Churrascarias

The churrascarias are restaurants that serve meat in huge sword-like skewers. They started in Brazil in the 60's and have now spread to the world.

Carlos Campos checks if the
meat on the pit is cooked.

Churrascarias are quite possibly the most popular representation of Brazilian cuisine around the world. This type of restaurant can be found in China, United States, France, Germany, and many other countries. What is fairly unknown worldwide is that the churrasco, how Brazilians call their barbecue, is actually representative of one particular region and state: Rio Grande do Sul. Rio Grande do Sul is the Brazilian home of the Gaucho, but culture has no borders, as Dr. José Fachel, from the Federal University of Pelotas, points out. The Gaucho culture is centered in Uruguay and spreads out to Brazil and Argentina. This is the true cradle of the churrasco, or asado, as said in Spanish.

The full rack of ribs is served on a hot metal
plate on wheels.

The churrascarias "espeto corrido" started in 1968, according to restaurant owner Dorlei Barbieri. Espeto corrido, that literally means "running skewer" is a modality of serving food where the client has a chunk of meat brought to his plate and sliced right there. Different types of meat keep comming non-stop until you ask it to stop. All the traditional cuts of beef, some pork, lamb and chicken are served. Usually, the feast starts with a sausage. Chicken hearts are children's favorites.

Barbieri was born in Nova Brescia, a small town in the hill country of Rio Grande do Sul. The city's population is slightly larger than 3.000 people. It is popular belief that Nova Brescia is home to the best barbecue in Brazil, and that all the best roasters come from there. Barbieri says that this legend started with the high number of truck drivers that lived in the town. Being such good cooks allied with the travelling in the driving business, the Nova Brescia residents started showing their talents and settling all across the nation, making restaurants. The Churrascaria was then born.

The cuts of meat in the Churrascarias differ from each region in Brazil, as do the type of cattle used, but it is unanimous to say that the most prestigious cut is the "picanha". In the United States, this cut is called rump cover, but is not a common piece of meat to be found at the market. Instead, the most expensive cut in Brazil is separated into many pieces, most of it ends on the top sirloin.

There is no secret recipe for a Churrasco. Absolutely no sauce is used. All the meat is season only with salt. Always. Any type of Churrasco, may it be domestic, countryside or in a fancy restaurant, if it has more than salt, it is fake. The flavor of the meat comes from the quality of life of the animal and how it's been fed, and also the type of wood used. The way the meat is cut is specially important in the flavor, because depending on where the fat is, the taste changes. So it is safe to say that the taste of the Churrasco depends on the talent of the roaster.