The Churrascaria Experience

Even though Argentineans and Uruguayans may claim it’s theirs, the Brazilians have also appropriated the churrasco, much like the falafel belongs to half a dozen middle-eastern countries.

Churrasco is a popular Brazilian style barbecue that offers a wide variety of different cuts of beef, pork, lamb, chicken and fish, which are slowly cooked on special grills to preserve all their natural juices and flavors. Churrascarias are restaurants that serve endless rounds of meats on an all-you-can-eat basis, with drinks and desserts served separately. The most sought after meat is the “picanha”, aka rump steak, Brazil’s favorite cut due to its blend of softness and flavour. Ideal for those nights you want to treat yourself to lots of good food.

The modern Brazilian churrascaria steakhouse offers not just grilled meat, but a whole “all you eat” experience involving: cow, chicken, pork, goat, seafood, game, sushi, salads and traditional Brazilian finger food. For drinks they go beyond the beer and caipirinhas, some offering quite an impressive wine list. So, the churrascaria is not only obligatory, but possibly an experience to relive several times during your trip. Hence, the following guide on how best to enjoy a premium churrascaria.

Spoiler alert: there is no trick that will let you eat more than your stomach can handle.

The Chinese strategy is to go in, eat like there is no tomorrow, as if it were a race and be out of the place in one hour, burping, with your belt starting to rip. You will eat everything they have, in no particular order, as long as it ends up inside you.

The French strategy is the opposite: appreciate different things individually, spaced out and slowly. Kick off with a liquor and accompany the food with wine or caipirinhas. You can indulge in the items on the salad bar followed by the grilled meats or seafood, but not both, because you are not a barbarian. Here you will focus on what you like, not on quantity or value.

The Brazilian strategy is to eat as much value and stay the longest, while ordering non-traditional items. Here you befriend the Maitre´D before asking him for the special meats of the day, which may be lamb ribs, extra large shrimp, roast boar, quail, trout, raw tuna or alligator. While he sees what he can do, you visit the salad bar, just to ease your guilt. You limit your carb intake of course, since your goal is to eat expensive foods, a.k.a. rare proteins. After about 3 hours you ask for the cheque.

Tip: Try the cupim (hump steak, not to be confused with rump steak), common amongst the Zebu breed of cows, a soft, fatty and stringy meat cut, popular in Brazil.

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