With the abundance of BBQ in Brazil, which if you have been following my posts you are quite aware of, it should be of no surprise to you that I had yet one more chance to enjoy one of these feasts during the last week before my holiday. This time it was back to the BBQ pits that are adjacent to the futebol fields where TWers often head for pick up games on weekday evenings. And this time there was actually an occasion for holding this event, some folks from one of the clients were visiting from the US.

Since I still have not become brave enough to try my skills, which I know lack severely, at futebol I was destined to hang out in the BBQ pit area during the game. This turned out to be a very good thing, as Luis, who was preparing the BBQ that evening, was more than willing to run it as a BBQ 101 session to teach us gringoes the tricks of the trade.

First there is the fire. And this is not a simple charcoal grill we are igniting, it needs to burn long and steady to cook the meat just right. So, you start with an old wine or similar bottle and wrap it in newspaper which has been tightly rolled the idea being that when this is surrounded by coals and lit you will get a convection current and a very hot flame.

Once the bottle has been prepared it is set inside the BBQ pit and surrounded by charcoal, here again don’t think of the 4th of July and Kingsford briquettes, this is a mix of something like that and what looks like actual pieces of wood that have been treated is some way to burn very hot.

And now you move to the meat, that’s right you get this fire stuff ready and leave it, that is you don’t light it until all of the meat is ready.

The main work with the meat is the skewering which differs for the type of meat. This night we had 4 types, the first thing to hit the skewers was the sausage which is traditionally placed on the double skewer with each link being pierced twice. At some BBQs there are a number of different sausages, some of which have a good kick to them which is surprising given the general lack of spice in the food here, however this night we only had one.

With that simple task behind them, the chefs moved on to the entrecôt which is not traditionally used in a BBQ since it is not always the best cut of beef. This needed to be sliced to get it into a form where it could be placed on the spear. Think of how you slice a tenderloin when you stuff it making a compact thick piece of meat into a larger thinner one.

It was then time to move on to the good stuff, the picanha, of course what makes it so good is, as with many things, the fat content. Note that this cut, as well as the entrocot, are placed on a skewer that looks more like a narrow sword than the skewers used for meat in the US.

Through all of this skewering one must use a note of caution to check the length of the skewer versus the depth of the BBQ pit occasionally, as you want to make sure that the meat will not be up against the wall or hanging out of the front and thus not cook properly.

The final meat for the evening was a slab of ribs, which was a bit of a challenge to skewer given the bones, but worth the effort.

Things are almost ready to cook now, there is just one step left, the salting. This night we used a simple method where dry salt, sort of like rock salt, is sprinkled generously (maybe sprinkled isn’t the right term) over all of the cuts of meat other than the sausages, actually I don’t recall if the ribs were salted, probably since there was no other seasoning or rub present.

The other two options for salting are to add the salt to water and sprinkle the meat with that mixture or to marinate the meat in the salt for hours before skewering. Given that folks had purchased the meat on the way to the BBQ pits, the last method was not an option.

Now for the final two steps, the grilling and of course the eating. And these are in a way combined, as at a BBQ you don’t wait for everything to be done to eat, you just eat things as they are ready. So given that you pretty much start cooking everything at the same time, the first thing off the grill is the cheese and it is wonderful. Often it is a smokey provolone that is enhanced by the smoke of the BBQ and the pieces are melting and dripping as you pop them in your mouth.

There is a bit of liberty taken with the cooking and serving order, in that generally things are placed on the fire in locations or an order which saves the best for last. So knowing this you would think we would all wise up and wait for the end to eat as we know what’s coming. However, by the time all this prep is done it is generally getting late and we are generally hungry so we dive into the first things available with a furry meaning that we are often stuffed before the spoils are ready. Here again we often choose poorly as we still wind up finding some room for these best pieces and thus, as with many buffet type meals, we wind up eating way too much food.

Of course if you ever go to a Brazilian BBQ restaurant keep this in mind as from what I have heard they will do the same thing there to try to keep from having to serve too much of the good stuff.