October 2016 — The Wood-fired Grilling Issue
I love grilling with wood for so many reasons. Not only does it create incredible smoky flavors, but there’s something very primal and satisfying about mastering a live wood fire. This month I’m sharing recipes for two traditional Argentinian dishes: Grilled Provolone served with crusty bread and garlic herb oil, and a flavorful grilled skirt steak topped with fresh chimichurri. I have also included our newest video in which I share my tips for cooking a wood-fired rotisserie pork roast on the Gaucho Grill. To round things out is a grilling guide for the Gaucho, complete with tips, tricks and recipes for cooking with a wood fire.
Provoleta (Grilled Provolone)
Provoleta is a classic starter course at Argentinean asados. It cooks quickly, and it can be tricky to pull the provolone off the grill before it melts through the grates. This is where Kalamazoo’s custom vegetable pattern grilling grates are particularly helpful. The flat profile and small cutouts support the cheese and make it more manageable over the fire. We recommend leaving the provolone at room temperature for an hour or more before cooking so that the cheese melts more evenly when grilled.
- 1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves, chopped
- 1 ½ tablespoons olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
- Red pepper flakes to taste
- 5 slices rustic bread, cut into 1 inch thick slices
- Olive oil
- ¼ pound coppa, thinly sliced
- ½ pound provolone (a round approximately 5 inches diameter by 1 inch thick)
Tips for Cooking on a Kalamazoo Gaucho Grill
Set up a double- or triple-stacked pile of wood on one side of the grill. Plan on starting your fire about 45 minutes before you want to begin cooking. A two-layer fire will burn faster, which will allow you to start cooking earlier, but it will create fewer embers. If you’re pressed for time, you can use wood chunks instead of splits as they burn down to coals more quickly. However chunks will not last as long as splits. Oak is a nice all-purpose, easy-to-find choice and will create the most traditional Argentinean flavor.
Cook over a direct wood fire that has burned down to coals. If you are cooking just this recipe, you shouldn’t need to replenish the fire. For tips on building and managing a wood fire in your Kalamazoo Gaucho Grill, see our post about cooking Argentinean-style Asado on the Gaucho Grill.
Position the grill grate over the embers at a height that will just barely allow you to hold your hand a couple inches above the grate for a “5 Mississippi” count (this will be approximately 500 degrees).
Provolone grilling on the Kalamazoo Gaucho Grill
Cooking the Food
To create the herb oil, stir together the oregano, olive oil, garlic and red pepper flakes in a small bowl. Reserve.
Generously coat both sides of the sliced bread with olive oil. Place the bread on the grill grate directly above the coals and grill at about 500 degrees on each side until nicely toasted. Remove the bread from the grill and cut each slice into thinner toast sticks. Place the provolone on the grill grate directly above the fire and grill briefly on each side until it starts to melt. Using a large, flat grilling spatula, transfer the provolone to a plate and spoon the herb oil on top. Arrange the coppa slices around the cheese and serve immediately with the grilled bread.
Argentinian-style Grilled Skirt Steak
At Argentinean asados, hosts typically plan to serve .5lb – 1.25 pounds of meat per person. You can scale down if that seems like too much for your guests. We used skirt steak in this recipe because it’s very flavorful, but you can follow these guidelines to cook any cut you like; sirloin, flank, and tenderloin are all classic Argentinean options as well. Argentinians traditionally cook grass-fed beef, as do we, but you can certainly use grain-fed beef if you prefer. This recipe is incredibly simple and delicious. Fresh, good quality ingredients and heat from flavorful wood embers are the key components.
- ½ ounce fresh oregano
- 1 ½ ounces fresh parsley
- ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup sherry vinegar (I use BLiS 9 Maple Sherry Vinegar)
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 pinches ground cayenne pepper
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 4 beef skirt steaks (grass-fed preferred)
- Fine gray sea salt to taste
- Olive oil
Tips for Preparing This Recipe on a Kalamazoo Gaucho Grill
Start a double-stacked pile of wood on one side of the grill about 45 minutes before you want to start cooking. If you plan to grill much more than the steak in this recipe, create a three-layer fire instead. A two-layer fire will burn faster, which will allow you to start cooking earlier, but it won’t create enough embers for all-day grilling. If you’re really in a hurry, you can use wood chunks instead of splits as they burn down to coals more quickly. However, chunks will not last as long as splits. Oak is a nice all-purpose, easy-to-find choice and will create the most traditional Argentinean flavor.
Once the wood is stacked, run the ignition burners for 5 minutes to start the fire. For more tips on starting and maintaining your fire read our post about cooking Argentinean-Style Asado on the Gaucho Grill.
Always keep the grill grates well above the flames to prevent soot from building up on them. The soot can transfer to the food, discoloring it and creating undesirable flavors.
Preparing the Food
Prepare the chimichurri by combining all the ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth, then adjust the taste with more salt if needed. Refrigerate until it’s time to use it, but no more than 5 hours.
Skirt steak often has one end that is thicker than the other. If this is the case, cut each piece of skirt steak in two, to separate the thinner tapered end from the thicker part of the muscle. Rub with oil and salt each piece liberally. Place the thicker pieces on the grill first directly above the embers, then add the thinner pieces approximately a minute later. This will ensure each piece cooks evenly, to the correct doneness. Rotate each piece 90 degrees after approximately a minute. Let the steaks cook for approximately another minute before flipping them and repeating the process.
Once the meat is brown on the outside but still rare on the inside, raise the grill grate up higher above the coals and let the steaks cook for about 3 more minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches between 125-135 degrees Fahrenheit. Pull the steaks off the grill and let rest for 2-3 minutes. We recommend cutting the steak into 4 or 5 inch sections, making it easier to cut across the grain. Slicing across the grain is particularly important in ensuring the steak is tender when served. Drizzle the steak with chimichurri and enjoy.
Wood-fired Rotisserie Pork on the Gaucho Grill
The Gaucho is a wood-fired Argentinian-style grill. Control the intensity of the heat by raising and lowering the grill rack above the flavorful wood fire. In this video Kalamazoo Grillmaster Russ Faulk rotisseries a herb crusted pork roast over a wood fire on the Gaucho Grill. Watch as Russ shares his tips for rotisserie roasting on the Kalamazoo Gaucho Grill. For the Garlic Rosemary Herb Crust recipe, see grillmaster Russ' recipe for Smoke-Roasted Rack of Lamb. The rub is very versatile and goes particularly well with grilled pork and lamb.
To get the most out of your Gaucho Grill, view our Gaucho Grilling Guide for tips on building your fire, fire management, some of our favorite recipes and grill cleaning.
Our Guide to the Argentinian-style Gaucho Grill
Cooking on the Argentinian-style Gaucho Grill is an experience for all the senses. The sound of the crackling fire, the heat, the aromatic smoke, and the incredible flavors of food hot off the grill – it is truly primal and immersive. This guide will teach you tips, tricks, and recipes to help you get the most enjoyment out of your Kalamazoo Gaucho Grill. Master the art of live-fire grilling and learn what makes this ancient style of cooking so satisfying.
The Gaucho Grill is designed to provide the ultimate primal, live-fire cooking experience – and that starts with the way you build your fire. We recommend using hardwood logs, but if you’re really in a hurry to get the fire going you can use hardwood chunks instead.
Configure your grill grates before you start the fire. If you are going to use the rotisserie, it is wise to remove the grill grate(s) necessary to make room for the spit before you start the fire. If you are leaving one or two grates in the grill to use at the same time as the rotisserie, now is also a good time to position one of the rotisserie forks on the spit. That way, when you add your food to the spit later on, you know it will be in the right position and you won’t have to make the adjustments while working above a hot fire.
Two of grill grates have been removed from the Gaucho to accommodate the Rotisserie
How to Build a Cooking Fire
Always raise the grill rack high above the firebox before building your fire. If the grill grate is too low, the flames will deposit soot on the grates (and therefore, on your food when you start grilling).
For most cooking sessions, we recommend a three-layer “log cabin” stack of wood, which starts quickly and cooks for a long time. As the wood is consumed and turned to embers, the fire will collapse on itself into an even layer of coals across the fire grates. The wood stack can be confined to a single area of the grill if you want to cook in just one area of the grill.
To build a three-layer fire, lay a single layer of hardwood limbs or wood splits so they run front to back on top of the fire grate, leaving a little room between each piece of wood for air circulation. Lay the next layer of wood perpendicular to the first, again leaving space for air between each piece. The third layer should be perpendicular to the second layer and in the same orientation as the first layer.
A three layer log fire in the firebox of the Gaucho Grill
If you are only planning on grilling for a short period and want to get the fire going faster, you can use a two-layer instead of a three-layer fire. Follow the same directions as you would for the three-layer fire, simply omitting the last layer.
Starting the Fire
Once your wood is stacked, fire up the starter burners by pressing in the REAR STARTER BURNER control knob for 5 seconds. While continuing to press in the control knob, turn it to the HIGH position. Ignition should take place within 4 to 5 seconds. If it doesn’t, turn the knob to the OFF position and wait 5 minutes for the gas to dissipate before trying again. Repeat this process to light the front starter burner, and keep the burners on for 5-10 minutes or until your fire is strong and self-sustaining. At his point you can turn the burner off.
Preparing to Cook
There is only one rule when it comes to cooking on the Gaucho Grill: clean your preheated grill grate before putting any food on the grill. We recommend using a stiff, stainless steel, brass, or wooden grill brush. Steel wool, chemicals, or any other type of grill brush should never be used on your Gaucho grill grate. We strongly recommend a pair of long insulated grilling gloves as well as long tongs. If you have two pairs of tongs available, use one for moving burning logs in the firebox and the other for handling your food.
Cooking With Flames
We do not recommend trying to cook over a roaring fire. When cooking over an open fire it should be a low flame that is well under control. One of our favorite heat sources to cook over is an offset fire – particularly when rotisserie roasting. To create an offset fire, use tongs to move the logs into position along the front and rear of the firebox once the fire is strong.
An offset fire in the Gaucho Grill; logs are moved to the front and rear of the firebox
Cooking Over Coals
Cooking over coals is the classic Argentinian method. Let the fire burn down until you have a bed of coals 2 to 3 inches deep; this can take an hour or more. You can always add wood, one or two pieces at a time, as needed to maintain the coals as you cook. Coals will deliver the most even heat, but the wood-fired flavor can be more subtle.
Coals in the firebox of the Gaucho Grill, ready to cook over
Managing the Fire
For long cooking sessions, dedicate one end of the grill to generating new coals. You can keep a fire going at this end by adding one or two extra splits of wood at a time. Use the burnt-down logs or glowing coals from this area to replenish your cooking fire as needed.
There are two methods for controlling the intensity of the heat as you cook:
Adjust the height of the grill grate and rotisserie spit.Use the 30-inch spoked wheel to raise the grill grate high above the fire for lower-temperature smoke-roasting, or lower the grill rack for searing heat. We love to sear steaks and chops first and then raise the grate to continue cooking them through using a more gentle heat.Adjust the location and density of the fire.
Adjust the location and density of the fire.You can establish distinct temperature zones in the firebox of the grill by adjusting the density of the burning wood or coals under the food. This is particularly useful if you plan on grilling several types of food at the same time that require different cooking temperatures. For spit roasting on the rotisserie, we prefer to use indirect heat. To create and indirect fire, move the burning logs or hot coals to the front and rear of the firebox so that there is no direct heat below the spit. This technique can be used when cooking on the grill grates as well.
How do you know what temperature you’re cooking at? A good rule of thumb for determining your grill temperature is to hold your hand two or three inches above the grill grate; when you can hold it there for a 5-Mississippi count before pulling it away, the temperature is around 500°F. If you can keep it there longer, the temperature is lower. If you can’t stand the heat for five seconds, you’re cooking hotter.
Watch the Gaucho Grill in Action
- Steven Raichlen’s Prime Rib on the Gaucho Grill
- Steven Raichlen's Philly Cheesesteak on the Gaucho Grill
- Steven Raichlen’s Capetown Lamb on the Gaucho Grill
A Few of our Favorite Gaucho Grill Recipes
- Provoleta (Grilled Provolone)
- Argentinian-Style Grilled Skirt Steak
- Spit-Roasted Wood-Grilled Prime Rib
- Smoke-Roasted Long-Bone Ribeyes
- Caveman Corn
Argentinian-Style Grilled Skirt Steak with Chimichurri
- Premium grilling gloves to keep your hands and forearms protected
- Two pairs of long grilling tongs; one to move the wood and another to handle food
- A stainless steel grill brush
- Wood – plan on about a bundle of wood per hour for long grilling sessions
- Consider custom grilling grates optimized for fish, meat, and vegetables for a superior grilling experience
- Gaucho Grill Use & Care Guide for troubleshooting, installation instructions and how-to guidance
Long tongs and a good pair of gloves are essential grilling tools
Caring for Your Gaucho Grill
Laser-cut custom grill grates should be treated like a cast iron skillets. Before using them the first time, season them by rubbing vegetable oil into the top and bottom surfaces of the grates, placing them in the grill and starting the fire. As you continue to use them, they will get darker in color and more seasoned.
The Kalamazoo K750GS Freestanding Gaucho Grill with Side Burner
Before each cooking session, once the grill is preheated, use a stiff stainless steel grill brush to clean the grilling surface.
Use a citrus-based or organic degreaser on the exterior of your Gaucho Grill. To clean up burnt-on food, we highly recommend using Bar Keepers Friend and a wet microfiber cloth – it works wonders. Follow the grain direction of the stainless steel to avoid scratches. If you do get a scratch, you can use our Scratch-B-Gone kit to restore the original finish. After cleaning, rinse off all cleaners, let the grill dry, apply stainless steel polish and wipe off with a microfiber cloth.
If you live near the ocean, your Gaucho Grill will need a little extra love to prevent rust. To keep it in optimal condition we suggest cleaning the exterior stainless steel surfaces at least twice a month to remove salt. However, should some rust spots occur, they can be easily removed with Bar Keepers Friend.