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The Best Gaucho Grills

What are the Best Gaucho Grills, and why you need to get one? These grills perfect the art of cooking, taking it back to basics and beyond.

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Cooking is the origin of civilization, and fire is the origin of cooking. Every culture has its traditions and hence its names and methods for live fire cooking. However, confusion can set in when so many names exist for the same thing. Throughout South and Central America, you’ll find words like Asado, Parilla, and Churrasco, which mean meat grilled over a fire.

The same can be said for the grills traditionally used across these regions. I am not claiming that one grill design rules the Spanish and Portuguese-speaking Americas, but one grill is often identified with this area. This grill typically burns charcoal or hardwood; its standout feature is a wheel that lowers and raises the cooking grate.

So, what do we call this grill? In areas of the United States and some parts of Central America, it is called a Santa Maria Grill, derived from modern-day California’s old mission region. This name makes little sense in South America, where it is referred to as an Argentinian-style grill. However, Argentinians do not call it that.

Increasingly, this unit is known as the Gaucho Grill, which translates to cowboy grill. This name is more of a marketing move as it helps to differentiate the product and capture the mystique of open spaces, roaming cattle, and men on horseback.

How Gaucho Grills Function

Gaucho Grills Grande Insert

Regardless of its name, this style of grill has distinctive features. Burning coals do not sit on a coal grate; a feature that adds airflow to the fire and allows ash to fall through. Coal grates keep the fire hot and help it burn faster, requiring more fuel. This feature is similar to other charcoal grills. Build a fire and let it burn, then move the food as necessary. With the Gaucho grill, you build and tend the fire. The coals are moved on a firebrick surface, and the food will be turned as needed. However, there is one key difference, and that is all about the craft of fire control.

When coals sit on a flat surface of stone or brick, they burn slower while the brick surface absorbs and retains heat. Ash builds up on the coals and dulls the heat. A large, thin layer of these slow-burning coals creates an even, hot fire. You then move the coals around the food to lower or raise the temperature. These grills also have an adjustable cooking grate that can move as much as two feet. Move it down close to the fire to sear or raise the food for a low, smoky roast. That is the art of this particular style of grill. There is a learning curve, but once mastered, it grills better than most other outdoor cookers.

Why You Want One

The Gaucho Grill

Some of these grills come with a basket on the side for charcoal and hardwood fire building, giving way to an authentic experience. As that fire burns, coals fall through to the firebrick surface. You shovel these coals and place them where they are needed.

Roast and Sear: As an example, imagine a thick cut of beef. You want to cook it through the middle slowly and then put a high-temperature sear on it. So raise the cooking grate a couple of inches, and bank the hot coals into a ring that fits around the meat. Let it roast, turning it over occasionally. Once the internal temperature reaches your desired doneness, push the coals directly under the meat. Now lower the cooking grate as low as it will go and let the meat sizzle for a few minutes per side—grilled perfection.

There are a number of these grills on the market now. Some are imported from Argentina, where this style of grilling is quite popular. These units are heavy and expensive, so plan on spending about $2,000 dollars on a unit. Local availability might be spotty. Fortunately, several manufacturers will ship to your location. Look for a solid grill with a well-built firebrick chamber. The grates do not need to be heavy, but should be stainless steel since they will take a lot of punishment. Below I have listed my recommendations in this category.

The Puma by Nuke

The Puma by Nuke

Read the Full Review of The Puma by Nuke

Made in Argentina, the Nuke Puma is a very traditional example of the Gaucho Grill. You get everything you need to do some serious grilling. This unit has a large, 500-square-inch cooking surface of V-shaped stainless steel. There is a basket to the left for burning whole logs down to coals (though, of course, you can use charcoal). The cooking surface moves from 4 inches to 19 inches above the fire. At around $2,600USD, this grill is an investment but taken care of, it should last you for many years of pure grilling enjoyment.

Sunterra Argentine 48

Sunterra Argentine 48

Sunterra’s Argentine Grill offers a number of customizable features. It doesn’t offer a firebox for burning hardwood down to coals, but you can get this grill as an insert for an outdoor kitchen. You can also purchase stainless steel cooking grates instead of simple steel and pick the color of the adjustment wheel. The base model for this comes in just under $2,700.

Texas Pit Crafters Santa Maria 36

Texas Pitcrafters Santa Maria 36

Texas Pit Crafters in Houston Texas make their Gaucho Grills of all stainless steel. This improves durability but drives up costs. At around $3,500 you get a more open grate system. Instead of Argentina’s traditional V-shape grates, you get a single-piece diamond cut grate. They offer a number of solutions and offer custom work, so if this isn’t exactly what you are looking for, they can, within reason, customize it to your specifications

Tagwood BBQ Argentine

Tagwood BBQ Argentine

This unit from Tagwood really is a thing of beauty. Again, all stainless steel construction and all the features. There is a lot of attention to detail in this grill, right down to a proper place to hang your shovel and ash tool Yes, it comes in at $5,000+, but you really have to admire the craftsmanship and size of this grill. It does use a standard grill grate, but I won’t fault them for that. If you have the money, you might want to look at this one.

Learn more about the IG Charcoal BBQ Grill

About Me

I have been writing about Barbecue & Grilling since 1997, and have cooked on almost every grill or smoker ever built. In that time, I have endeavored to match people with the grill or smoker that is right for them. I believe that the right product is the one that you find easy to use, capable of doing everything you want, and with great reliable. If you have a good first experience, you will be back for more. In this way, we grow barbecue for the next generation. I want you to make memories that your children will cherish.

I have been involved in the outdoor kitchen market for the past two decades, even helping with writing a book on the subject. Over the years, I have tested and reviewed hundreds of outdoor kitchen products and even given input into the design of several models. The explosion in the pellet grill market has created an exciting opportunity for outdoor kitchens. Now, a single insert can grill and smoke, expanding the possibilities of outdoor cooking for both moderately priced as well as luxury installations.

Affiliate Disclosure

This article and the website it appears on use sales affiliates to cover the cost of operation. If you choose to purchase a product through the links provided, a portion of that sale will go to me. It helps me create content, so I can help you and others have the best barbecue experience. I am grateful to all my readers over the years that have been so kind as to assist me in my exploration of outdoor cooking. Thank you.

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