What happens when you take a classic sandwich and replace the bread with…steak? Nothing bad! Well, not in this case. Because in this case, the classic sandwich is a muffuletta. The classic sandwich of New Orleans, packed with Italian meats, becomes a steak surprisingly well, and we think you should try it!
Here we’ll give you the thermal know-how to succeed with this amazing steak for your mardi gras party or any other time you want it!
What is a muffuletta sandwich?
The muffuletta was most likely invented by Salvatore Lupo, owner of a delicatessen at Central Grocery in the French Quarter of New Orleans. It’s made on a large, flat round roll/loaf and consists of an olive salad, Italian cold cuts, and cheese, all layered together. The cold cuts used in the sandwich at Central are ham, salami, and mortadella, piled on with swiss and provolone. The grocery isn’t giving up the exact recipe for the olive salad, but it’s basically green and kalamata olives with giardiniera and some seasonings.
It’s good. In fact, it’s excellent. But how could it not be, right?
Translating the muffuletta to a steak
So if this sandwich is so good, why make it into a steak? Well, why not! We base this recipe on one by J. Kenji López-Alt, and it turned out even better than we thought it would. It’s not a 1:1 exact translation—mozzarella is omitted, salami is subbed out in favor of capocollo—but the changes make sense given the constraints of space and cooking method. The spirit of the thing remains, though.
Grilling flank steak pinwheels
To make this dish, we first butterfly a flank steak, cutting it in half like a book, with the seam running along the grain of the meat. We then season it, spread it with olive salad, and layer on the meats and provolone. We roll it tight and tie it, securing the seam further with skewers, then cut the roll into pinwheel steaks.
If we’ve rolled it and tied it tightly enough, the pinwheels will be firm and hold together well. Then comes the grilling. We used an IRK-2 infrared thermometer, aimed at a low angle to catch the surface of the grate, to temp our grill and found some pretty extreme variations between hot spots and cooled spots. So we knew we needed to dance the steaks around on the grill surface to be sure they cooked evenly.
But watching out for hot spots isn’t the only challenge. You also need to be aware that the edges of the cold cuts and cheese that are exposed to heat will crisp, cook, drip, and even burn if they aren’t handled carefully. We found that flipping the steaks about every minute helped to move heat toward the center of the meat without destroying the fillings. The frequent flipping will eventually develop a crust and the inside will cook beautifully. (See our post on grilling T-bone steaks to learn more about this grilling method.)
Muffuletta steak doneness
Flank steak is one that we like to cook medium-rare to medium, which meant that the final doneness temperature needs to be 130–145°F (54–63°C). With all the cheese, olives, and cured meats involved in this cook, it’s much harder to tell how done the steak is by look or by touch, which we don’t recommend even at the best of times! To be sure you’re hitting the final doneness right, use your Thermapen® ONE to temp the steaks as they cook. The speed of Thermapen ONE is fantastic when you’re putting your hand over a hot, hot grill and taking the temps of multiple steaks—better, faster readings get your hand out of the heat faster!
Because we’re grilling at such high heat, we can expect 10-12°F carryover cooking, so pull your steaks from the grill when you see 120–135°F (49–57°C).
These steaks are absolutely delicious. The flank cooks up juicy, tender, and absolutely bursting with flavor from all the stuffing ingredients. Yes, some of the cheese melts out, but there is plenty that stays in the roll, and the final combination of tastes and textures is fantastic. In fact, the work-to-flavor ratio on this cook is tiny. It’s not hard, and the payoff is huge.
So if you’re craving a fun twist on a classic flavor of New Orleans, give this a try. Use your Thermapen ONE to cook it to temp, and let the good times—and cold cuts—roll!Print
Grilled Muffuletta Flank Steak Recipe
Muffuletta-stuffed, grilled flank steak, adapted from a recipe at SeriousEats.com
- 1 whole flank steak, 2 to 2 1/2 lb, trimmed of excess fat
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- 1 C New Orleans-Style Olive Salad (muffuletta salad), or a selection of olives chopped together with some giardiniera
- 3 oz thinly sliced prosciutto
- 3 oz thinly sliced capicola
- 3 oz thinly sliced mortadella
- 4 oz thinly sliced provolone cheese
- Preheat your grill so that it is very hot.
- Butterfly the flank steak by cutting it halfway through its thickness until only about 1/2″ remains along the edge of the grain,
- Open the steak up and season it with salt and pepper. (Go a little easy on the salt, you’ll be adding plenty with the fillings!)
- Place the steak so that the grain runs parallel to your counter, so the grain is “horizontal” to you.
- Spread the olive salad onto the meat, then layer on the meats. Leave 1″ of margin at the top and bottom.
- Shingle the cheese atop the meats.
- Roll the whole thing tightly so that the grain of the meat runs along the roll, not across it.
- Tie the roll every 1.5″ with butcher twin, then secure the roll by skewering the roll at each string, being sure the skewer goes through the place where the roll ends, preventing it from flapping open.
- Trim the ends of the roll, then cut midway between each skewer/string to make pinwheel steaks. Cut the skewers so they are manageable.
- Grill the steaks, flipping about every minute until the internal temperature reads 120–135°F (49–57°C).
- Remove the steaks from the grill and allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving.
- Serve and enjoy! Maybe have some King Cake for dessert.
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Guy Stella says
Love a Muffuletta! This looks great. What do you think about cooking this on a flat top or in a cast iron pan?
I think it should work well, but you will need to flip often, as with the grilling method.
Stu Kinzler says
Muffuletta salads, all of them, are extremely salty. I’d suggest omitting any extra salt from the recipe (or you’ll end up with a salt-bomb). Even the one that can be ordered from Central Grocery in New Orleans, is plenty salty all by itself. The one that is sold by Costco is practically inedible. Also, the oil from the olive salad will cause extreme flareups if you’re not careful. I found that precooking the pinwheel steaks slowly to an internal temp of about 100℉ in an oven followed by grilling them to a finished temp of about 116-118℉ followed by a rest of at least 10 minutes works much better. The concept is good, but careful attention is needed to prevent having the whole thing come out looking cremated. In my judgement, a Thermapen One is essential to make this recipe work properly. There’s nothing else that even comes close to the speed and accuracy of the One.
It is true that this ends up being a salty dish, and you’re right that omitting the salt may be a good idea. I also like the idea of par cooking the steaks in the oven—basically reverse searing them. Thanks for the comment!
Steven Zielnicki says
Delicious and fun to make. I’ll use this technique for other fillings.
Very much the taste similarity to the real sandwich