Originating in southern Brazil, churrasco is a means of cooking just about any meat as opposed to a special dish or single recipe. While 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. Churrasco is a Portuguese-Brazilian term for a barbecue and is most popular in Brazil, but it is also frequently practiced in nearby countries such as Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Uruguay.
The churrasco tradition has its history in South American gauchos, who ran the cattle ranches and would gather their families and communities for a big meal of barbecued meats. Skewers of meat are frequently placed above an open pit and rotated either using a mechanical rotisserie or by frequent manual turning. There are various methods of serving Brazilian churrasco; however, the most popular and full churrasco experience is when served in rodizio style. With servers going around the room with skewers of meat that is served fresh off the fire and carved on the spot. The outer layer of meat is 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.
Some of the most popular meats that are cooked using the churrasco method include alcatra, fraldinha, and the most sought after, picanha. Other meats include beef ribs, lamb, sausage, and even blocks of hard Brazilian cheese. Traditionally churrasco is seasoned by using a specific salt called sal grosso (thick salt). The next most popular method of seasoning churrasco meat is using chimichurri. Chimichurri is a light and fresh sauce originating in Argentina made by mixing parsley and other herbs, garlic, vinegar or lemon juice, olive oil and salt. Chimichurri is used as a marinade but also served 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 enhances the meat and changes the entire dining experience.
Nicaragua was the first immigrant group to introduce churrasco to the United States restaurant scene in Miami, as early as the 1950s. Churrasco has continued to grow in popularity since the introduction of Brazilian-barbecue restaurants in the 1990s and is the perfect dish for summer barbecues and cookouts.