Foreigners find Chilean cuts of beef confusing. They don’t look like the cuts they know and the names are even less helpful: lomo vetado (literally “vetoed loin”), lomo liso (smooth loin”), pollo ganso (“chicken goose”), huachalomo (“orphan loin?”), posta negra (“black post”), etc.
Cattle were introduced into
Chile in 1554 by Don Francisco de Alvarado, and as in California, Mexico and , they adapted to the local conditions and multiplied quickly. By the 18th century they were so plentiful that: Argentina
...they were worth no more that 2 to 4 pesos and very often they were killed to take the tallow and the hide; the rest was thrown out as almost useless, or else they cut the defatted meat in thin strips, and sold the sun dried strips under the name charqui. This entirely indigenous method of conserving meat, characteristic of dry and burning climates, has since spread, developed greatly, and has become one of the most fruitful industries of the country.
This charqui (“jerky,” from the Quechuan for dry meat) became a staple of the Chilean diet. (see Charquicán, tomaticán and other “—cáns”). To make charqui the beef carcass is dissected into boneless pieces following the muscle structure. Expedition artist, Edmond Smith, Captain's clerk in the U.S. Navy on the U.S. Astronomical Expedition to the Southern Hemisphere, describes the process as he saw it in the 1850s.
Each of the pieces was named and both the names and the tradition of boneless cuts continue in today’s
. The chart below shows the major Chilean beef cuts. Chile
Other differences between Chilean beef and American and European beef stem from the nature of the Chilean livestock industry. Beef production in
is highly variable and much production is in the hands of small producers. Average herd size is only 41 animals (compared to 200 in Argentina), and most of the beef comes from dairy breeds like Holsteins or from Holstein/Herford crosses as many dairy operators “freshen” their milk cows by insemination with Herford semen to produce better beef animals. Additionally, beef is grass-fed rather than being fattened on corn in feed lots, as in the Chile . This produces leaner beef, but since it is the “marbling” of fat within the muscle tissue that makes beef tender, it also means tougher beef. And finally, the grading system is based on the animal’s age, so that critics claim that identically graded carcasses (the top grade is “V” followed by “A”) may be of very different quality. US
Never the less, beef continues to be Chileans’ favorite (and most expensive) meat, though it is now third in consumption at 22.1 Kg (48.6 lbs.) per year behind pork and chicken and is declining.
Of course there is better (or at least more tender) Chilean beef available. Certified Angus beef and other quality feed-lot beef is available for about twice the price of standard beef (presently loin cuts are selling for around $10 US/lb) and there is also “Premium Quality Kobe Style Wagyu Beef, Naturally Raised in Chile” for around $60 a kilo for the best cuts; cuts said to sell for $300 a kilo in Japan and $200 in the US.
Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and the is also commonly available in supermarkets at about the same prices as Chilean beef, but whether this is better beef is a matter of opinion. Chileans surveyed in 2004 preferred Chilean beef over imported beef, even when the imported beef sold for 15% less, and only 7% of the sample considered imported beef better; an admirable (if misplaced) example of culinary patriotism. US
So, how do you know what Chilean cuts of beef to buy?
For BBQ, Chilean asado, as roasts: lomo vetado (rib eye) or lomo liso (short loin/sirloin) are good choices. Lomo vetado is fatter and produces a juicer roast (essential for those poor souls who prefer well done); lomo liso is leaner and is apt to be dry if cooked beyond medium-medium rare. Sobrecostilla and asado carnicero from the shoulder or chuck are also good on the grill, full of flavor, though tougher, as is asado de tira, short ribs. All are best cooked no more than medium.
For grilling, American Style, as steaks: lomo vetado (rib eye), lomo liso (short loin & sirloin) and filete (tenderloin), cut into steaks. Entrtecot (T-bone steak) is common on restaurant menus, and is occasionally available in supermarkets. Entraña (“skirt steak”) is a tender thin cut that can be grilled quickly.
For braising and stews: The Chilean favorite is plateada (“rib cap”), but any of the shoulder cuts (huachalomo, choclillo, malaya, posta paleta, asado Americano [Imported US chuck roast] etc.) or the leaner and dryer round/rump cuts (posta negra, posta rosado, asiento picana, ganso, pollo ganso [eye of round], etc.) are suitable. Expect to simmer 2 to 2 ½ hours. Brisket is tapapecho.
For soups, cazuela, etc.: Cuts with bone like osobuco (shin), asado de tira (short ribs), or any of the cuts for braising, above.
TÉCNICAS DEL BUEN ASADOR provides Chilean names for cuts of beef, along with photos of the cuts and cooking recommendations, in Spanish. For a computer translation, with some imaginative literal translations, see English version.
Beef Cuts is a chart put out by the Argentine government which gives names of beef cuts in
Argentina, Spain, Brazil, Chile, Portugal, USA/UK, France, Germany/ Switzerland, and . Italy
Whole Foods Market Chilean Grass Fed
Beef Program - It's not exactly the same beef you get at your local Chilean supermarket, but it's an interesting development.
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