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Colombian Technique for Better Grilling: Lomo al Trapo

While South American ranch-style grilling is famed all over the world, in Colombia, there’s a roasting technique that is particularly intriguing and exciting to experience. It’s called lomo al trapo and employs only a soaked cloth, salt, a cut of beef, and hot coals. 

The method reaches for a lean tenderloin — which can be a tricky cut to work with — but results in a delectable pink cut of meat. The flavor has a wonderful tinge of smoky saltiness and highlights the best of beef flavor. Plus, the salt crust can also be infused with herbs and spices. As with other roasts, it’s all about keeping a close eye on the clock and pulling at the right temperature. This type of salt-encrusting method can be applied to other cuts of beef, too (although lomo al trapo translates literally as beef tenderloin in a towel). Let’s have a look at how it comes together.

Details on preparing lomo al trapo

tenderloin served with potatoes

The lomo al trapo technique necessitates cooking directly on hot embers — it’s impossible to replicate with a gas grill or oven. You can heat lump or briquette charcoal until flaming, and then spread it into an even layer. Since an abundance of salt is needed, roll the meat right before heat application, or else it’ll dry out.

Start by soaking an old cotton towel with water, or (even better) bathe it in red wine for added flavor. Squeeze and lay out flat, then pour a minimum of two cups of kosher salt in a thick layer onto the towel. Coat the beef in an optional layer of herbs and spices, like chili powder, thyme, and oregano. Next, place it onto the towel longitudinally so it’s parallel to the edge. Carefully roll, akin to sushi, taking care to coat in an even layer of salt. Tie the corners together, or use twine to hold it in place.

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Cook for around ten minutes per side without disturbing. Remove the beef around 20 degrees lower than desired and rest for 15 minutes, allowing the residual heat to elevate the internal temperature. The exciting bit is that the towel will burn up, leaving the salt crust. Break this open on a cutting board, and slice the meat into medallions. A tenderloin works best for rolling. However, do experiment with pork or even tightly rolled chicken; the salt crust will trap heat, forming a delicious and succulent result.

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