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If you love barbecue, you need to try Portuguese BBQ. It’s a style of cooking that involves grilling meat over charcoal or wood fire, seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic, herbs, and spices. It’s also served with various sauces, such as peri peri sauce (a hot sauce made with chili peppers), garlic butter sauce (a creamy sauce made with butter and garlic), or chimichurri sauce (a green sauce made with parsley, garlic, vinegar, and oil).
Portuguese BBQ is not only delicious but also fun and easy to make at home. You don’t need a lot of fancy equipment or ingredients. All you need is a grill (preferably a churrasqueira grill), some skewers, some tongs, some knives, some thermometers, and some good quality meat. You can also add some corn on the cob, some rice, some beans, some salad, some bread, and some drinks to make it a complete meal.
In this article, we’ll show you everything you need to know about Portuguese BBQ. We’ll tell you about its history and origins, its key ingredients and equipment, its best recipes, its best sides and drinks, and its FAQs. By the end of this article, you’ll be ready to host your own Portuguese BBQ party and impress your friends and family with your grilling skills.
The History and Origins of Portuguese BBQ
Portuguese BBQ is also known as churrasco in Portuguese. Churrasco means “barbecue” or “grilled meat” in general. However, it also refers to a specific style of cooking that originated from the gauchos of South America.
The gauchos, known as the cowboys of Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and southern Brazil, inhabited the vast grasslands called the Pampas. Their livelihood revolved around cattle, which they raised for meat, leather, and milk. To cook their meat, they developed a unique method over open fire pits. Large chunks of meat were skewered on metal or wooden rods and slow-roasted over hot coals or wood embers. Seasoned with salt, herbs, and spices, the meat’s juices were used to create flavorful sauces, combining vinegar, oil, garlic, and chili peppers.
The churrasco style of cooking practiced by the gauchos eventually spread beyond South America, reaching Portugal and Brazil. In the 19th century, Portugal embraced churrasco, particularly in the northern regions. The Portuguese adapted the gaucho’s techniques and infused their own distinct flavors and ingredients. Their repertoire expanded to include various meats like chicken, pork, lamb, and fish, paired with a range of sauces such as peri peri sauce, garlic butter sauce, and chimichurri sauce.
In Brazil, churrasco gained national prominence and became a cultural symbol. Brazilians put their own spin on the gaucho’s method, introducing unique variations. They incorporated a wider selection of beef cuts like picanha (top sirloin cap), alcatra (rump steak), fraldinha (flank steak), and maminha (tri-tip). Exotic meats like wild boar, alligator, ostrich, and quail also found their way onto the grills. Brazil further innovated with the rodizio style of service, where waiters would bring skewers of meat directly to diners’ tables, expertly slicing them onto individual plates.
Today, churrasco has gained global popularity and is savored in various corners of the world. Its charm is particularly evident in Portugal and Brazil, where dedicated churrascarias, specialized restaurants, thrive. Churrascarias offer a delightful array of meats, sauces, sides, and beverages at a fixed price, while creating a vibrant and festive atmosphere for their patrons.
The Key Ingredients and Equipment for Portuguese BBQ
To make authentic Portuguese BBQ at home, you need to have some key ingredients and equipment. Here are some of them:
The most important ingredient for Portuguese BBQ is the meat. You can use any kind of meat you like, but some of the most common ones are:
- Beef: Beef takes center stage in Portuguese BBQ, where it shines as succulent chunks or steaks skewered on metal rods. When it comes to grilling, the best cuts to savor include picanha (top sirloin cap), alcatra (rump steak), fraldinha (flank steak), maminha (tri-tip), contrafilé (strip steak), and costela (beef ribs).
- Chicken: Chicken is a beloved choice in Portuguese BBQ, often marinated in flavorful peri peri sauce or garlic butter sauce before being grilled whole or in delectable pieces. Top picks for grilling include frango inteiro (whole chicken), frango no espeto (chicken on a skewer), coxinha da asa (chicken drumettes), sobrecoxa (chicken thighs), and peito de frango (chicken breast).
- Pork: Pork makes its presence felt in Portuguese BBQ, delighting palates with its well-seasoned chunks and ribs. Salt, pepper, garlic, and herbs infuse the meat with enticing flavors. Must-try pork cuts for grilling encompass lombo de porco (pork loin), costelinha de porco (pork ribs), linguiça (pork sausage), and leitão (suckling pig).
- Seafood: For seafood enthusiasts, Portuguese BBQ offers a delightful array of options. Seafood is seasoned with salt, lemon, garlic, and herbs, and then expertly grilled whole or in delectable pieces. The standout stars of seafood grilling include sardinha (sardines), salmão (salmon), camarão (shrimp), lula (squid), polvo (octopus), and bacalhau (cod).
The sauces are another essential ingredient for Portuguese BBQ. They add flavor, moisture, and spice to the grilled meats. You can make your own sauces or buy them ready-made from the store. Some of the most popular sauces are:
- Peri Peri Sauce: Bursting with flavor, peri peri sauce is a fiery blend of chili peppers, garlic, vinegar, oil, salt, and occasionally infused with lemon juice or herbs. Originating from Africa, its popularity spread to Portugal and Brazil during the era of Portuguese colonization. This zesty sauce adds a tantalizing kick when used to marinate or baste chicken or seafood before and during grilling, and also serves as a delectable dipping sauce.
- Garlic Butter Sauce: Indulge in the rich creaminess of garlic butter sauce, crafted with butter, garlic, salt, pepper, and sometimes enhanced with hints of parsley or lemon juice. Ideal for marinating or basting chicken or pork prior to grilling, this luscious sauce infuses each bite with savory goodness. It also doubles as a delectable dipping sauce, perfect for complementing your grilled delights.
- Chimichurri Sauce: Embark on a flavor-packed journey with chimichurri sauce, a vibrant green concoction composed of parsley, garlic, vinegar, oil, salt, pepper, and often complemented by oregano or chili flakes. Originating from Argentina, this sauce gained popularity in Brazil through the influence of gauchos. It finds its ideal pairing when used to marinate or baste beef or lamb before and during grilling, elevating the flavors to new heights. Delightful as a dipping sauce too, chimichurri adds a fresh and tangy element to your grilled meats.
The spices are another important ingredient for Portuguese BBQ. They add flavor, aroma, and color to the grilled meats. You can use any spices you like, but some of the most common ones are:
- Salt: As the cornerstone of flavor, salt takes center stage in Portuguese BBQ. It serves as the foundational spice, enhancing the meat’s natural taste and aiding in the formation of a delectable crust. Whether opting for coarse or fine salt, the choice is yours. For added depth, flavored salts like garlic, onion, or smoked varieties can elevate the seasoning experience.
- Pepper: Adding a touch of heat and pungency, pepper proves to be a versatile companion in Portuguese BBQ. It harmonizes beautifully with salt, infusing the meat with a delightful kick. Be it black, white, or red pepper, the selection depends on your personal preference. Whether opting for whole peppercorns or ground pepper, the choice is yours to tailor the intensity to your liking.
- Paprika: Known for its vibrant color and subtle sweetness, paprika, derived from dried and ground red peppers, lends a distinctive flavor to Portuguese BBQ. It imparts a mild yet flavorful profile to the meat. Sweet or smoked paprika can be chosen, adding depth and complexity to your culinary creation. For those craving an extra kick, hot paprika offers an enticing option.
- Oregano: Infusing a fragrant and earthy essence, oregano, an herb of choice, elevates the meat’s flavors. It complements the likes of garlic, lemon, and vinegar, adding a distinctive aromatic note. Whether using fresh or dried oregano, availability dictates the choice. Alternatively, exploring complementary herbs such as thyme, rosemary, or bay leaves can enhance the overall taste profile.
- Cumin: Introducing a warm and nutty undertone, cumin contributes to the tapestry of flavors in Portuguese BBQ. It pairs harmoniously with chili peppers, garlic, and vinegar, imparting a distinct richness. Embrace whole or ground cumin, depending on your preference, or venture into an array of other spices like coriander, turmeric, or cinnamon to further enrich your culinary journey.
The tools are another essential element for Portuguese BBQ. They help you to prepare, cook, and serve the grilled meats. You don’t need a lot of fancy tools, but some of the most useful ones are:
- Churrasqueira Grill: The churrasqueira grill, purpose-built for churrasco-style cooking, boasts a metal or brick structure adorned with a top grate and a drip-catching tray beneath. Fueled by charcoal or wood, it generates intense heat and smoke that infuse the meat with a distinctive flavor and captivating aroma. Churrasqueira grills can be purchased from specialty stores or online, or crafted at home using bricks and metal rods for a DIY experience.
- Skewers: Metal or wooden skewers serve as invaluable tools, allowing you to pierce and secure the meat while grilling. They facilitate easy and even rotation over the fire, ensuring uniform cooking. Skewers can be acquired from grocery stores or online, or crafted at home using metal wire or wooden sticks.
- Tongs: Metal or plastic tongs, indispensable during grilling, aid in grasping and flipping the meat with ease. They safeguard your fingers from burns and prevent accidental meat drops. Tongs are readily available at grocery stores or online, or you can utilize kitchen scissors or pliers as a substitute.
- Knives: Metal knives prove their worth in cutting and slicing meat both before and after grilling. They enable precise portioning, removal of excess fat or bones, and presentation of delectable servings. Knives can be purchased from grocery stores or online, or any sharp kitchen knife can be utilized.
- Thermometers: Thermometers, pivotal in monitoring meat temperature during grilling, ensure optimal doneness and prevent overcooking or undercooking. They provide the confidence to achieve desired results. Thermometers are widely accessible at grocery stores or online, or alternatively, you can rely on the tactile method of using your finger to gauge meat firmness.
The Best Recipes for Portuguese BBQ
Now that you have all the ingredients and equipment for Portuguese BBQ, it’s time to try some recipes. Here are some easy and delicious recipes that you can make for your next barbecue party:
Peri Peri Chicken
Peri peri chicken is one of the most popular dishes in Portuguese BBQ. It’s made with chicken that is marinated in peri peri sauce and grilled until juicy and tender.
- 4 chicken quarters (legs and thighs)
- 1/4 cup peri peri sauce
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Lemon wedges for serving
- Rinse the chicken and pat it dry with paper towels. Cut some slits on the skin and flesh to help the marinade penetrate.
- In a large ziplock bag or a baking dish, toss the chicken with the peri peri sauce and season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to overnight, turning occasionally.
- Preheat your grill to medium-high heat and oil the grate. Remove the chicken from the marinade and shake off any excess. Reserve the marinade for basting.
- Grill the chicken for about 25 to 30 minutes, turning and basting frequently, until the skin is charred and the meat is cooked through. The internal temperature should reach 165°F (74°C) when inserted into the thickest part of the meat.
- Transfer the chicken to a platter and let it rest for 10 minutes. Serve with lemon wedges and more peri peri sauce if desired.
Picanha steak is one of the most popular cuts of beef in Brazilian BBQ. It’s a tender and flavorful cut of top sirloin cap that is sliced and seasoned with salt and pepper and grilled to medium-rare perfection.
- 2 pounds picanha steak (top sirloin cap)
- Coarse salt and pepper to taste
- Garlic butter sauce for serving
- Cut the picanha steak into 1-inch thick slices, keeping the fat cap intact. Season both sides with salt and pepper.
- Preheat your grill to high heat and oil the grate. Grill the steak slices for about 4 minutes per side, or until they reach your desired doneness. The internal temperature should be 130°F (54°C) for medium-rare, 140°F (60°C) for medium, or 150°F (66°C) for well-done.
- Transfer the steak slices to a platter and let them rest for 10 minutes. Serve with garlic butter sauce if desired.
Pork Ribs with Garlic Butter Sauce
Pork ribs with garlic butter sauce are another delicious dish in Portuguese BBQ. They are made with pork ribs that are slow-cooked in a foil packet with garlic, butter, salt, pepper, and herbs until tender and then grilled until crisp.
- 4 pounds pork ribs
- 1/4 cup butter
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 sprigs rosemary
- 2 sprigs thyme
- Aluminum foil
- Preheat your oven to 300°F (150°C) and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Cut the ribs into individual pieces and arrange them on the prepared baking sheet.
- In a small saucepan over low heat, melt the butter and add the garlic, salt, and pepper. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and golden.
- Drizzle the garlic butter sauce over the ribs and toss to coat. Place the rosemary and thyme sprigs on top of the ribs. Cover with another sheet of aluminum foil and seal the edges tightly.
- Bake the ribs for about 2 hours, or until they are fork-tender. Remove from the oven and let them rest for 10 minutes.
- Preheat your grill to high heat and oil the grate. Remove the ribs from the foil packet and discard the herbs. Grill the ribs for about 10 minutes, turning occasionally, until they are charred and crisp.
- Transfer the ribs to a platter and serve with more garlic butter sauce if desired.
Grilled Sardines with Lemon and Herbs
Grilled sardines with lemon and herbs are a simple but tasty dish in Portuguese BBQ. They are made with fresh sardines that are cleaned and grilled whole with lemon, garlic, salt, pepper, parsley, and olive oil.
- 16 fresh sardines
- 2 lemons
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- Rinse the sardines and pat them dry with paper towels. Cut off their heads and tails and remove their guts. Rinse them again and pat them dry.
- Cut one lemon into thin slices and squeeze the juice of the other lemon into a small bowl. Add the garlic, salt, pepper, parsley, and olive oil to the bowl and whisk to combine.
- Preheat your grill to medium-high heat and oil the grate. Stuff each sardine with a lemon slice and brush them with some of the lemon herb mixture. Reserve some of the mixture for serving.
- Grill the sardines for about 3 minutes per side, or until they are cooked through and flaky. The skin should be crisp and golden.
- Transfer the sardines to a platter and drizzle with more lemon herb mixture if desired.
Corn on the Cob with Peri Peri Butter
Corn on the cob with peri peri butter is a simple but delicious side dish for Portuguese BBQ. It’s made with corn cobs that are wrapped in foil packets with butter, salt, pepper, and peri peri sauce and grilled until tender and charred.
- 8 corn cobs
- 1/4 cup butter
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup peri peri sauce
- Aluminum foil
- Peel the corn cobs and remove the silk. Cut them in half if they are too large.
- In a small saucepan over low heat, melt the butter and season with salt and pepper. Stir in the peri peri sauce and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until well combined.
- Tear off 8 pieces of aluminum foil and place one corn cob on each piece. Drizzle some of the peri peri butter mixture over each corn cob and wrap them tightly in the foil.
- Preheat your grill to medium-high heat and oil the grate. Grill the corn cobs for about 15 to 20 minutes, turning occasionally, until they are tender and charred.
- Transfer the corn cobs to a platter and serve with more peri peri butter if desired.
The Best Sides and Drinks for Portuguese BBQ
To complete your Portuguese BBQ meal, you need to have some sides and drinks to go with your grilled meats. Here are some of the best ones:
The sides are the dishes that accompany your main course and add variety and balance to your meal. Some of the most common sides for Portuguese BBQ are:
- Rice: As a staple food in Portugal and Brazil, rice serves as the ideal foundation for your grilled meats. Create a simple yet satisfying bed of plain white rice or explore the world of flavors with options like garlic rice, coconut rice, or tomato rice.
- Beans: Embrace the essence of tradition with beans, another staple in Portuguese and Brazilian cuisine, offering a rich source of protein and fiber. Prepare delectable variations such as black beans, pinto beans, or kidney beans, simmered with the delightful combination of onion, garlic, bacon, bay leaves, and salt. For an iconic dish, indulge in feijoada, a hearty stew of beans, pork, beef, sausage, and aromatic spices.
- Salad: Elevate your Portuguese BBQ experience with a refreshing and healthful side dish of salad. Customize your creation to suit your taste, whether it’s a crisp green salad, vibrant tomato salad, refreshing cucumber salad, or a comforting potato salad. Dress it with a harmonious medley of vinegar, oil, salt, pepper, lemon juice, or mayonnaise to enhance the flavors.
- Bread: Savor the delightful accompaniment of bread, a satisfying addition to Portuguese BBQ. Choose from a variety of options, including the beloved pão de queijo (cheese bread), classic pão francês (French bread), or the rustic broa de milho (corn bread). Serve the bread as is or pair it with butter, cheese, or jam for added indulgence.
- Farofa: Experience the unique delight of farofa, an extraordinary side dish that adds a special touch to Portuguese BBQ. Crafted from toasted cassava flour, it combines the richness of butter, the depth of onion and garlic, the savory notes of bacon, the richness of eggs, the freshness of parsley, and the perfect touch of salt. This crunchy and nutty creation complements any type of meat, elevating the flavors to new heights.
The drinks are the beverages that quench your thirst and enhance your enjoyment of your meal. Some of the best drinks for Portuguese BBQ are:
- Sangria: Indulge in the fruity and refreshing allure of sangria, a perfect beverage for hot days. This delightful concoction combines red wine, orange juice, lemon juice, sugar, sliced fruits like oranges, apples, and peaches, and ice. For a twist, white wine or sparkling wine can be used in place of red wine.
- Caipirinha: Immerse yourself in the sweet and tangy notes of caipirinha, a classic Brazilian cocktail. Crafted with cachaça (a distilled spirit made from sugarcane juice), lime juice, sugar, and ice, this libation tantalizes the taste buds. For a variation, vodka or rum can be substituted for cachaça.
- Beer: Embrace the simplicity and satisfaction of beer, a versatile companion to any barbecue. Choose from a wide range of beer styles, catering to your personal preferences. In Portugal and Brazil, popular options include Sagres (a pale lager), Super Bock (a dark lager), or Skol (a light lager).
- Wine: Elevate your dining experience with the sophistication and elegance of wine, a beverage that complements various cuisines. Explore the diverse world of wines and select your preferred varietals. In Portugal, Vinho Verde (a young white wine), Douro (a full-bodied red wine), or Port (a fortified sweet wine) stand out among popular choices.
- Water: Stay refreshed and hydrated with the essential drink, water. Enjoy it plain or infuse it with refreshing flavors like lemon or cucumber. For those seeking a sparkling twist, sparkling water offers a delightful alternative.
Portuguese BBQ offers a delectable and enjoyable experience, perfect for gathering with loved ones. With straightforward ingredients and equipment, you can easily recreate this culinary delight at home. The freedom to choose from an array of meats, sauces, spices, sides, and drinks allows you to tailor your Portuguese BBQ to your unique preferences. Don’t hesitate to explore different recipes and combinations to develop your own personal Portuguese BBQ style.
We sincerely hope you found this article informative and inspiring, unveiling the wonders of Portuguese BBQ. Give the shared recipes a try and relish in the joy of grilling. If you have any questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to leave them below. We value your feedback and would be thrilled to engage in conversation. Happy grilling!
Here are some frequently asked questions about Portuguese BBQ:
What is the difference between Portuguese BBQ and Brazilian BBQ?
Portuguese BBQ and Brazilian BBQ are both based on the churrasco style of cooking, but they have some differences in terms of ingredients, flavors, and techniques. Portuguese BBQ tends to use more chicken, pork, and seafood, while Brazilian BBQ tends to use more beef, lamb, and exotic meats. Portuguese BBQ also uses more peri peri sauce, garlic butter sauce, and chimichurri sauce, while Brazilian BBQ uses more salt, pepper, and garlic. Portuguese BBQ also uses a churrasqueira grill, while Brazilian BBQ uses a rodizio grill.
How do you make a churrasqueira grill at home?
A churrasqueira grill is a special type of grill that is designed for churrasco style cooking. It has a metal or brick structure with a grate on top and a tray underneath to catch the drippings. It uses charcoal or wood as fuel and produces high heat and smoke that give the meat a distinctive flavor and aroma. You can buy a churrasqueira grill from specialty stores or online, or you can make your own with some bricks and metal rods.
Are there vegetarian options available for Portuguese BBQ?
While Portuguese BBQ is primarily focused on meat, there are vegetarian options available. Grilled vegetables, such as bell peppers, zucchini, and eggplant, can be marinated and grilled to create delicious plant-based dishes.
What is the significance of bay leaves in Portuguese BBQ marinades?
Bay leaves are a staple in Portuguese cuisine and are often used in marinades to add a subtle aromatic flavor. They enhance the overall taste of the meat and contribute to the authenticity of Portuguese BBQ.