Saturday, June 25, 2011

carne de vacuno

Comparison of beef in Chile vs in the U.S.
author: an anonymous gringo in Chile-who rocks-and should've posted this on the web long ago! If this is your writing, let me know, I can take it off my blog. But please put it on the web! I've already referred a couple of people to check this info out, and frequently log on when discussing which meat to buy when I'm at the grocery store with my Chilean husband. So thanks!

"Apropo of nothing, I thought I'd share what I've learned about beef
in Chile. I know there are a lot of gringos out there that feel a
little lost shopping for steak and end up really dissatisfied with
what they get. Maybe this will help.

I think there are two main differences between the beef in Chile and
what we're used to in the US. 1) Chilean beef is quite leaner. 2)
Chilean beef has a stronger flavor.

The fact that it's leaner means that you might find it to be a little
tougher than what you've had before. In my mind, this isn't a really
big deal -- either upgrade to a fattier cut (for example, if you like
New York Strip in the US, go to ribeyes in Chile) or cook it a little
more rare than you otherwise would. I don't think the meat itself is
really any tougher, it just dries out more quickly because of the
lower fat content.

The stronger flavor is really objectionable to a lot of gringos when
they first get to Chile. Chilean beef has a "grassy" (or "barn
yard") taste. I think it's something you can actually learn to
enjoy. Think about all of the effort US steak houses put into aging
their beef to try and impart more flavor... in Chile, the flavor is
already there. In fact, I think the extra flavor comes from the fact
that Chilean cattle spend less time on feed lots and get more of
their nutrition through grazing rather than corn. So if you remember
that the taste is a result of happier, healthier steers that US
consumers pay big premiums to enjoy, I think you can really begin to
appreciate it. I think this difference actually makes Chilean beef
superior to what we get in the states.

The hardest part can be figuring out what cut of beef to get. Most
of us don't recognize the names of the pieces that are sold in
Chile. Imagine that you expect a sirloin for dinner and end up with
a rump roast. You'd probably be disappointed. I think this happens
a lot to gringos. So here's my guide to some of the cuts:

Filete: Tenderloin. Filet Mignon. Whatever you call it, it's the
most tender of steaks. No tenderloin is marbled, so you won't notice
much difference between the fat content of US tenderloin and Chilean
filete. You will notice that the Chilean cut still has some flavor --
which is great. In the US people don't really eat a lot of
tenderloin because it's pretty tasteless and you have to cover it in
sauce. But filete in Chile has a nice mild beefy flavor. It tastes like a sirloin from the US, except it's way more tender.

Lomo vetado: MY PICK! Ribeye. In the US, a ribeye is about half
fat. In Chile it's pretty fatty, but a little more reasonably so. I
highly recommend lomo vetado for the grill. The fat keeps it juicy,
it's perfectly tender, and the flavor is really nice. Use it as you
would a NY Strip in the US.

Lomo liso: Top loin, KC Strip, NY Strip. A steakhouse favorite in
the US, the lower fat in Chilean beef is really noticeable in this
cut. It's still pretty tender but you have to keep it pretty rare or
it gets like jerky. And this cut is one of the more flavorful steaks
on the animal. Gringos might have a hard time with it.

Entrana: Skirt steak. Very tasty, but not really a steak.
Traditionally, this is what you use in fajitas. It's best grilled.

Huachalomo: Chuck. This is just like lomo vetado except it has some
gristle in it. It comes out pretty good on the grill if you're on a

Abastero: I'm not sure what it is. The butcher told me it comes from
the leg. I think maybe we use it for ground beef in the states. In
any case, it's a decent steak but not great. Use it as you would a
sirloin in the US.

Posta rosada: As far as I can tell, this is sirloin. But because
it's leaner, it's not very good for making steaks. Think stir fry
or "roast beef".

Punta paleta: Shoulder maybe? Top sirloin? It tastes pretty good,
it's not too tough.

Choclillo: Mock tender chuck. Another middle of the road budget steak.

Asiento: Rump roast. Don't be fooled by the relatively high price.
This is strictly a roast. It's great for swiss steak.

Punta picana: Another piece of the rump roast.

Posta negra: Topround. Meh.

Pollo ganso: AVOID! Eye of round. The bane of a steak lover's
existence. Looks like a quality steak. Tough as a 3-ply radial.
Maybe it's good for soup.

Tapabarriga/ tapapecho/ palanca/malaya: These all seem to be some
variation of brisket or flank steak. If you do a southern style
barbecue/smoker then I think this is exactly what you want. None of
them are very good for a standard grill.

Carne molida: Ground beef. Hamburger. Are you crazy? You're
planning on cooking hamburgers when you can get a really good steak
for 25% more money. For some reason the price ratio of hamburger to
ribeye is very different in Chile than it is in the US.

At the butcher or the supermarket, you'll find beef from Chile,
Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay. I stick with the Chilean
stuff. Import quality just varies too much. Argentinian steak goes
for a premium which is unjustified based on my experience. Beef from
the other countries seem generally inferior to Chile's domestic

FIND A RELIABLE SOURCE: There are lots of butcher shops throughout
every city in Chile. The quality of their product really varies. I
haven't found a butcher shop that consistently delivered good quality
meat. If you do... stick to that one location.
Supermarkets are more consistent. JUMBO is by far the best.
Seriously, the difference in quality is very noticeable.

Hope somebody finds this helpful."

1 comment:

Frank Szabo said...

For anyone interested in organic, grass-fed beef in the Santiago and Viña/Valpo areas: