When someone thinks about the food in Argentina, beef is always the first thing to come to mind. Argentine´s claim it is the best in the world, and so do many foreigners. My personal opinion? It is excellent, but it is not the best in the world. I have tried steaks that are just as good in North America, where there is also some excellent, high quality beef. However, one of the great things about the beef here is high quality beef is easily accessible, and is not too expensive, especially when compared to other food prices. However, just like anywhere, the more you pay, the better the quality, and there is certainly meat that is not worth eating here.
You will find that Argentine beef is definitely a little different than beef in other parts of the world. First of all, in most parts of the world, the cattle tend to be grain fed. Here in Argentina, they have lots of space and the cattle is generally grass fed. Grass fed cattle usually has less marbling, and grows slower, meaning the beef that you eat is older. However, I´m not an expert on the process of Argentine beef, but somehow, they have beef with lots of marbling, and it is very very tender. Some rib eye and filet mignon steaks here practically dissolve in your mouth, and have a delicious buttery flavor!
The beef is nearly always cooked on BBQ using different types of charcoal, which gives it a nice smoky taste. They do not season the meat here, other than a little bit of salt. Be prepared for plain beef, there are no steak rubs here! I am quite fine with that, because the beef is so good, and it does have a great BBQ’d flavor. However, if you like a little flavor added to your meat, the beef here is served with Chimi-Churri, which is a mixture of spices, vinager, and oil. It is always served on the side, and is up to you if you want to put it on your steak!
Some of the cuts of beef here are different, so many times there is no exact translation. Here is a list of the most common, in Spanish and English, and I explain what each cut is like.
Ojo de bife (Rib-Eye) – this is my favorite cut of meat. It is usually fairly tender, well marbled, with excellent flavor.Bife de Lomo (Filet Mignon) – the most expensive cut, also the most tender. Should have very little to no fat. Flavor is good, but not as strong as some of the other cuts. In general, one of the best things you can order on the menu. Filets here in Argentina are deliciously tender!
Bife de Chorizo (new york strip loin) – a good Argentine bife de chorizo is prettty hard to beat. This cut is from the same part of the cow as a strip loin, so you can expect a juicy and very flavorful cut of meat. There is some marbeling, and if you get a cheap cut, it can be really fatty.
Vacío (flank steak) – this is a delicious cut of meat and it is not available in most parts of the world. It is a thin cut of meat, from the flank, and has a thin layer of fat on both sides. A good quality vacío is tender, flavorful and very juicy, contains no fat (other than the layer surrounding it. Argentines love this cut (it is a must have at an asado), especially how the outside gets crispy when cooked slowly over coals. It is also an interesting cut for foreigners because it is usually a cut they have never tried. It is important to get good quality vacío, or you could end up with a leathery piece of meat, with more fat than anything else.
Asado/Asado de Tira (short/cross cut ribs) – they are served differently than in North America, as the ribs are cut very short. There is not usually a lot of meat around the ribs, but they are quite flavorful. Another staple that is always served at an Argentine asado.
Asado de Costillar (beef rib) – this is not a common cut in Argentine, but if you can find them, they are delicious! The meat is very tender and juicy, and without too much fat. They are usually preferable to the standard asado de tira, because they are far meatier!
Matambre (similar to a flank steak) – a tougher cut, but can be very juicy and flavorful. It can be found in various thicknesses, and is often served with a layer of fat on one side. It is similar to a flank steak, but comes from a part just beside it. This cut is not usually found in North America.
Colita de Cuadril (rump steak) – this is the tail end of the rump. Great cut, can be done on the BBQ, or makes a great roast in the oven. Flavorful, very juicy, and very little fat.
Bola de Lomo (knuckle) – located just beside the colita de cuadril, this is the most common cut for milanesas and for lomito sandwiches. It is a decent cut and can be found very cheap in Argentina. It is juicy, fairly tender, and does not contain much fat.
Tapa de Nalga (top inside round) – Located beside the Bola de Lomo off of the cows leg near the kneecap. A very cheap cut, it is somewhat tough. Is mostly used in stews.
Peceto (eye of round) – comes from the very top of the cow’s rump. This is a great cut usually used for roasts, but is also sometimes cut into medallions to be served as milanesas. It is a bit tough, but has good flavor and very little fat.
Entraña (skirt steak) – a bit tough, but very flavorful and juicy. This is a fairly common piece of meat for Argentine asados.
Bife Angosto (strip loin) – located along the back of the cow, from the back ribs to the rump. Lots of marbeling, and usually one edge is covered in fat. A cheap option for beef, and usually a bit tough.
There you have it, the major cuts of Argentine Beef. There are still some other cuts, if you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment and I will answer what I can.
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