London Broil

Chefs can work culinary wonders with all types of meat cuts, balancing and contrasting flavors to create new and exciting flavor experiences, but there is something visceral, almost feral, about cutting into a piece of meat that’s been cooked over an open flame. The mystical process that transforms raw meat into a tender, juicy bite, with just enough smokey char on the outside to give it unparalleled flavor.

While the stand out winner is obviously rib steak, there are a number of other cuts of meat that can really rise to the challenge of direct flame grilling.
London broil is none of them.

London broil describes a method of cooking. The first stage is the marinade, the second is the cooking. There is no cut of meat that called “London Broil” regardless of what it might say on the label in the supermarket. This is simply a method shops use to attract your attention, and for less scrupulous owners to raise the price as well. If they can call a flank steak London broil and charge extra, they will.

There seems to be a great deal of confusion about what is a London broil. No one knows where it came from or how it got its name. It is not an English dish, as it first appeared in print in the 1930s in the US. If  I had to guess, London was the surname of the person who first prepared it, or, simply a marketing name to make this cheap piece of meat sound “Continental.”

Kosher people pay attention: the traditional cut of meat used in a London broil comes from the loin, called a flank steak. That isn’t a typically kosher cut of meat (it’s a #17 pladah in Israel; see my Meat Cuts by the Numbers chart), nor is its runner-up cut, the Top Round (#16 Kaf). But you could just as easily use a Michaseh HaTzlah #7 (Chuck cover), the plate flank steak from a #9 (Asado) if you’re lucky to have one, or even a Tzlaot #2 (Chuck Blade) – either as a trimmed roast or as chuck steaks. If you’re feeling particularly generous, remove the rib-eye lip and use that. My point is that there are many pieces of beef you can use; it’s what you do with that meat that makes it a London broil.

The Meat

Only a few cuts of beef are naturally able to be grilled without turning them into shoe leather; fewer for kosher consumers. Meat for grilling should ideally:

  • Comes from a muscle group that doesn’t get constantly worked so the meat isn’t tough
  • Be marbled with fat – not silverskin or connective tissue – so the meat doesn’t shrink
  • Contain a layer of covering fat so the meat doesn’t dry out
If any of these qualities are absent, the preparation of the piece of meat needs to compensate for the missing element or it will be tough and dry.

The piece of meat to use for London Broil should be no more than 6 centimeters thick. This will allow for the heat to penetrate into the meat quickly without overcooking the outside. The meat should have some fat on it, which can be cut off after the meat is cooked, but it shouldn’t have any silverskin on it at all which means you might wind up trimming away the fat. The grain of the meat should run the length of the cut. If you have a meat tenderizer, it would be a good idea to use it at this point to help break up the meat fibers so that the marinade can penetrate into the muscle.

Mostly trimmed. The small pieces of connective tissue were removed before marinating. Then I beat it with a hammer.