Some people like to cook, and some people don’t. If you like to cook, hurrah! because you’re probably going to spend a fair amount of time in your life doing it and it’s better to enjoy what you are doing than to not.
If you don’t like to cook then I feel for you because cooking, and all its attendant parts (planning, shopping, prepping, cleaning) must seem like a pretty big hassle. And nobody likes to be hassled. Heck, I genuinely enjoy cooking but I’d be crazy to play it like it’s not a lot of work. Thank goodness that for me it’s a labor of love.
For my aunt, it’s just labor. Even so, she decided that she wanted to broaden her culinary horizons. The challenge? Develop a clutch of favorites she can pin down over the summer while she is on summer break (she’s a teacher) so she can have a reliable rotation during the school year.
Her first choice? London Broil. (Well, actually, her first choice was Beer Can Chicken, but when we did that we caused a gas fire in the grill the likes of which I’ve never even seen in culinary school, so I’m just going to forget that ever happened and we’ll move on to London Broil.)
The other challenge? She only likes about five foods excluding pretty much every spice or seasoning other than salt. Yes, she is a Picky Nibbler. But we got this.
So, London Broil it is. First, we had to find out what it was and why it was called London Broil. I thought I knew what it was – a cut of beef – but when I went to the grocery store there were no less than three different choices, so I knew I’d have to get all Nancy Drew about it. Next, my sources (random internet searches) seem to agree that this originated as a North American dish with no specific British roots, so the mystery remains about what put the London in the London Broil. Readers?
As for the “what,” it turns out that London Broil is a method of preparation, not a specific cut of meat. (Thanks, Wikipedia! One of these days I will actually send you that $3.00 donation you want so badly.) Traditionally, the London Broil was done to flank steak, but these days you’ll commonly find top round and sirloin labelled suitable for a London Broil. Basically, it seems London Broil is the catch-all term for a category of inexpensive cuts of beef which lend themselves to marinating and then flash cooking to no warmer than medium (medium rare –about 135 degrees — would be even better), then slicing across the grain to further break the long connective tissues (read: tough) of the meat.
Ok, easy enough, right?
We had several choices for a London Broil on the day we went to the grocery store: top round, and chuck shoulder. We picked the beef chuck shoulder (the photo on the left) because I liked the look of it.
We choose a prepackaged marinade (know your customer!) and set it to marinate overnight.
We remembered to let the marinated meat come to room temperature for a good 30 minutes before we wanted to cook it, threw it on a broiler pan lined with aluminum foil, and broiled it for about 5 minutes each side. Medium rare (130-135 degrees) is the advised temperature for a London Broil since further cooking reportedly produces a very tough meat regardless of how long it marinates, but not everyone appreciates a medium rare (including my aunt), so we cooked some of the meat further just to see how big a difference it makes in terms of tenderness. (Turns out that even the meat we cooked to medium well was tender enough to pass muster.)
After we broiled it, we were good girls and let the meat rest for 5-10 minutes so the juices had a chance to reabsorb back into the meat before cutting it. Then we sliced it across the grain and on the bias — both strategies for shortening the connective tissue for maximum tenderness.
The result? Very tasty. And how does the budding cook feel about it? She was pleased with the overall ease of preparation (but maybe not so pleased with how challenging it can be to clean teriyaki sauce off of a broiler pan). Her biggest piece of advice to budding meat cooks? Get a digital instant-read thermometer so you don’t have to wonder or worry about whether or not the meat is cooked to your liking.
As a core dish, this works well. As long as you have the wherewithal to marinate the meat the night before, you could easily come home and throw this meal together on a busy weeknight with a minimum of fuss and muss.