Every type of grill imaginable is used to prepare asado in Argentina from fabricated brick or concrete assemblies with chimneys to pieces of wielded re-bar placed on top of rocks. Since a key task while preparing asado is to control the heat in different areas, most prefer to use a grill that provides easy access to the coals, height adjustment of the cooking surface, and an area to keep a fire burning in case more coals or wood need to be added. Therefore, gas grills and and those small circular grills on wheels that are popular in the United States, although used by some, are not preferred.
Simple flat rack grills either prefabricated or home-made are quite popular for their simplicity and low cost. All you need is a surface to grill the meats on and something to support it. You’ll often find these at outdoor gatherings or lunches hosted at a ranch where a large surface is needed to grill enormous quantities of food. Also, it is not uncommon to see construction workers cooking up some chorizos on top of some wielded re-bar for lunch. The one negative aspect is that there is nothing to protect the grill from the elements while cooking. Unless of course you have a wall or some sort of overhead covering. Therefore, the weather can make or break your planned asado.
Many homes and eating establishments have large prefabricated grills for grilling their asado. Some apartment buildings even have a communal grill on the roof for all of the tenants to use; unless of course one lives in an luxurious building that may have an enclosed grill for each unit. These grills are made of concrete or bricks and lined on the inside with special fire brick. Since a chimney is integrated on top they can be placed indoors as well. One unique benefit to these grills is the ability to adjust the height of the racks. The racks are usually one or two pieces with a network of chains that allow the grill master two raise or lower the height with hand cranks on the side. The racks are made with V-shaped strips of metal that allow the grease to slide down into a tray at the bottom so that there are no flare ups.
While gas grills offer great heat management, they lack in providing great flavor. Sure you can add some wood chips to give some smoky flavoring but there is nothing better than hot coals made from wood. They are, however, easy to use and clean up is a breeze. You just fire it up by turning some knobs and pressing a button. Since typically no charcoal is used the only items that need cleaning are the grilling surface and grease trap. Anyway, you’ll be hard pressed to find a true asado aficionado using a gas grill.
Portable grills are popular with those who don’t have space or an adequate environment for fabricated or simple rack grills. They are small and easy to move while at the same time offer protection from the weather. Most of the portable grills in Argentina are either horizontal rectangles or cylinders. These provide better access to the coals than say the typical circular kettle grill. The problem with many of these types is when the time comes to add additional coals, whether hot or cold, at a later time. Not to mention that due to their small size, a large asado with multiple types of meats or foods is near impossible to accomplish.
So you are stuck with a gas grill or standard portable grill. Can you create an asado Argentinean-style? Nope, you’ll be forever doomed to flash charred pieces of flesh. Well, yes you can create a partial asado, just by cooking lots of meat for friends and family. But unless you have a way to control the coals and heat you will have a difficult time trying to re-create the asado you experienced in either Argentina or an Argentinean restaurant in your area. Your best option would be to build an inexpensive rack grill. Anyway, just keep on reading and maybe you’ll pick up some other tricks to improves your grilling apprenticeship.