The Matambre Challenge: Round One

The Matambre Challenge

Click Here For The Matambre Challenge Overview

Reminder
Remember this is half fun and half research. The results of this challenge may not be indicative of whether or not these methods of preparation do what they are supposed to do. Sometimes you just get a poor quality cut of meat that nothing can defeat yet may work wonders for a high quality cut.

The Challengers In Round One Are:

  • Marinated in milk
  • Simmered in milk

Plain:

Scored, seasoned with salt, and cooked on medium-low fire for about 20 minutes each side.

Marinated In Milk:

“That’s because you have to let it sit overnight in milk.” The reply I’ve received on occasion when mumbling to myself out loud about any tough piece of meat. Also, I’ve seen the direction to marinate matambre in milk from a few recipes out there in web world. I’ve used milk a few times to marinate calamari and sweetbreads and that worked wonders, but now is the time to see how it affects matambre. The meat is beef and the milk is from a cow so what the hay?

Low-fat milk was chosen. Better to just hit middle ground. Tossed it into a Ziploc® bag and let it sit for almost a day in the fridge. Upon removal from the milk I noticed that the meat retained much of its outer color compared to the grayish hues you get from other liquids–acidic or not. “Haha you can’t defeat me Mr. Milk.” I gave the meat a quick rinse and patted it down with some paper towels. Tossed it on the grill right next to the plain in order receive the same amount of heat and cooking time.

Simmered In Milk:

The 5-star milk bath spa treatment. I was never offered this method by word of mouth, however I did find it in a few recipes out there, particularly for matambre a la pizza (matambre that is topped like a pizza). Actually a commenter in the first challenge post pointed out this method for the pizza style as well.

I had an idea of what I was going to get into with this before actually trying it out with matambre. In the U.S., I sometimes did the quick and dirty way of boiling/simmering to create tender ribs slathered in bbq sauce when there wasn’t much time for a long smoke. (Purists, before you say anything, I know. I know. But remember I said quick and dirty. Not the right way.) With this method the bbq sauce helps in two ways. First, you keep the meat from drying out which can happen very quickly with boiled meat. Second, you can partially disguise the fact that you boiled the meat first. You won’t have that great smoky taste achieved by slow cooking, but you’ll have decent ribs that are at least tender and some people probably won’t know you boiled them first.

Ribs have bones and typically a good amount of fat all over the place. That keeps the meat moist in most parts no matter how you cook it. With matambre, you have an outer layer of fat on one side that is separated from the meat by a thin membrane. Also, there are no inner layers of fat or fat marbling. I knew that if this meat wasn’t going to be topped or basted with anything, I’d be in trouble. But, I wanted to try it anyway. No basting brine was planned for this round but maybe in the future.

In the pot I put 2 parts milk and 1 part water. I did this to prevent the pan from getting scorched on the bottom and that is not fun to clean when it happens. Even though I scored the meat, I was afraid the simmering might still cause some drastic curling. I decided to give it a nice simmer for an hour. Some recipes called for thirty minutes while others said 2 hours. Middle ground again. Fortunately curly did not happen much, only around the corners. However, as with all boiled meats, I ended up with a hideous, let’s not leave out grotesque, grayish-brown slab of stewed meat. As I moved it to the grill I thought to myself that this could become seriously parched. The meat needed a quick blast of heat on both sides to crisp it up a big notch in order to somewhat hide the fact that any precooking occurred. So this slice ended up with its own special area on the grill with an abundant amount of coals. About 8 minutes on each side.

Matambre Results

The Results:

Plain
The muscle fibers were making popping noises while chomping. Too bad, because the meat had a lot of flavor and was super juicy.

Marinated In Milk
The meat was much lighter on the outside than the plain. Looked almost like grilled pork. There wasn’t too much of a difference in taste compared to plain but I did detect a slightly richer flavor; that was a nice improvement. The marinating hardly took a bit out of the toughness. If plain was 0 and what I was looking for was 10, I’d give this method a 2.

Simmered In Milk
The parrilla performed a few magic tricks, just a few mind you, and gave our cranky ol matambre a slight makeover. The fatty side crisped up nicely while the other side did away with the gray and and achieved a nice brown. The meat was dry, no very dry, like eating sawdust. Pork tenderloin that has been overcooked is what I’d compare this to. The rubbery texture was defeated but juiciness was totally sacrificed.

Although the challengers failed to impress me, I won’t rule these two methods out for future use. The marinated in milk cut was just slightly better so it is possible that some tweaks can be made. Also, maybe if I basted the cut that was simmered with a brine solution the end result might not have been so dry. Some say to marinate and simmer in milk, so maybe I’ll give that a try too.

My wife asked me to me if I was going to give up. No no no, the fun has just begun. Till next time…

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8 Comment(s)

  1. Hi – I was just thinking that if what you are looking for is to soften the meat, then no amount of marinating or simmering will help. If meat is tough then it’s tough. What you could – I guess – is buy the matambre, ask the butcher (if he has the facilities) to pack it in an airtight bag (envasado al vacio) and leave it for a couple weeks in the fridge. That should soften it quite a bit I should think.

    Ernest | Feb 2, 2007 | Reply

  2. >tough then it’s tough

    That’s for sure, plus I’m noticing that the general quality of beef available in butcher shops and supermarkets (all kind of cuts) has really taken a turn for the worse in the past few years. A lot of stuff is becoming tough, small, or super fatty.

    One supermarket carries a line of vacuum-packed meats. They might have have matambre so I’ll check on that. But I agree, a good aging might dampen the toughness.

    Asado Arg | Feb 2, 2007 | Reply

  3. I haven’t perused entirely your website, but I think you might need to slow down the cook, slow it way down. If it a tough piece, a slow fire will break down fibres and sinew, but it can’t be too hot, or it will get dried out. An over the flame dry cooking method would be fine, but slow enough so the cut does not render out its liquids, either through evaporation or dripping into the brazas.

    I have a BBQ cooker called a cookshack that is electric, but it uses the most gentle heat, so it renders out very little liquid (I know, electric BBQ smokers are evil). I use that to cook brisket and ribs, and my ribs take a minimum of five hours, the brisket, up to 18 hours, depending on the weight.

    I know it is not asado Argentino, but I think a lot of the same stuff applies. Grilling a tough piece of beef like a steak (say eight or nine minutes a side) that seems like it will result in a tough piece every time.

    Good luck!

    Mark in Germany

    Mark | Feb 11, 2007 | Reply

  4. >I think you might need to slow down the cook, slow it way down

    Yeah I should have tried that first. I guess I went with the milk because I came across it so much. Perhaps next time I’ll do various times/heat, with an occasional light brine baste to keep the meat from drying out.

    >smokers

    I would order one from the States if they didn’t have such lame size restrictions on mail. So I’m trying to get one built. I’d like to see how a huge slab of vacio would turn out.

    Asado Arg | Feb 13, 2007 | Reply

  5. Yes, in my experience a leaner cut shd be cooked s-l-o-w-l-y so as to maximize tenderness. I’ve had some lean cuts that stunned me in their tenderness, they were like tenderloin.

    Brining also can tenderize meat, changes the molecules somehow, and adds some good flavor, too–I liked a honey-bourbon-salt brine combo!

    Philip | Feb 25, 2007 | Reply

  6. I have a recipe that is from a Time/Life cook book – I have used this
    recipe over the years at all sorts of ocasions – mainly cook it and
    serve cold sliced with Chimicurri

    Lois Chartres | Apr 15, 2007 | Reply

  7. Just came back from Argentina where I had matambre 6 times in 2 weeks.
    Marinate in milk a few hours, remove, drain, salt, and SLOW cook over low coals for AT LEAST 20 minutes per side.
    Here’s the trick though; fold in half (fat side outwards). Once the outside is cooked, open and cook the inside portion.

    Rouben | Dec 5, 2008 | Reply

  8. i just got back from Argentina…..

    Salt and Canola oil :)

    It is bbq’d over coals

    Donny | Feb 13, 2011 | Reply

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