Barbecue Bible!

Our textbook
Season 2

Show 211: What's Your Beef?

In this episode he shares a number of different recipes from places around the world where beef is the pitmaster's meat of choice: the Uruguayan rolled stuffed flank steak dish called Matambre, meaning "hunger killer"; Espetada, skewered Beef and Bay Leaf Kebabs from the island of Madeira; and a recipe he created that marries Chinese spices and America "dinosaur" ribs. Also, GrillCam provides a never-seen-before view of real Texas brisket cooking, with a time-lapse look at the delicious transformation of beef cooked for 8 hours over a low, slow fire.

On the menu (page numbers indicate page in the Barbecue! Bible, unless otherwise noted):

  • Matambre (p 130, recipe follows) with Chimichurri Sauce (p 476)
  • Madeira Beef and Bay Leaf Kebabs
  • Texas Brisket
  • Dinosaur Ribs


The name says it all. "Hambre" is the Spanish word for "hunger." "Matar" means "to kill." Put them together and you get one of the most distinctive dishes in South America.

Matambres are usually described as rolled, stuffed, baked or grilled flanksteaks. But travel around South America and you'll find that they can come flat or rolled, plain or stuffed, made with a variety of meat cuts, not just flanksteak. Traditionally served as an appetizer, matambres come in portions large enough to dwarf the average North American entree.

The matambre reaches its apotheosis in Uruguay at a restaurant like El Palenque. The Montevidean version features a belt-loosening array of sausage, carrots, bell peppers, and cheese rolled in an oregano and sage-scented sheet of flanksteak. When sliced widthwise, the matambre forms a handsome spiral of beef studded with a colorful mosaic of vegetables, cheese, and sausage. Knowing about the restaurant's belt-loosening portions, I ordered a "half" serving of Palenque's hunger-killer. The slice was as thick as a phone book. I'd hate to see a full portion.

Because of the inate toughness of a cut of meat like flanksteak, matambre requires lengthy cooking to attain the proper tenderness. You might think that lengthy cooking would be difficult, if not impossible, over a live fire. But South American grill jockeys resort to an ingenious method. They swaddle the matambre in aluminum foil and cook it for several hours over a low or indirect fire. The foil prevents the outside of the meat from burning, holding the matambre neatly in shape.

Here's a recipe from the Barbecue! Bible for a matambre you can prepare on your grill. It makes a colorful appetizer, but you could certainly serve it as a main course. One thing's for sure: it certainly will kill your hunger!

printer-ready version

This recipe may sound complicated, but it can be assembled in 15 minutes. When people see the results, they'll think you've been working for hours. This recipe calls for flanksteak, but I've also made matambre with brisket. If you're not comfortable with your knifesmanship skills, ask your butcher to butterfly the meat.

Serves 8 as an appetizer, 4 as a main course.

  • 1 flanksteak (1-1/2 to 1-3/4 pounds)
  • 1/2 red bell pepper
  • 1/2 green bell pepper
  • a 6 ounce piece of romano cheese
  • a 6 ounce piece of kielbasa sausage
  • 2 hard cooked eggs, peeled and cooled (optional)
  • 1 long carrot, trimmed and peeled
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon each dried oregano and sage
  • 6 thin slices of bacon

1. Set the grill up for direct grilling and preheat to medium-low.

2. Butterfly the flanksteak: Place the steak at the edge of a cutting board, short side toward you. Using a long slender knife, butterfly the meat, that is cut it almost in half through the narrow edge of the long side and open it up as you would a book. Pound it flat with the side of a meat cleaver. The idea is to obtain a square of meat that's 12 to 15 inches long and wide. Breathe a sigh of relief: the hard part is over.

3. Core and seed the peppers and cut into 1/2 inch strips. Cut the cheese and sausage lengthwise into 1/2 inch thick strips. Cut the eggs lengthwise in quarters. Cut the carrot lengthwise in quarters. Arrange the bacon strips, leaving 1 inch between each, on a large (24 by 24 inch) rectangle of heavy-duty foil. (The strips should run parallel to the bottom edge of the cutting board.) Place the flanksteak on top of the bacon, so that the grain of the meat runs parallel to the bacon.

4. Generously season the meat with salt and pepper and sprinkle with oregano and sage. Arrange strips of sausage in a neat row, end to end, along the edge of the meat closest to you. Place a row of red bell pepper strips next to it. Then a row of cheese strips, then carrot strips, then green bell pepper strips, then hard cooked eggs. Repeat the process until all the ingredients for the filling are used up. Leave the last 3 inches of meat uncovered.

5. Starting at the edge closest to you and using the foil to help you, roll up the meat with the filling to make a compact roll. It's a lot like rolling a jelly roll. Pin the top edge shut with metal skewers or tie the matambre closed with a few lengths of butchers string. Encase the roll in foil, twisting the ends to make what will look like a large sausage. Poke a few holes in the foil at each end to release the steam.

6. Place the matambre over the heat and cook until very tender, 1-1/2 to 2 hours, turning often. If it starts to burn, reduce the heat to low or move the matambre to a portion of the grill with no coals under it. To test for doneness, insert a metal skewer. It should pierce the meat easily and be piping hot to the touch. Transfer the matambre to a cutting board and let cool for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and skewers or string. Cut the roll widthwise into 1-inch slices.

Sample Recipe from
Barbecue! Bible Sauces, Rubs, and Marinades, Bastes, Butters & Glazes:


Argentina is home of a pesto-like pugilist called chimichurri. The sauce owes its freshness and bright green color to flat leaf parsley and its pungency to tongue pounding doses of garlic. (Talk about ingenuity: Parsley is nature's mouthwash, so it helps counteract the breath-wilting fumes of the garlic.) Those are the basic ingredients, but there are as many variations as there are Argentinian grill jockeys. Some even enliven their chimichurri with grated carrot or red bell pepper; others kick up the heat with hot pepper flakes or fresh chilies.

Makes 2 cups

  • 1 large bunch of fresh flat leaf parsley, washed, stemmed, and dried
  • 8 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 3 tablespoons minced onion
  • 5 tablespoons distilled white vinegar or more to taste
  • 5 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt (kosher or sea)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon hot pepper flakes to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
Finely chop the parsley and garlic in a food processor. Add the onion, vinegar, water, salt, oregano, pepper flakes, and black pepper and process in brief bursts until the salt crystals are dissolved. Add the oil in a thin stream. Do not over process; the chimichurri should be fairly coarse. Correct the seasoning, adding salt or vinegar to taste.
© 2006 Steven Raichlen | site design Benjamin Wilchfort