Thursday, September 13, 2012

How to make Brazilian Churrasco

This is some of the best tasting meet you will ever taste - all thanks to a few little Brazilian "secrets".  This style of beef is easy to cook.  It makes the most inexpensive cuts of meat into tender, juicy and delicious strips of steak.


Have you ever heard any of these words before: ChurrascoChurrascaria  or Rodizio ?  Those are all Portuguese names of a most delicious Brazilian meat.  I am sure if you have ever visited Brazil (or Brasil as is spelled in Portuguese) someone has taken you to one of their famous rodizio restaurants where they come to your table with meat on a skewer and slice off a piece of sizzling delicious steak.  You don't just get one piece, they come again and again to your table until you are stuffed and indicate that you've had enough.  There are some Churrascarias in the United States but they are mostly in the large cities and they are quite expensive.

So why am I telling you about this delicious and usually expensive steak?  Because I am going to show you how you can grill it yourself, just like we and millions of Brazilians do!  All for about the same price per pound for what it costs to buy ground beef.

In a moment I'll walk you through each step in detail, but the process in a nutshell is to first marinate the meat in lime juice (lemon works also) mixed with garlic for 2 hours.  Then take some rock salt (or kosher salt) and completely cover the entire cut of meat.  Don't worry, the end product will not taste too lemony, garlicky, nor salty.  You will have to trust me on this one.  Many love this steak who do not even like citrusy meat.  Next, cook slowly, high above the charcoal until the outer parts get nice and hard and crusty.  Then remove the excess salt (it should fall off easily) and cook the meat closer to the fire until it is done to your liking.

Grill on a skewer in large pieces or use normal regular cuts.

Churrasco tastes great both well-done or with that tinge of pink.  It is up to you.

O.K., onto the specifics...


STEP 1 - Select the Cut

Buy an inexpensive cut of meat.  This is eye of round which cost us about the same per pound as ground beef.  Though you may, you do not have to use an expensive cut of meat.  We have even had good success with using a pot roast!

Cut the meat into large chunks to grill on a skewer.  Or, cut it into normal fillets as pictured here.  When we made this over the labor day weekend we cut thin strips for the kids (as pictured above) so that it would be done more quickly.

STEP 2 - Marinade

Marinate in lime juice and garlic for about 2 hours.  In this case we used lime juice concentrate from a bottle.  Press a few garlic cloves in a garlic press and mix into the lime juice.  Minced garlic would be O.K., but not as effective since we are after the juice from the garlic.  Stay away from powdered garlic.  IMPORTANT!  Take a knife and make several slits into the meat (about every quarter inch) in order to allow the lime and garlic to soak into the meat.

STEP 3 - Salt

Remove the meat from the marinade and then completely cover with salt.  Rock salt (usually for sale in grocery stores near the homemade ice-cream mixes) works best.  In our case, we used Kosher salt since it is was what we had on hand.  Normal table salt will work as well.  Just pour it directly out of the big blue umbrella container as you will use a lot of it.

Cover the entire meat with salt and then head to the grill.

STEP 4 - Cook Until Outer Crust is Formed

Set your grill rack high above the charcoals.  I realize that many of you have gas grills.  This is not as flavorful but works just as well.  If you are using a gas grill then turn the flames really low.

Grill high above the fire for about 15 minutes on each side or until the outer layer of meat has a hard crust.  This is one of those "magic" secret steps.  What is happening is that the salt is drawing out the lemon while forming a hard shell to keep the rest of the juices in the meat.

Oh yeah!  I can taste it already!

STEP 5 - Remove the Excess Salt

Bang the salt off the meat before the final cooking stage.  Rock salt will fall right off.  Kosher salt will need a little more effort.  If you use normal salt then be sure to take a knife and scrape off that built-up layer of salt which has now crusted on the outside of your meat.

STEP 6 - Cook to Your Liking

Now lower the grill rack closer to the fire (or turn up the heat on a gas grill) and cook the meat to your desired level of done.

If you are cooking large cuts of meat on skewer then this is where it becomes FUN!  Cook the meat a little and then cut of the outer layer of meat before cooking the rest some more.

In a Brazilian restaurant the waiter will come to your table with the skewer and cut off strips of meat directly onto your plate.  This is the authentic way!  Of course whoever the "grill master" is in your home gets to sample several thin strips of meat while he/she cooks.

That's it!  Serve with white rice, freshly baked bread, and black beans to compliment the Brazilian flare. For desert, wonderful PavĂȘ, but that's another post....... :0)