The great thing about being an English language teacher is the parties. Seriously. No one parties like an ex-pat. I know: I lived in South Korea for two years. And last night we hosted a party for some of my wife’s students, one of whom is a self-declared Brazilian BBQ guru who decided to give me some lessons. It was certainly an eye-opener: a very, very delicious eye-opener.
Giving myself some time off from giving BBQ lessons, my teacher was Gabriel, the gentleman on your right of the photograph above. He told me that in Brazil his preferred method of cooking is BBQ and that he BBQs everyday. He even went so far as to bring the meat for the party, insisting that the cuts in Brazil are different than those here. He showed me a diagram indicating where the cuts came from, but it was in Portuguese. As best as I could figure we had rump and sirloin.
I decided that if we were hosting a Brazilian BBQ then I needed to make something more of a spectacle out of the event and so I converted our fire pit into a BBQ. Which is actually easier than it sounds: the grill out of my Weber fits perfectly on the top. That way everybody could hang out around the fire while we cooked their dinner at the same time. I filled it up with gidgee charcoal and we were away. A lesson I learned was to get the charcoal into the fire pit long before I started cooking: it was a thick ceramic bowl which stole a lot of the heat away from the food at first. But at least I’ll know for next time. And trust me, there will be a next time.
The key to this lesson in Brazilian BBQ was… salt. Lots of salt. And then more salt. Gabriel told me that lump rock salt was the only thing to use. And use it he did. He put a thick layer on either side and put the steaks on the grill. Then, each time he turned them he reapplied the salt. My friend Sophie jokingly asked him if people in Brazil have heart problems. He laughed and said that yes, his father did have some pretty major issues with his heart.
Aside from the salt, there were two tricks to Brazilian BBQ: before removing the steak from the fire pit Gabriel would bang it on the grill to knock off all the excess salt, leaving a crust of sorts on the surface. Next he cut the meat across the grain ensuring that it was as tender as possible. I have to admit he preferred his steak a little more well done than I prefer mine and it was a little too salty for me too. However it was still really tasty and when he wasn’t looking I backed off the salt and reduced the cooking time. Then I was in heaven. Either way, the crowd was pleased.