The word Churrasco (pronounced “shoe-HAS’-ko” )is a Portuguese or Spanish word most often used to describe a style of barbecue frequently practiced in South America. Most popular in the southern region of Brazil by groups of cowboys called Gauchos (Gow-Choh). Churrasco is wildly popular in nearby countries such as Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Uruguay as well.
Although Churrasco can be used as a general term to describe the grilling of meat it, usually depicts the specific method of grilling beef, sausage, chicken, and various other combinations of meat by way of Brazilian espeto or skewer.
The skewers are frequently placed above an open pit and rotated either using a mechanical rotisserie or by frequent manual turning. As the outer layers of the meat develop a delicious golden sear, it can be carved on the spot. The outer layer being the most done and transitioning to more rare the more you cut away. This allows the server the ability to select Well, Medium, and even Rare slices all from the same skewer.
Traditionally Churrasco is seasoned by using a specific salt called Sal Grosso (Thick Salt) easily found for sale on Amazon.com. The next most popular method of seasoning churrasco meat is using a marinade called Chimichurri. Chimichurri is a light and fresh sauce made by mixing parsley, garlic, vinegar, olive oil, and salt. Separating enough before cooking to marinade the meat before cooking, then saving the rest to serve as a dip with the meal. The freshness of the Parsley mixed with the acidity of the vinegar, and the saltiness of the sauce in general, truly change the entire dining experience.
Some of the most popular meats that are cooked using the churrasco method include, Alcatra, Fraldinha, and Picanha. Picanha is by far the Most coveted and sought after Cut for Brazilian Churrasco. If you’d like to check out more about What is Picanha, You don’t want to miss out reading this comprehensive article covering Picanha from top to bottom!
Other meats include, Beef ribs, lamb, sausage, and in Brazil, (rarely in the United States) entire blocks of hard Brazilian cheese. These meats can be cooked via Churrasco using only Sal Grosso (in the traditional method) as the only seasoning, but if you’re looking for a different flavor experience and profile, chimichurri makes a very welcome addition.
What is a Churrascaria?
A Churrascaria is a place where Brazilian Barbeque is prepared and served in a restaurant style. It can exist as a per plate lunch and dinner service, but more frequently refers to a restaurant setting that is served in the Rodizio style.I suppose the easiest way to describe a Churrascaria is would be “A Brazilian style steakhouse.
Not to be confused with Rodizio Grill, which is itself a “Churrascaria”, a Rodizio style service is the process where the diners pay a fixed price while the serving staff brings various skewers of churrasco cooked meats in the round. That’s right! Delicious meats cooked to perfection in an all you can eat buffet dinner. You never have to leave your place at the table and you are continuously served sizzling hot meat that comes directly off the grill.
In more recent years, a to go style lunch and dinner service caters to quick meals by allowing a 2-3 meat plate service. Often featuring The traditional churrasco style cooking methods, simply changing the service style to cater to those living fast paced lives. You still get the benefit of eating delicious and fresh Brazilian foods that are convenient and delicious. However, these locations don’t allow for the full churrasco experience.
In my personal experience Churrascarias in the United States have adopted an upper scale model, serving expensive cuts of meat in a Rodizio style service, while several of the Churrascarias I tried while living in Santa Catarina Brazil were sometimes little more than families conducting a lunch service cooking in their kitchen and serving to tables set up in their garage.
What is a Full Churrasco experience?
Although there are various methods of serving Brazilian churrasco, a full churrasco experience is usually means a patron will have access to all of the meats offered in a Rodizio style buffet meat service, as well as many Brazilian side, and all of this for a single price.
Rodizio style service could be a little confusing at first if you’ve never experienced it before. Unlike traditional buffets, a rodizio style Churrascaria serves the buffet meats to you fresh off the fire, often times still sizzling upon arrival.
Many Churrascarias offer Brazilian style sides that are presented in traditional buffet bars. Foods that include authentic Brazilian foods like fried polenta, fried banana, collards greens, farofa, mayonnaise (Brazilian potato salad), feijoada, rice, beans, and Brazilian cheese bread.
A typical Full Churrasco Experience includes a trip to the traditional buffet to fill your plate with the sides. Then upon sitting down you get to start eating right away. On the table is a tool you can utilize that tells the meat servers when you are ready for the next churrasco meat. The tool generally is green on one side indicating you are ready for the next round. The other side is red, letting the server know you are in need of a small break. Some Churrascarias use a cylinder with these colors on each end. If you turn the cylinder over it is indicating you wish to receive the bill.
In my own personal experience eating at Churrascarias in both Brazil and in the United States, often only allowed me to be able to visit the sides buffet only once, while trying to stay ahead of the meat being served in the round. Not because there is a limit of visits, but I simply didn’t have the room to go back.
How much does Restaurant Churrasco Cost?
When thinking about going out for some Brazilian style BBQ, price is something you should take into consideration. When looking at the price you want to weigh the kind of service and meats you’ll receive against the price they are charging for the meal.
I have eaten at dozens of Churrascarias dating back as far as 2001. Quite possibly the best quality food for the best price was most definitely when I was living in Santa Catarina, Brazil. However, if you don’t have the time to catch an international flight to eat Churrasco from the south of Brazil, I discovered several rodizio style churrascarias here in the United States. Below is a list of different Churrascarias along with the price of their food at the time of writing this article.
|Fogo de Chao||$39.95||$54.95|
Tucanos offers the lowest price but also a more limited spread of meat. They are able to take the cuts like Top Sirloin and prepare it several different ways giving you a variety of flavors that are wildly satisfying. However Churrascaria’s like Fogo de Chao offer a wider variety of meats like beef ribs, Filet Mignon, and Wagyu beef.
When selecting your full Churrasco experience you simply need to weigh what variety of meat you’d like to eat against the price you are willing to pay. In any of these cases you will rarely make a bad choice.
Restaurant churrasco isn’t the only way to enjoy all the wonderful and exotic flavors that are available in this Brazilian style barbeque experience. You can always speak with your local butcher and request some of these specialty cuts for you to be able to try at home. You can also search online for the specific skewers required for good Brazilian Churrasco. Depending on your brand some of these may get a little pricey but once you have them I would say it’s totally worth it!