of the fibres,” Paula teaches.
The consensus among experts on embers is that you don’t need many utensils to prepare a good barbecue at home. First of all, it is important to have a good cutting board, as well as a special barbecue knife.
“Prefer the ones with grooves on the side of the blade. That way the meat won’t stick to the blade,” guides Bueno. Another tip is to have a long-handled meat grabber and gloves to avoid possible burns Other than that, just put the beer in the freezer and call everyone to celebrate the barbecue date.