Brazil: Churrasco Is No Barbecue

Brazil: Churrasco Is No Barbecue

    Churrasco is a culinary tradition in Brazil. It is composed mainly
    of top quality meats with very
    few extras. Churrascos can start
    anytime and go on into the night. After a successful
    no one will even eat a cookie. You’ll learn here how
    to make it, how to find it and how to eat it.


    Monica Trentini


    One of Brazil`s most famous culinary traditions is the weekend
    churrasco. Unlike an American BBQ, a
    churrasco is composed mainly of top quality meats with very few "extras."
    Churrascos can start anytime and go on into the night,
    with people coming and going throughout. Read on for pointers on having a successful "Gaucho-style"
    churrasco at your home.

    In order to create an authentic experience for you, I have interviewed the Trentini brothers from Porto Alegre, Rio
    Grande do Sul—the hot-spot for the best
    churrasco of all time. As William is my husband, and Hardy, my brother-in-law, I can
    give a first-hand un-biased recommendation for their
    churrasco preparing skills. Actually, William is more of a
    "churrasqueiro", but Hardy makes a mean
    caipirinha and his girl friend Cyntia comes in with the
    molho de campanha and the farofa
    (read on for recipes.) I try to help by making salads to complement their efforts at the grill. After a successful
    churrasco, no one will even eat a cookie!

    All right, so what do you need to buy in order to prepare for the event? Let`s start with the meat. A general rule of
    thumb is to buy approximately 500 grams for each man and 300 for each woman. The basic meats William buys for a standard
    churrasco are linguiça,
    picanha, lombo and chicken.

    Picanha tends to be everyone`s favorite. William recommends you always buy the smallest
    picanhas possible. The maximum weight of a
    picanha is 1.2 kg. Anything larger includes a different part of the
    cow—coxão mole. Smaller
    picanhas also tend to be softer. A true Gaucho, William admits to foregoing all the extras at
    churrascos he has cooked and eating one kilo
    of picanha all by himself! One of the benefits of being the
    churrasqueiro is that you will always have your choice of what
    is being served. If you end up buying too much
    picanha (for fear William might show up) you can always bake whole
    picanhas later in the oven. (see recipes)

    As for the linguiça, there are different types. There are Calabreza, Toscana, chicken and others. There is no real
    secret to buying linguiça. Trust your eye and the validity on the package. William’s personal preference is Toscana, which is a
    mild sausage. "Apimentado" means spicy, so check for that on the packaging!

    When choosing a lombo, buy one that is whole. Many times, they will be in the frozen section of the supermarket, or
    you can get a fresh "lombo inteiro" at your local butcher. William buys his
    "sem tempero" (without seasoning.)

    When William buys chicken to grill, he usually buys it on the bone, since it is more flavorful and juicy this way.

    Please read recipes to find seasonings and meat preparation pointers.

    As for the other ingredients, you will need to decide what else you would like to serve.

    A Little History

    According to Hardy, the churrasco came about because the
    Gaúchos (cowboys in southern Brazil and Argentina)
    had a very limited diet. While they were camping, they ate mainly meat and drank
    chimarrão, a strong tea that they shared
    by passing the cuia, adding boiling water when necessary. When they had leftovers from the
    churrasco, they would make arroz carreteiro
    (see recipes.) In other words, extras are really optional, but most choose to serve them anyway.

    Foreigners sometimes refer to farofa as sawdust. It is dry and gritty, but it adds flavor to the meat and contains some
    of the meat drippings. Farofa also goes well with rice. Most dab their meat into it before eating it, or pick it up with their
    fork with rice and meat. Eating it plain might not be such a pleasant experience.

    Another accompaniment you might like is molho de
    campanha. It is similar to a Mexican salsa, only it is not usually
    hot and spicy and the recipe does not call for cilantro, only parsley.
    Molho de campanha is always served chunky, never
    beaten or blended. It goes well with sausage and the other meats.

    As for salads, I have two easy recipes for you to try, but any green salad will do.

    Another "extra" at a churrasco is the
    caipirinha (literally translated as "the little farm girl") One essential part of
    the caipirinha is the lime selection. Picking out the best ones will make your
    caipirinhas even better. Hardy says limes with
    thin skins are best. He rolls them applying pressure to release the juices. After washing them, he cuts them in half and then in
    quarters. At this point, Hardy cuts most of the peel off before cutting once again and adding the limes to the cup.

    If the limes have a large white core, he cuts it out. After he has enough limes cut, (approximately 1 1/2 limes per
    drink) he adds 2 heaping tablespoons of sugar per 8 oz. Drink. Next, he mashes the limes and sugar together until mixed and
    adds cachaça and ice. Hardy says crushed ice is preferable since it cools the drink faster and dilutes the alcohol a little more.

    Nega Fulô and Espírito de Minas are some higher quality
    cachaças, and 51 and Velho Barreiro are easily found in
    the supermarket and perfectly fine choices. There is a place called "Barbolla" in Morumbi (Rua dos 3 Irmãos, 460, phone
    3722-0792), and another called Cachaçaria Paulista in Pinheiros (Rua Mourato Coelho, 593, phone 3815-4556). Both have
    numerous types of cachaça. These
    cachaças are not all for
    caipirinhas. Many are sipping
    cachaças, which have different
    tastes depending on their barrels and brewing techniques. Some of them can be quite expensive.

    Anyone who likes meat will definitely love a good
    churrasco. Hardy claims the
    churrascaria is the largest growing new type of restaurant in the US. While you are here, don`t miss going to some of the famous
    churrascarias here in Sao Paulo. Our favorite
    churrascaria is called "Caminhos do Sul." It is on highway Regis Bittencourt, 3 kilometers past the last
    exit for Embu das Artes on the right. Try the filet mignon na
    manteiga. It is my personal favorite.

    Getting Ready

    If you are really up for making it yourself, you need to start by approaching the grill. Most grills in Brazil require
    charcoal. William buys one bag of charcoal for a 3-4
    picanha party, but it is always wise to have extra. There are many ways to
    light the coals and keep them burning well. One way is to fill a stale
    pãozinho with alcohol, place it in the coals and light it.
    There are also many choices of starters at the supermarket.

    Most supermarkets have a grilling section with all the bells and whistles to choose from. The important part is to
    light the coals and let them burn for a while before you start grilling. When the coals are red and the flames are low, you can
    add the meat. Generally, most start with the sausage
    (linguiça). As the fat of the sausage drips, it will feed the fire. William
    places lombo and picanha on medium heat, and the chicken and sausage on the hotter places. As the
    linguiça and the picanha are ready, William takes them off the grill and cuts bite-sized pieces for people to pick up with their fingers or toothpicks
    for the more civilized guests.

    Everyone who knows what to do (the
    diretoria—the honchos) stands around the grill and socializes with the
    churrasqueiro. This way, they are guaranteed the hottest and best choices of meat. People come with plates to partake of the chicken
    and lombo, and larger pieces of
    linguiça and picanha. Then they gravitate towards the salads and other fixings. If people
    stand around with plates or balance them on their laps, this is known as eating
    à Americana. Brazilians prefer eating with a
    table in front of them; not set formally, but a place to rest their plates while they eat. No matter what you are serving, always
    have knives and forks available. Brazilians even eat cupcakes with forks.


    Grill it and after it is cut, you can sprinkle lime juice on it for added flavor.



    Cover with minced garlic and lightly salt. Squeeze lime juice on it and let it sit for 1-2 hours or overnight in the refrigerator.

    Towards the end of grilling, cover the top with parmesan cheese. Allow this to melt a little before slicing thinly and serving.


    Coat picanha steaks with rock salt before grilling.

    Cutting picanha steaks and slicing:

    Leave the fat on the picanha. Cut steaks across to the tip.(6-7 2 inch steaks) After grilling, slice steaks thinly so each
    piece has a small strip of fat.



    Salt and pepper chicken pieces. Add olive oil, oregano and lime. Let sit for 1-2 hours before grilling.


    In a frying pan, melt butter, fry onion and garlic. Add beaten eggs and cook. Optional: Add bacon pieces, olives,
    banana, and/or hot peppers. Add farinha de mandioca
    (manioc flour), or farofa pronta by Yoki. Sautée. (Yoki makes a great
    pão de queijo mix as well, by the way.)

    Molho de Campanha

    Dice tomatoes, onions, parsley and green, yellow, and/or red peppers. Add oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. This is
    standard fare. People cover their meat with it.

    Arroz Carreteiro

    Sautée onions and olive oil. Add leftover
    picanha or sausage cut into very small pieces. Fry it a little bit. Add rice
    and salt to taste. Add water and boil until the rice is cooked.


    Mix fresh mozzarella and cut up sun dried tomatoes with olive oil. Toss in
    rúcula. Add balsamic vinegar. Toss and serve.

    Mix green beans (cooked and cooled, or straight from the can with a little juice) with sliced hearts of palm. Sliced
    tomatoes optional. Season with olive oil and vinegar or lime.

    Your favorite potato salad is always welcome.

    Broiled Picanha:

    Place the whole picanha fat side up in a pre-heated hot oven (about 400 degrees Fahrenheit, 200 Celsius). Bake for
    45 minutes. Turn picanha over and cover with rock salt. Put it back in the oven and continue baking for about 30 minutes
    or until ready.


    Arroz.- Rice

    Casca.- Peel

    Coentro.- Cilantro

    Coxão Mole – Sirloin

    Farofa. – Fried Manioc Flour

    Frango -.Chicken

    Limão. – Lime

    Linguiça .- Sausage

    Lombo. – Pork Tenderloin

    Picanha. – Tip of Sirloin

    Porco.- Pork

    Rúcula. – Arrugula

    Salsinha.- Parsley

    Vagem.- Green Beans


    Monica O’Day Trentini was born in the US but raised in Brazil. She attended American Schools and
    eventually went to The University of Virginia, where she graduated with a Master’s in Teaching. She married a Brazilian
    and moved to São Paulo. She left teaching to raise her children and started a business making and selling home-made
    cookie dough and baked cookies to people. She delivers cookies in São Paulo, but orders have come from as far as
    Arizona! She currently has her articles published at and in The Flash, a printed newsletter for The
    International Newcomers’ Club in São Paulo. Monica’s e-mail is, and she welcomes
    your responses to her articles, as well as your cookie orders!


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