What Is Carpaccio?

Slices of beef carpaccio
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Carpaccio (pronounced "car-PAH-chee-oh") is a traditional Italian appetizer consisting of raw beef sliced paper-thin, drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice, and finished with capers and onions.

In contemporary cuisine, carpaccio can refer to any thinly sliced raw meat or fish, such as tuna, served in this fashion. Even thinly sliced vegetables or fruits are sometimes served as carpaccio. Interestingly, carpaccio is named after an Italian painter who was known for employing bright red in his works, evoking the bright red of the raw beef.

How to Make Carpaccio

There are a couple ways of making carpaccio. For beef, which is the usual type, start with a beef sirloin or tenderloin. Be sure to get the highest quality of meat available at your local store and you can inform your butcher the cut is for carpaccio. Beef carpaccio is a delicacy you can enjoy at home with these simple steps:

  • First, trim all the fat off of the meat. Even though the whole essence of carpaccio is that its raw meat, some chefs will sear the meat on all sides, just to give it a bit more flavor. This step isn't necessary or even all that common.
  • The next step is to season the meat with salt and pepper, chopped fresh herbs (parsley, tarragon, or cilantro are all good options) and perhaps a splash of balsamic vinegar before wrapping it with plastic and chilling it for at least 8 hours.
  • After the sealed meat has had a chance to thoroughly chill, you can proceed with slicing the meat. Carpaccio meat is typically sliced very, very thin. It's possible to do this by hand if you have a very sharp knife and excellent knife skills. But more likely, an electric meat slicer would be the way to go. It can also help to chill the meat in a freezer for 30 minutes or so before slicing. You don't want it frozen solid—just enough to slightly harden the meat and make the meat easier to slice.

    Beef carpaccio is usually served with capers, onions, olive oil and lemon juice, along with possibly some shaved parmesan cheese and chopped fresh parsley.

    Note that some recipes will call for the meat to be pounded thin, which is another way of doing it, especially with a lesser cut of meat, but the preferred technique is to use a good cut of beef and slice it thin.

    Variations on Carpaccio

    While beef is the classic carpaccio protein, there are many ways to get creative with other types of carpaccio dishes. Some ideas include:

    • Seafood carpaccio with sushi grade fish, like tuna or salmon, is often on restaurant menus. Sometimes seafood carpaccio will be accompanied with thin slices of jalapeno and a soy dipping sauce.
    • Vegetable carpaccio can be any vegetable that is sliced razor thin and prepared on a plate. Feel free to experiment with vegetables—artichoke and fennel could be a good starting place for creative vegetarian dishes.
    • Other proteins, such as lamb, veal, and venison can be used in carpaccio. Make sure any protein is the highest quality since it will be eaten raw.