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Grate Foods - Part 3 - Pinwheel Roasts

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Grate Foods - Part 3 will cover pinwheel roasts. This tasty treat typically consists of a piece of flank or skirt steak which has been butterflied to make it even thinner than normal so it can be rolled easily. Into this large thin piece of steak goes a thin but continuous layer of any variety of tasty fillings. The steak gets rolled up and tied and it is off to the grill. What comes off the grill is a hearty roast, bursting with flavor. Each bite is a little different from the last. If this sounds interesting please read on.


The ingredients are cut into long 1/4” x 1/4” (0.66 x 0.66 cm) strips & laid out into alternating rows placed over the skirt steak.


After the skirt steak is rolled, it is wrapped in bacon and then wrapped in foil and tied. The matambre is then indirect grilled using medium-low heat.

The first pinwheel roast I made was from Stephen Raichlen’s HOW TO GRILL and it was a South American dish whose name is MATAMBRE. This name translates to “Hunger Killer” and I can tell you that is an accurate translation. The meat used is a thin skirt steak.

The first big decision you need to make is whether you’ll want to try butterflying the steak yourself or not. That was a no brainer for me and was a resounding “No way!”. My longest knife was not as long as the short side of the steak meaning I would have to get things right twice. Plus in theory the butcher has dome this before and hopefully can do it far better than you. Once the butcher cut the steak incorrectly and was actually going to cut me another one. I told him I could still work with what he had done and he actually gave me a little off. If you make a mistake you aren’t going to get a replacement steak or a little off. This wasn’t a case of the butcher cutting a hole in the meat, he cut the steak in the wrong direction. I have had flank or skirt steak butterflied for me at 3 different butcher shops over the years, and the service has always been free. As a bonus it is a good way to get to know you butcher. They ask what you are doing with your butterflied steak and when I describe these pinwheel roasts it always seems to catch their interest. Next time I come in they ask how it turned out and I make sure to have some pictures on my iPhone. So a not so obvious benefit of having your butcher do the butterflying is you start to get to know your butcher. This is never a bad thing.

MATAMBRE used thin strips of fillings: ham, kielbasa, carrots, celery, red pepper & a hard Romano cheese. These item were all cut into 1/4” x 1/4” (0.66 x 0.66 cm) strips. To help speed the prep I typically use a ham steak that is the thickness I want and I have the cheese sliced at the deli to the proper thickness.Even so it can still take quite a while to cut up all of these strips, so be sure to leave plenty of time. My first couple MATAMBRES certainly improved my knife skills, and also caused me to buy a mandolin slicer to help on the time aspect. To begin making the MATAMBRE you lay a sheet of foil, which is 2” (5 cm) bigger than the meat on each side, down on the counter. The skirt steak got seasoned on both sides with Kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper and olive oil. The strips of fillings are laid down in continuos alternating rows perpendicular to the long side of the meat. The first row goes right up against the front edge of the skirt steak. When you are getting towards the back side of the skirt steak you leave about 1 1/2” ( 3.8 cm) of meat showing. This allows for “fillings creep” when you are rolling the meat shut, plus it gives you a closure flap of meat to seal in all of the fillings. You use the leading edge of the foil to help pick up the meat and start rolling it. You do not roll the foil into the meat. Once the skirt steak is all rolled up,It gets lined with strips of bacon on the outside. You then roll it up in the aluminum foil. Once rolled, the ends of the foil get twisted shut and the roast gets tied in several places.


The matambre is allowed to cool for 15 minutes & then in thick sliced.

The MATAMBRE gets indirect grilled using Medium-Low heat for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. You should be able to easily pierce it with a metal skewer and the skewer should come out hot, indicating the fillings are cooked through. The MATAMBRE rests for 15 minutes before cutting it into 1” (2.5 cm) slices. In some ways cutting the roast into nice thick slices that don’t fall apart is actually the hardest part. The meat must be properly cooled and you really need to use an electric knife. But above and beyond that, there is a special technique I stumbled onto that works every time. I devoted an entire blog entry to it and I suggest you read this entry for the best results. I will put it in the list of links at the bottom of this page. Once carved, it is time to eat. These pinwheel type roasts have a wonderful range of flavors and each bite is a little different from the last. The other thing that makes them wonderful is the types of fillings are limited only by your imagination. Also there are variations from all over the world for you to explore. To finish out I will describe several other pinwheel type roasts I have made.


This stuffed flank steak recipe used chopped fresh herb, diced meat & shredded cheese to make a flavorful stuffing.


The flank steak is rolled and then sealed in foil for indirect grilling.


The finished flank steak was tender & very flavorful.

The next pinwheel roast I tried was basically an Italian version of the South American
MATAMBRE. The recipe was called STUFFED FLANK STEAK and it was from the Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Grilling Cookbook . Like the MATAMBRE, the steak gets rolled up in foil and indirect grilled. The differences were in the fillings and you don’t wrap the rolled meat with bacon. The fillings were fresh parsley, fresh oregano, bread crumbs, pine nuts, Genoa salami, sopressata, Romano & parmesan cheese. All of the solid ingredients were diced and everything was mixed together to form a filling that was spread over the flanks steak. This pinwheel roast was very tasty and could be cut with a fork.


The flank steaks was lined with baby spinach & roasted red peppers.


The steak was rolled & pinned with small bamboo skewers & then was cut into 1” (2.5 cm) thick slices. The slices of steak were then grilled cut side down.


The flank steak was served with a wonderful cream cheese based sauce that really enhanced the beef flavor. The meat was taken to a medium rare to medium.

Another pinwheel roast I made this summer was called FLANK STEAK PINWHEEL and although the recipe name was a bit boring compared to “Hunger killer”, it had several interesting twists. The first was it had a cream cheese based sauce that it was served with. Even more interesting was the fact the roast was pinned shut with short bamboo skewers about every inch (2.5 cm) and was sliced into 1” (2.5 cm) thick slices BEFORE going to to the grill. The slices were then direct grilled cut side down. But to begin at the beginning: You start with a 2 pound (0.9 Kg) flank steak which gets seasoned with salt & pepper. For fillings you use a layer of baby spinach and a layer of roasted red peppers. You’ll notice there is no cheese here to leak out while direct grilling. Using medium direct heat, it took about 7 minutes per side to bring the slices to a medium rare to medium doneness. The meat had a great taste both from the sear it received and the tasty cream cheese sauce served on the side.


The flank steak was lined with Black Forrest ham, then provolone cheese


The last step was to top with a homemade stuffing. The flank steak is rolled & tied & seasoned with salt & pepper.

The last pinwheel roast is one I recently made from a recipe in the Cook’s Country Backyard BBQ 2011 supplement. It was called NONA’S STUFFED FLANK STEAK and is probably my favorite one yet. The roast can be stuffed and tied up to 24 hours in advance, which means you just have to throw it on the grill when it is time to eat. This allowed me to make some sides on the day of the cook and not have to worry about prepping the roast. The flank steak gets seasoned and then covered with a layer of Black Forrest ham, followed by provolone cheese and finally a layer of homemade stuffing. This pinwheel roast does not get rolled in foil. It is rolled and tied and gets direct grilled to sear and indirect grilled to finish. I was able to use a temperature probe and I took the roast to 130 degrees (54 C) which was medium rare. It has been a while since I’ve made the MATAMBRE recipe, which was my favorite pinwheel roast to this date. I’l have to say I think I liked this recipe even better.


The flank steak is first direct grilled to sear & then finished indirectly. The roast was taken to a temperature of 130, somewhere between rare to medium rare.

So if the pictures and descriptions haven’t convinced you to try a pinwheel roast on the grill yet, let me make one more attempt. These roasts are a little prep intensive and tricky to cut unless you use the right carving technique, but they are SO WORTH THE EFFORT!! They taste amazing and are quite easy to grill. Every time I’ve made them people have raved about them. I often make 2 or 3 MATAMBRES because even though they are filling, they are so good people eat more than they ever intended. If you are worried about butterflying an already thin flank or skirt steak, just have your butcher do it. As a bonus you may end up getting to know your butter better and that is never a bad thing.






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