Santa Maria Grill Vs Argentine Grill

When it comes to outdoor cooking, wood fired grilling is one of the most intriguing cooking methods around the world. In this blog we’ll explore the wood fired grills of Argentina as well as a regional culinary tradition in the United States called Santa Maria Style BBQ. The Argentinian parrilla (grill) and the Santa Maria Grill are commonly confused, and we are here to set the record straight. We’ll discuss what each grill is and what you’ll find when shopping for a grill in the market today.

What is the difference between Santa Maria and Argentine Grills?

In the past ten years there has been growing interest in both Argentine and Santa Maria grilling, and consequentially a growing demand for outdoor wood fired cooking appliances. Domestic and overseas manufacturers have been busy building grills with features that meet consumer expectations. Retailers want to supply their consumers with the grill with all the gadgets to be competitive in the marketplace. This has caused a widespread general misunderstanding about the intricacies of these traditional grilling styles. Grill retailers are combining the two terms to gain market dominance, move their websites to the front page of Google, and gain sales. Most of the grills available today have components of from both Santa Maria and Argentine grill styles. Argentine and Santa Maria grills, as far as consumers are concerned have become one in the same. The new, hybrid grills are often coined ‘Gaucho Grills’ or ‘Cowboy Grills.’ We will explore the history of Santa Maria and Argentine grilling, the features, and functional design differences so that you’ll have the knowledge to find a grill in today’s market that fits your needs.

What is a Santa Maria Grill?

Santa Maria style bbq originated in the mid 1800’s when the local Santa Maria Valley ranchers needed a way to cook for their vaqueros after brandings. They dug earthen pits and filled them with red oak (coast live oak) and cooked large slabs of top block seasoned with a dry rub on long metal skewers over the fire. The meat was served with local pinquinto beans, bread, and a side salad.

Since the 1800’s, the Santa Maria Grill has evolved. Today’s Santa Maria grill design is more practical for use in a residential backyard. It features a height adjustable cooking grate that travels along rails welded to a deep metal firebox. A Santa Maria BBQ pit often has caster tires for portability. Other configurations can be built into an outdoor kitchen as a built in Santa Maria grill. Catering companies and restaurants often have a Santa Maria Grill Trailer to serve large gatherings. In all cases, the fuel (wood or charcoal) is piled inside a deep firebox, directly under an adjustable cooking grate. This form of direct heat grilling produces a smokey, savory flavor. Growing up in Santa Maria Valley means eating a fair share of this local delicacy. Every warm weekend is filled with at least one grill day where you’re surrounded by savory aromas, great food and company. The camaraderie and sense of community that cooking over an open fire with family and friends brings is just as much a part of local’s lives as it was for the families of the mid-1800s.

Local restaurants including Far Western Tavern, Jockos Steakhouse, and The Hitching Post in Casmalia, Shaw’s Steakhouse, AJ Spurs, Historic Santa Maria Inn, and F. Mclintocks have long been landmarks of the authentic Santa Maria bbq style. All are still in operation on the Central Coast of California today. If you’re ever in the area we highly recommend trying them to see a Santa Maria grill in action, and taste what the hype is all about.

What is an Argentine Grill?

Argentine asado (barbecue) originated similarly to Santa Maria style barbecue. La parrilla tradition evolved around the local gaucho culture. Gauchos are Argentinian cowboys who spent long months on the range horseback herding cattle. For centuries Gauchos have grilled the meats available to them over hot wood coals.

An Argentine parrilla is traditionally quite simple. A traditional Argentinian parrilla consists of a low, stationary cooking surface alongside a “brasero” or ‘wood basket.’ The brasero grill is a basket formed with iron and is used to burn branches and logs down to embers. The embers fall through the large openings in the bottom of the basket and are raked under the low, cooking surface. Argentine asado (barbecue) traditionally consists of flank steak, skirt steak, chorizo, or blood sausage, grilled long and low over hot wood coals laid on a brick surface. The cooking process involves a very hot searing of the meat initially to lock in juices, followed by a longer, lower temperature cook. Argentine grilling involves constant raking of coals from under the brasero to the cooking grate to maintain consistent temperature.

Many Argentine parrilla designs still feature a side or centered brasero. The brasero is typically offered with a 3-sided, open front firebox with an open front or a front door to access raking embers under the cooking grate. You’ll usually see a V-shaped grate, tipped slightly forwards, channeling excess fat to drip into a front drip tray or catch pan. Channeling the fat drippings away from the fire is essential in a non-height adjustable grill to prevent flare-ups. Drippings may be used for basting or be discarded. The Argentine V grate is especially beneficial when cooking skin-on chicken halves as it provides a crispier texture.

After building and using many styles, we find that certain designs are easiest to use, hold up the best to high heat, and produce the best results. In our experience, a grill with a brasero allows less temperature control, a longer cook time, and requires more effort to produce satisfactory results. We eliminate the features that lessen the grilling experience, and only offer them as ‘add on’ options should they still be desired. Front doors are only needed when used in conjunction with a brasero. Front doors and 3 sided or open front fireboxes are more prone to warping and decrease the useful life of the grill. Learn why your height adjustable grill does not need a brasero, front door, or air vents: Common Misperceptions About Charcoal Grills with Front Doors & Air Vents The Argentine V Grate, however, is a wonderful feature we have added to our list of offerings. To view features of JD Fabrications Santa Maria Grills and JD Fabrications Argentine Grills, check out this blog: JD Fabrications Santa Maria Vs Argentine Grill Features.

At JD Fabrications BBQ, our goal is to build grills with components that will last. We offer innovative, beautiful Santa Maria and Argentine Gaucho grill hybrid designs at the forefront of functionality and longevity. Check out our website for the best Santa Maria grill for sale on our online store, or let us answer your questions by phone 805-637-6700. We would love to build your dream grill!

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