An Introduction to London Broil
London broil is a type of dish where the chef takes a cut of beef, commonly broiled flank steak, though top round steak and coulotte have also been used in more modern times; marinates it and then cuts the beef across the grain, resulting in thin strips. Both the dish and the term are products of North America, rather than any part of the United Kingdom.
This term takes on a different meaning within central Canada and alludes to ground meat patties, made of either beef or pork, that are subsequently wrapped with a flank or round. Southern Ontario is notable for having a loaf form of London broil, where tenderized flank steak is used to wrap around seasoned, veal mince. Some regions will also add bacon as an interim protein between the flank and the veal.
London broil is a popular dish because its tiny slices means more people can be fed at once. You can satisfy several people with a few steaks converted into London broil not only with the portions, which are excellent for sandwiches, but also with the marinade used to infuse extra flavor into the beef.
On Cooking Techniques
While there are many styles of cooking in the world, the three most common approaches when it comes to cooking London broil are smoking, grilling and sous vide.
- Smoking. Smoked London broil is a common technique and involves smoking the meat with all of the stuff you would use in a marinade as a rub, using either wood or charcoal as a fuel source for the cooking fire. One benefit of wood-smoked London broil is the ability to add a variety of different flavor accents to the meat through whatever combination of woods you prefer; if you want to give your London broil hints of nuttiness and fruitiness you might go with smoking the beef with wood from pecan and apple trees.
- Grilling. This approach involves marinating the beef in a sumptuous vat of herbs, spices and seasonings then grilling it in less than half an hour. Grilled London broil is fine for when you are craving some London broil but are looking for something without the distinct smokiness gained from smoking it.
- Sous Vide. This method is certainly the most scientific means of cooking a dish that has only grown in popularity as the technology to do it reliably becomes cheaper and more commonplace. Sous vide is a way of cooking food by storing the food inside of something like a glass jar or plastic bag and immersing that stored food within a water bath set to a relatively low cooking temperature over a prolonged amount of time; the term originates from French and means “under vacuum”-the pressure differential between the vessel storing the meat and the heated water bath is what winds up cooking the food. When done right, sous vide results in food that will never overcook and maintains all of its moisture content. The one drawback to cooking any sort of steak in this manner is that you won’t develop the proper sear that steak picks up when it is grilled or smoked; you need to “finish” steaks prepared a la sous vide by searing them in a pan once they have finished cooking in the water bath.
Step-By-Step Guides to Smoke London Broil Alternatives: Sous Vide London Broil and Grilled London Broil
Grilled London Broil
- Mixing bowl
- Whisk or wooden spoon
- Large, resealable plastic bag
- Shallow dish
- Cutting board for beef
- Top round steak, 2 to 2.5 lbs.
- Cloves, garlic, large, minced, 4
- Vinegar, balsamic, 4 tbsp
- Juice, lemon, fresh, 4 tbsp
- Mustard, Dijon, 3 tbsp
- Worcestershire sauce, 1.5 tbsp
- Soy sauce, 1 tbsp
- Oregano, dried and crumbled, 1 tsp
- Basil, dried and crumbled, 1 tsp
- Thyme, dried and crumbled, 1 tsp
- Pepper flakes, red, hot, dried, 1/2 tsp
- Oil, olive, 2/3 cup
- Whisk everything but the steak into your mixing bowl and mix until everything is evenly combined and blended in.
- Place the steak into your plastic bag and drown it in the marinade.
- Seal the bag, pressing the air out of the bag as you go along, and then lay it fully sealed within a shallow dish.
- Marinate the meat overnight until it chills, giving it a single turn to make sure both sides are evenly coated.
- When you are ready to grill, remove the steak from the bag and dispose of the bagged marinade.
- Grill the steak on an oiled oven rack, roughly 4″ above the coals and cook for 9-10 minutes.
- Turn the steak over and grill the other side for 9-10 minutes. your goal is to reach an internal temperature range of 135°F-140°F for medium-rare meat.
- Transfer the finished steak to your beef cutting board and give it 10 minutes to rest.
- Cut the rested meat across the grain at a diagonal angle, aiming for thin slices.
- Serve as is, on sandwiches, in tacos or however else you might fancy enjoying some succulent, thinly-sliced beef.
Grilled London Broil Recipe
Substitute Marinade Recipe
If the initial marinade doesn’t quite strike your fancy, consider this alternative approach.
- Oil, olive, 3/4 cup
- Sugar, brown, packed, 3/4 cup
- Vinegar, red wine, 1/4 cup
- Cloves, garlic, minced, 8
- Worcestershire sauce, 1.5 tbsp
- Salt, 1 tbsp
- Pepper, black, 2 tsp
- Pepper flakes, red, 2 tsp
- Rosemary, fresh, 2 sprigs
Sous Vide London Broil
- Sous vide precision cooker
- Baking sheet
- Either a vacuum sealer and accompanying plastic or a resealable plastic bag.
- Large vessel to serve as the water bath.
- Cast-iron or heavy-bottomed pan
- Cutting board for beef
- Steak, top round, 1.5-2.5 lbs.
- Salt, kosher, 1 tbsp
- Pepper, black, 1 tbsp
- Powder, garlic, 1 tsp
- Oil, canola
- Set your precision cooker to 132°F (55.6°C).
- Place the steak on the baking sheet and rub both sides of it with salt, pepper and garlic, making sure to evenly penetrate every possible bit.
- Seal up your steak using either a vacuum sealer or plastic bag.
- Immerse in the water bath and leave it cooking for at least 12 hours and no more than 24.
- Remove the cooked steak from its water bath.
- Place your pan of choice over one of your stove’s eyes.
- Set the eye to high-heat and add oil to the pan.
- Season the cooked steak with any remaining rub from step 2.
- Place your steak into the oil-heated pan and sear each side for 1 minute.
- Transfer the seared steak to a cutting board and give it around 5 minutes to rest.
- Use a knife to thinly cut across the grain of the steak’s marbling.
- Serve in the same manner as the grilled version presented earlier in this article
As you can see, there are multiple ways to go about preparing this delicious dish, each with its own benefits.
- You can be traditional and smoke the beef over several hours and use the smoking wood as another source of flavor.
- You can be a bit more modern and use less electricity by grilling your broil, making sure to marinate your cut for several hours beforehand.
- Or you can adhere to the basic principle of BBQ cooking, “low and slow,” and marry it to a bit more technology to cook it a la sous vide.
While you may have heard of smoking before, it is my hope that knowing the other two approaches’ benefits will intrigue you enough to invest in the sort of equipment necessary to cook with the sous vide method or to go for the lengthy marination and quick cook time of grilling.