According to the data collected by the Argentine chamber of industry and commerce of meats in 2012, the average Argentine consumes 64.1 kilos (141 pounds) of Argentine beef per year. A whopping 2.8 billion tons of beef were consumed nationally. Keep in mind that the average American consumed 26.3 kilos (57.4 lbs.) of beef and the average Canadian ate 19.9 kilos (44.1 lbs.). Not surprisingly, there is no official record of the amount of vegetarians in the country, but according to the Argentine Society of Nutrition (SAN), the number hovers between 1 and 2 percent. Going to a barbeque has become less intimidating for vegetarians at parillas (grills) in the past few years, but menu options are still limited to grilled vegetables, non-meat empanadas, salads, and desserts.
I remember once asking a guy from Comodoro de Rivadavia, a city in Buenos Aires province, how much meat he ate per week and his reply was, “I was born with a piece of steak in my mouth so I haven’t really been keeping track since then”. So when you go to a restaurant you need to keep in mind that people are very particular about how their beef is cooked. Luckily there are predominantly only three cooking temperatures: Jugoso (medium rare), al punto (medium well), and bien cocido (well done).
If you want to order a very rare steak, you’re going to have to make a strong effort to emphasize “jugoso” by saying “bien bien jugoso”. Remember, try to emphasize this as much as possible. Don’t mind the aberrant and spurning faces of waiters and cooks. They might even convince you that you don’t know what you are doing and that you are disgracing a source of national pride. If you like rare steak, don’t be afraid to order it with a tall glass of Malbec. But remember that Argentines are not used to eating rare steaks. For those Neanderthals that like ordering a black and blue steak or burger, get ready for an incredulous restaurant staff and protests from the asador or cook.
‘Al punto’ borders between medium and medium well. The process of cooking meat in Argentina is much more drawn out and meticulous than in many other countries. It’s very common for cuts of meat to cook for at least two hours over low heat charcoals before they are served. So although a medium-well cut of steak might not appeal to you in your native country, the steak will be just as succulent and juicy as a medium rare, but with less blood.
“Bien cocido” or well-done is the safest option if you’re worried about temperatures. You’ll find no blood or red in the middle and are guaranteed to have a very well-cooked piece of meat.
If you can remember these three temperatures: jugoso, al punto, and bien cocido, you shouldn’t have any problems with meat temperatures when ordering in restaurants. Buen provecho!
Written by Brian Athey