The Art of Asado
Cooking with fire is an essential part of Argentina’s culture. By emulating his mentor Francis Mallmann, chef Sebastián Benítez is sharing his country’s traditions at Faena Miami Beach’s Los Fuegos restaurant.
1. Patience is key
Embrace the fact that cooking over fire isn’t fast and furious. It takes hours. Accept that, Benítez says, and the outcome will be worth it.
2. Practice makes perfect
There’s no manual Benítez can share. He says proficiency comes from making mistakes and learning from them.
3. Commit to the investment
Slow cooking needs an investment—in quality produce and proteins as well as time.
4. Build your burn
Start with hardwood charcoal, which offers an even heat and temperature, making it easier to cook with than wood. “You need to understand the language of the wood that is totally different than charcoal,” Benítez says. So, work your way up to playing with wood
5. Choose the right wood
Once you’ve graduated to wood, Benítez suggests using oak, hickory, or mesquite. Build a chimney-like structure with the logs, making sure there’s nothing in the middle of it. In the hole, place a few pieces of paper and light the fire from there. Once the wood is lit, you can add charcoal in the middle.
6. It’s all in the prep
First, make sure you have the right cut of meat. For slow cooking, choose a thick cut, like brisket. Then, consider your seasoning. In Argentina, Benítez explains, meat is only seasoned with coarse salt before cooking. That means no brining, rubbing, or marinating. “We’re not really famous for putting too much stuff on the meat,” he says. Finally, there’s temperature. Ensure the meat is at room temperature before placing it over the fire.