So Yummy…Eating Steak in Argentina

Eating Steak in Argentina

I know a lot of vegetarians, and for some periods in my life, I’ve decided to go meat-free too. There is only one place that I’ve visited on my travels so far that has made almost every vegetarian I know throw out the rulebook entirely – Argentina. Why? The steak. Eating steak in Argentina is a must and I ate so much of it during my visit there that I was on the brink of mooing. I had been told by endless friends and family members before going just how good it was, but that first mouthful was far more delicious than I ever expected – juicy, tender, flavourful, and practically perfect in every way.

For those of you who have tried Argentinian meat before, this question has probably ran through your head; ‘Just how do they make it so good?’ Well, the combination of high quality meat production with some of the best grill chefs in the world is probably somewhere close to the answer. A lot of the cattle raised in Argentina are left to graze on grassy, flat land, and the humid pampas are amongst the best regions known for rearing the finest beef. Cows that roam around here before they meet their fate are given the food that cows were naturally born to eat – grass – and are free from growth hormones. This diet results in beef with less saturated fat and more of the healthy fats that humans need, making the texture far more tender and less chewy or tough. Ethical eaters will be safe in the knowledge that their Argentinian steak has come from one very happy, healthy cow.

It can’t be the farmers held accountable for that delicious taste alone, something about the way the meat is cooked is what locks in that flavour. Steak chefs will claim that all they use is salt on the meat, and nothing more, but it seems to be there must be some other kind of magic involved. Argentinians claim that cooking a good steak is an art form, and I would have to agree that something about the talent of the chef or that South American passion rubs off into the meat.

Restaurants that specialise in meat in Argentina are called ‘parrillas’ (such as the highly rated Parrilla Pena), which you may find more easily if you follow your nose. You can normally tell if a parrilla is within a 3 block radius because the delicious aromas come wafting out the doors as soon as the chefs turn on the grills for the day. In your average parrilla you’ll find all kinds of cuts of steak, from ‘bife de chorizo’ which is basically the equivalent to a 3-inch thick piece of sirloin, to ribs, which are cut shorter than the ribs most of us are used to, and pack a serious punch in terms of flavour. Higher class parrillas will also serve intestines and certain glands, which are considered delicacies and will be the most expensive thing on the menu.

As for what you might see on a menu to eat with the steak, parrillas usually have salads and fries to offer as an accompaniment. Make sure you don’t end up with eyes bigger than your belly though, and the meat is always huge and you’ll often see locals eating just the meat alone, with no side whatsoever (I’m sure heart surgeons aren’t out of work in Argentina). The only thing they might put with their steak is chimichurri sauce, which is a mixture of parsley, olive oil, garlic, oregano and vinegar, and compliments the meat nicely with an oily, herby touch.

I found that in almost every parrilla I went to (and it was a lot, trust me) they overcooked my meat. I normally go for medium, but slowly changed my order to medium-rare, which then came out as what I would expect medium to look like back home. Argentinians don’t seem to eat their steak rare, so if that’s your preference, try and exaggerate it to the waiter as much as possible otherwise you will be bitterly disappointed.

The word ‘asado’ in Argentina is basically the equivalent of a barbeque, and if you’re ever invited to one, you have to go. Most good hostels run their own asados once or twice a week; the hostel I stayed at in Buenos Aires actually had an asado on my first night in South America, and it was one hell of an introduction to the continent. Endless trays of delicious meat were passed around, as well as bottle after bottle of local red wine, which is also some of the finest on the planet. Your senses won’t know what hit them, and you’ll be leaving with exactly the same thought as everybody else – those Argentinians sure know how to live.

Photo credit: Eating Steak in Argentina


Emma Higgins has been writing and traveling on and off since 2009. Her blog, Gotta Keep Movin’ is full of stories and advice from her trips, which include Europe, India, Morocco, South America, the USA and Canada. Her main focuses are budget travel and volunteering, and she has been involved in sustainable farming in Argentina, animal shelters in Peru, and even tried her hand at making goats cheese in British Columbia. Follow her travels on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
Categories: Food

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