The Brazilian Churrasco Barbecue Experience

Brazilian Churrasco Barbecues

Often referred to as Brazilian, or Gaucho (Brazilian cowboy) style food, churrasco barbecue began as a method of rendering tough cuts of beef into more tender cuts.

A churrasco barbecue is a small brick fireplace about shoulder high. You build a small fire of wood charcoal (not the kind of charcoal you normally buy) under a rotisserie, with spits at various heights above the fire.

Churrascos are becoming very popular around the world, with restaurants (called churrascarias) and restaurant chains specializing in this style of cooking popping up everywhere. Homes everywhere are building churrascos into their outdoor kitchen and patio designs. Always popular in South America, this barbecue cooking style can be found throughout Asia, Europe, and North America.

In today's world, a churrasco barbecue works well with all store-bought cuts of meat, including the quality cuts, which end up very tender and juicy.

A churrasco cooks a little differently than the rotisserie over a grill that Westerners normally use. It has the added dimension of heat that radiates from the brick walls. This creates kind of an "oven effect", where the meat is being cooked on all sides at once. In other words, even the side of meat facing away from the fire is being cooked. This radiant heat helps seal in the juices evenly. Surprisingly, very little of the juices from the meat actually drip into the fire and coals.

How a modern Brazilian churrasco is usually set up is to have the lower rotisserie spits rotate mechanically, while the upper ones are turned by hand. There are even inserts you can buy that are fit to slide into the churrasco opening.

Before cooking, the meat is usually seasoned with sea salt or garlic, and cooked slowly over the fire. Various marinades can also be used.

Beef is not the only cut of meat used in a churrasco barbecue. Pork, chicken, goat (cabrito), and sausage (linguica,a spicy Brazilian sausage), are all regularly used, and with excellent results. Very lean wild game works well also, since a churrasco helps keep in most of the fat and juices.

Unlike the barbecue grill normally used, a Brazilian churrasco barbecue makes it possible to cook several large cuts of meat at once. This makes it perfect when cooking for a large number of people. Since it is such a slow cooking method, even the cook gets to relax and enjoy the party.

Accompaniments for the cooked meat include garlic sauce, limes, and olive oil. Chicken and pork tastes wonderful when drizzled with a little olive oil and a squeeze or two of lime juice. For churrasco barbecues, it's the simple ingredients that create the wonderful flavors.

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