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Beef it up in Buenos Aires

Just imagine sinking your teeth into a freshly-cut, plump, tender, juicy slab of grilled beef—everyday and not just once a day, but twice, and possibly even three times.

Even if you’ve never fancied beef before, you’ll find yourself hankering for a large hunk of meat. It’s as if the steak here is addictive. This meat eating culture is to blame for vegetarians who fall off the wagon while in the country. There is something about Argentine beef that lures the casual visitor, with its thick, meaty, charcoal-brazed waft. It’s not uncommon for travelers to say that they “ate and drank their way through Buenos Aires.” This is not an exaggeration.

It is said that the reason Argentine beef tastes so good is because the free-range organic Argentinean cattle feast on nutrient-filled pampas. They are also fed little to zero corn or corn feed and are not pumped with antibiotics and growth hormones like their American and European cattle cousins, making for thick and flavorful slabs of meat.

While the cuts of steak are worthy of awards itself, it is also the way Argentines cook the beef that really makes it so flavorful. Despite what you may think, only salt and sometimes lemon juice is added to the steak before throwing it on the grill (a la parrilla) or charcoal or wood. Traditional gaucho (cowboy) style (asados) barbecues use no marinades to grill the beef. The meat is slowly cooked as so to retain the natural juices and flavors.

Unless you meet a local who invites you to a family asado, or barbecue, you’ll likely be seeking out restaurants on your own. Buenos Aires is filled with an abundance of five-star bistros and hole-in-the-wall parrilla joints.

Below are a few things you should keep in mind as you open the menu:

The finest cuts of beef have the highest price tags. The Argentine peso took a dive in 2001 and has been trying to reclaim itself ever since, because of this, the price is ridiculously low. The most popular cut is bife de chorozo, a steak cut off the rib and equivalent to rump or sirloin. bife de lomo is tenderloin, bife de costilla is similar to the T-bone and is the largest cut of beef. Unlike many other countries, cheaper cuts like shank and brisket are well-received by porteños. Called churrasco, these cuts are inexpensive, but full of flavor.

Oh and with beef such a serious business, servers will make sure to ask how you’d like the meat cooked—poco hecho (rare), al punto (medium) or bien hecho (well-done).

A grilled steak with a bottle of red wine only will cost you about 13 U.S. dollars. Of course it hasn’t always been this way. Pre-2001, when bank scandals rattled all of Argentina, the price would have been double, if not more. To indulge your taste buds and body in a five-star meal worthy for a king, but economical enough for a backpacker, get to Buenos Aires as quick as you can.

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