Churrasco is a Spanish and Portuguese term referring to beef or grilled meat more generally, differing across Latin America and Europe, but a prominent feature in the cuisine of Uruguay, Brazil, Bolivia, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Nicaragua, Peru and other Latin American countries. The related term churrascaria (or churrasqueria) is mostly understood to be a steakhouse.
A churrascaria is a restaurant serving grilled meat, many offering as much as one can eat: the waiters move around the restaurant with the skewers, slicing meat onto the client’s plate. This serving style is called espeto corrido or rodízio, and is quite popular in Brazil.
In Latin America
- In Brazil, churrasco is the term for a barbecue (similar to the Argentine, Uruguayan, Paraguayan and Chilean asado) which originated in southern Brazil. It uses a variety of meats, pork, sausage and chicken which may be cooked on a purpose-built “churrasqueira”, a barbecue grill, often with supports for spits or skewers. Portable “churrasqueiras” are similar to those used to prepare the Argentine, Chilean, Paraguayan and Uruguayan asado, with a grill support, but many Brazilian “churrasqueiras” do not have grills, only the skewers above the embers. The meat may alternatively be cooked on large metal or wood skewers resting on a support or stuck into the ground and roasted with the embers of charcoal (wood may also be used, especially in the State of Rio Grande do Sul).
- In Nicaragua, the first immigrant group to introduce the term for this cut of beef to the United States restaurant scene in Miami, Fl as early as the 1950s, it refers to a thin steak prepared grilled and served with a traditional Chimichurri Sauce– macerated parsley, garlic, peppers, and olive oil sauce.
- Although seldom accredited to Brazilians and Argentinians, these two nations’ most popular cuts of grilled meats are not churrasco but Picanha and Entraña respectively.
- In Argentina and Uruguay a churrasco refers to any boneless cut of beef that is sliced slightly thin as a steak and grilled over hot coals or on a very hot skillet. Gauchos would have grilled churrasco as part of their asado, now the national dish of both countries, served with salad and fried or mashed potatoes, and sometimes a fried egg.
- In Puerto Rico it always refers to skirt steak, cooked on a barbecue grill. The chimichurri sauce is optional, since the meat is very savory with just a slight hint of sea salt that is sprinkled over the meat during cooking. It is also customary to replace chimichurri sauce with a Guava Rum Sauce or Ajilimójili Sauce.
- In Ecuador churrasco is a staple food of the Coast Region, specially Guayaquil. The dish’s main ingredient is the grilled steak that is seasoned with chimichurri, it is served with plantains, white rice, French fries, a fried egg, and slices of avocado.
- In Guatemala, churrasco is regarded as a typical dish, often eaten in familiar gatherings and festive occasions. It is usually served topped with chirmol, a red sauce containing chopped tomatoes and onions, and accompanied by corn, guacamole, grilled potatoes, stewed black beans, rice and tortillas.
- In Chile, churrasco refers to a thin cut of steak which varies depending on the desired quality of the sandwich. The slices are grilled and served in a -sometimes warmed- local bun (called “marraqueta“, or “pan batido” in Valparaíso), usually accompanied with tomato, avocado and mayonnaise, in the case of a churrasco italiano. Another popular dish, churrasco a lo pobre (“poor man’s churrasco”), consists of a churrasco served with French fries, fried egg, and caramelized onions.