The traditional asado, according to the Argentinian gauchos, is made “a la cruz” – literally using a cross. In fact, the name comes from the metal structure that holds meat during cooking, which is cross-shaped. This particular technique uses heat generated by flames and embers, allowing meat to be slow cooked by irradiation (indirect cooking technique). The food is exposed to a lower temperature than the traditional barbecue (direct cooking technique), but for a longer period of time. In this way the heat reaches the meat core evenly. This technique is particularly suitable for large cuts and with it you will achieve some surprising results.

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With its slow and indirect cooking, “a la cruz” technique you can achieve surprising results, which are much different from the traditional barbecue. Beef meat cooked according to this technique, sometimes turns deep red instead of brownish. On the outside, the color might be deceiving, but you can check the cooking degree on the inside just by making a small cut. You’ll be astonished by the result: the heat has reached the core. Once the meat is properly cooked, this technique allows you to have a perfectly cauterized and crunchy crust on the outside, whereas all the meat moods are kept inside and the meat texture is soft and juicy. This feature combined with the aromas released by the wood, give the food a unique taste and texture. The indirect cooking technique is perfect also for fish and vegetables.

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For us, this cooking technique is an art because it requires a sensibility that you cannot obtain by just using thermometers and timers It’s an amusing practice, which you cannot rush. You need to take care of the fire, observe the cooking progress, handle the distance of the skewers from the heat source –the flame must not touch the food – by moving the fire in the brazier or the cross to obtain a even cooking.

One of the most recommended tricks by asadors – a word used both for the grill master and the cooking device – to identify the right cooking temperature, is to bring your hand near the skewers with the back facing the fire. If you feel like you need to take your hand back immediately, the temperature is too high. Otherwise, if the heat does not bother you after waiting 8 or 10 seconds, you need to revive the flame.

Practice makes perfect, therefore what can first seem a difficult procedure can become an instinctive and natural experience. Also, since it is a slow cooking process, it’s hard to make huge mistakes. As Francis Mallman, a great Argentinian chef and asador master, states in his book Seven fires: grilling the Argentine way: “Grilling is an art, but a forgiving one”.
Learn more about this cooking technique and get further information in this site section Tricks and Recipes.

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