Why I’m a Steak Snob and Not In Love With Argentinean Steak

Written By: jeff

Posted On: September 28th, 2011

I get it, everyone’s supposed to go ga-ga over the steak when you travel in Argentina, right? It’s the food the country is known for. Don’t get me wrong, I have had some pretty amazing beef there, no doubt. And, when I go out for steak here in Bogota, it’s often to an Argentinean steakhouse.

Bife de Lomo

Photo Credit: Diego3336

But after living and traveling in Argentina for over 6 months in 2007, I came to realize a couple of things about the myth that Argentinean steak is ¨the best.¨

  1. The range of Argentinean cuisine isn’t very broad. Steak, pizza, milanesa and pasta. These four dishes probably account for what the vast majority of Argentines are eating today. As a result, steak gains a prominent place in a small menu of options.
  2. You can get fabulous steaks in Argentina. But, I found that the “average” middle-of-the-road steak in Argentina could be beat in Chile or Brazil. Sure, for the right price, you can get any level of quality. I prefer to base my judgements on something more accessible to the average person.

But, there’s more to the story…The deck is stacked…

I grew up in a house with a national champion BBQer. In 1982, my dad won the National Pork Cookoff Championship sponsored by the National Pork Board. While pork may have won that day, his grilling “chops” extend to steak, chicken, turkey, goat. You name it, dad can make BBQ out of it. So, he sort of ruined me for eating steak and other grilled meats out in restaurants.

Of course, having all that meat basted with his award-winning sauce doesn’t hurt. Here’s a summary of why I find dad’s grilled meats superior, why my palate is ruined for other qualified meat suitors meat and why I’m a steak snob.

Low Heat-Long Grill Times

Texas BBQ, Argentinean steak

Slow cookin' on a big pit is the name of the game. Copyright

BBQing days are marked by an early start. 6AM, maybe even 5AM, depending on when the BBQ is to be served. The fire is lit using large chunks of mesquite wood harvested from the area. Ones the flames die down, the fire-red and orange coals are spread below a huge pit. As the burn away, they are topped off with more embers throughout the day. Those hot embers produce a warm, constant heat that slowly roasts your meat of choice. It’s what locks in the moisture, the smoky flavor and keeps the meat tender.


Texas BBQ, Argentina steak, turkey thighs

Basted turkey thighs. Copyright

You can’t have a BBQ in the south without sauce. Dad’s is a vinegar, tomato-based sauce with just a touch of sugar, not enough to make it sweet like sauces from the Carolinas. Rather, it’s just enough to balance out the tang from the vinegar and tomatoes. After the meat’s been on the pit for a couple of hours, it’s time to baste it. And, of course, there’s always a pourable gravy server filled with extra sauce on the table to top it off once you’re served.

Quality Cuts

Texas BBQ, Argentina steak

Gotta Start With Good Meat. Copyright

You can’t make good BBQ without a good cut of meat. Growing up in a small town, fresh meat was never a problem. This is the single biggest problem eating steak out, you are never sure where you’re meat comes from. Back home, you often know the farmer and ranch your meat came from.

It’s Always an Event

Texas BBQ, Argentina Steak

Ribs. 'Nuff said. Copyright

There’s just something about a BBQ. People go friggin’ nuts. It almost doesn’t even matter how often you eat BBQ or grilled meats. There’s something about cooking meat on a pit that drives people crazy. A typical BBQ back in Texas is usually served potluck. So, people will bring over every kind of salad and side dish you can imagine, including my least favorite: golden glow jello salad. Honestly, who the hell decided that putting carrots in orange jello was a good idea? And yet people keep making it. It’s like the fruitcake of Texas BBQs. Anyway, I digress. There’s always a pastry chef in the crowd who will bring pies, cakes, cookies…´cuz who doesn’t need some sugar after all that meat and side dishes?

Texas BBQ, Argentina steak

A small spread by Texas standards. Copyright

So, sorry Argentina. I love you. But you just can’t compete for my palate with your steaks. Now your ice cream, coffee, medialunas, empanadas and malbec on the other hand…

Texas BBQ, Argentina Steak

I do bring a little bit of Argentinean spirit to the table...even if the wine's from California. Copyright

Today my dad turns 70. This post is dedicated to him. Happy birthday dad. See you soon!

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9 Responses to “Why I’m a Steak Snob and Not In Love With Argentinean Steak”

  1. Maria says:

    It is possible to ruin good food w/inappropriate cooking as well. Gotta have the balance of ingredients and prep but I tell ya, those photos are great. I don’t care much for turkey but would love to get a plate of the “basted turkey thighs” you show here.

  2. Erica says:

    And this is why I’m afraid of being disappointed with Argentine steaks. Unfair though, you live in super awesome German Czech BBQ land. Out of everything I miss the most from home, BBQ and beer rank #1.

  3. I have to admit that I don’t think the steak in Argentina is that wonderful… at least not the steak prepared in restaurants. They don’t marinate it in anything. There is no seasoning. Just meat. And they always overcook it.

    Now, if I prepare the steak myself, a totally different story. Good quality for a good price… just cook it yourself :-)

  4. I agree, while it is passable nothing beats slow cooked BBQ or a fine Texas steak. Kudos to your Dad.

  5. Pete Heck says:

    A fair argument for sure. I only found 1 argentine steak restaurant where I thought the food was exceptional and that was in Mendoza. I’m salivating looking at your pictures, think I’ll be eating Dutch steak tonight (hope that goes well)

  6. Keith says:

    Totally agree with you Jeff. I travelled around Argentina for more than a month and went to some of the better restaurants in Palermo-Soho, Recoleta and San Telmo in search of a great steak but… to avail. In my opinion, the steaks in Chile and Brazil were better (tender, juicy, grilled to perfection whilst the Argentinians seemed to excel only in the size of the steak served). That said, I did find a fantastic steak (I’d nearly given up hope) in Chacras de Coria, a small village outside Mendoza… if only all steaks in Argentina were like this one! :-)


  7. The trick to Argentinian steak is to make sure you find a place that lets you order it rose/rare. Also, one that will salt it. I found most of the places in BA, both cooked the steaks until they were medium/well done, and undersalted the meat. Which made for a very unfortunate waste of great meat. The price point also seemed to have almost nothing to do with quality. In truth the $6 steak was often better than the $15 one.

    I also agree that Argentine cuisine is generally limited and fairly boring which really surprised me.

  8. Juno says:

    Check those out…. Last night, I read a post about Malaysian food….. and this… ughh. Maybe I’ll dream about steak tonight. :)

  9. Bill says:

    Talk about calling the kettle black…If there is one boring food in the world it is Texan, or rather bastardized Mexican food. Slather some sugary tomato base on anything and stick it into an oversized wonder bread slice and bingo! A Texas sandwich. Cook meat, put chilli powder and (again) sugar, Boom! A Texan chili. We can sell the whole damn state to Mexico and not lose a thing; it was stolen from the Mexicans anyways.

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