If you’ve ever walked into a Brazilian steakhouse, you know the decadent dining experience that always follows: juicy meat on skewers sliced right on your plate, plenty of all-you-can-eat options, vinegary toppings, and sweet caramelized plantains. But have you ever thought about the history of the Brazilian steakhouse and why it differs a bit from a traditional American restaurant?
While some may know it as a Brazilian steakhouse, the real name is a churrascaria. The name is translated from the Portuguese word for “barbecue” and is named after the way the meat is cooked. Churrasco style simply means the meat is grilled over an open flame. A common way to cook churrasco-style meat is on a skewer.
We delved into why this style of cooking became so popular in Brazil, how it traveled to America, and why there is always an endless supply of meat. Here are some of the secrets you didn’t know about Brazilian steakhouses, and for more restaurant tips, check out 8 Steakhouse Secrets You Don’t Want You To Know.
Fogo de Chão is the first Brazilian steakhouse chain in America.
One of the most popular Brazilian steakhouses in America is Fogo de Chão, a full-service Brazilian churrascaria that serves rodízio style right to your table. Founded by two brothers who grew up on a traditional southern Brazilian farmhouse in Serra Gaucha, they soon received formal churrasquerio training and opened their first location in Porto Alegre in 1979. Fogo soon came to America, opening its first restaurant in Dallas, Texas, and now operates more than 60 restaurants across America as well as in Brazil, Mexico and the Middle East.
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The Brazilian barbecue dates back to the 1800s.
The churrasco style of cooking dates back to the 1800s of the gauchos, rural nomadic horsemen who competed over cattle for their meat. They started roasting beef on skewers over an open flame, which made the flavor of their beef even more decadent. They would then take their beef skewers home to family and friends and serve the “rodízio” of the encounter, cut directly from the skewer. This style of serving is still commonly used in Brazilian steakhouses around the world.
There are over 20 different types of meat to choose from.
According to CNN, the large churrascarias will offer up to 20 different kinds of meat for your meal. The most popular option includes picanha (a prime sirloin), followed by alcatra (top sirloin), mini beef, filet com alho (garlic tenderloin), maminha ( rump steak) and costela de Ripa (short beef ribs). Churrascarias will also offer non-beef options, including pork loin, sausages, lamb, chicken and fish.
Picanha is the most popular Brazilian meat made to order.
Brazilians prefer picanha, which is a cut of meat that comes from the top of the rump. It is usually thinly sliced and served with rice and beans. Some Brazilian steakhouses cut the picanha from a large skewer, which has been grilled and then slowly roasted over charcoal. The top layer is then browned, then the meat is sliced and served chilled.
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Lombo is a popular beefless alternative.
If you’re not a big steak lover, the lombo (pork loin) is the second most popular option. The loin is coated in a Parmesan cheese coating and only the best cuts of loin are kept for grilling and serving.
Most Brazilian steakhouses offer all-you-can-eat meat options.
Due to its family-style dining experience roots, Brazilian steakhouses are generally known for being buffets, offering a variety of foods to choose from, including their long list of meats. The meats are sliced and served rodízio style, which means that the sliced meats are served directly to the customers’ plates.
But Brazilian steakhouses don’t have to be bargain experiences
You can opt for the traditional experience, at a lower price, where many meats, including filet mignon, chicken, pork sausages and even lamb, will keep coming until you say stop. . Or, for a price boost, at Fogo de Chao you can sample some of the more premium cuts like Wagyu NY Strip or Ribeye which are both at least 21 days old. The chain also offers a dry-aged Tomahawk Ancho steak that is aged for at least 42 days.
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Fatty meats are served with sour sides to balance the flavor.
One of the most popular side dishes is molho campanha, a Brazilian salsa usually made with tomatoes, red and green peppers, and onions, tossed with a vinaigrette. According to Initiatedchurrasco-style meats are usually fatty and go well with sour additions, including a caipirinha, a national cocktail served with cachaça (an indigenous Brazilian liquor), sugar and lime.
A previous version of this article was originally published on July 19, 2022.