For Tender And Tasty, Look Beyond Stew Meat

IN THE KITCHEN

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Before it started feeling like spring, I was craving a good stew and fresh fruit.

I bought some of the grapes being featured in the grocery ads, bananas that were more yellow than green, a couple of apples and about half-a-dozen oranges.

I picked the oranges using a method I was told about by a former co-worker -- smell the stem end of orange, if it has a good, strong orange smell, the fruit will be good. It worked. The oranges were so tasty one evening I ate two of them.

While in the produce department I also grabbed celery and an onion for my stew.

Next I went to the meat counter in search of stew meat. I found what I wanted and headed on down the counter. Then, the London broil caught my eye. I like that cut of meat because it seems to have less fat than others. Comparing prices, I could get more than two pounds of London broil for less than the cost of the stew meat I'd picked up. So, I switched.

I made my stew in the slow cooker, set on high for five or six hours. Stirring from time to time. When everything was fork-tender, I added a bag of Reames frozen egg noodles, gave it another good stir and let it all cook for another hour.

Ingredients

2+ pounds London broil, cubed

1, 1-pound bag of pre-peeled baby carrots

1 bunch of celery, cut into chunks

1 white onion, diced

6 peeled and quartered russet potatoes

2 packages of dry onion soup mix

1 carton of beef broth (I used the Emeril brand since it was on sale)

1+ cup water

Garlic powder, salt and pepper (to taste)

Add in last hour of cooking

1 bag Reames egg noodles

I looked at a couple of recipes before I put this together, one called for browning the meat, which I took a pass on, the other called for ingredients I didn't really care for. So, I went with what I had that I liked and used the recipes as guides on the timing.

I was very happy with the results (though I needed to use a little less pepper -- but it had a sinus-clearing quality to it). It improved with reheating a couple of times, then I spooned the leftovers into a freezer bag and put it up for a fast fix of comfort food in the future.

Making stew with London broil made me wonder exactly what "London broil" is (what part of the cow is London broil?).

So, I turned to my favorite fast-fix tool: the Internet. I found quite a few sites on the subject, here are some I liked: askmeatman.com; about.com; and cooks.com.

According to askmeatman.com, London broil is a cooking method, not a cut of beef.

But, many grocery store meat departments and butcher shops sell a cut of beef labeled London broil. However, it is usually top round roast.

Sometimes, there are recipes calling for a London broil using a top round steak (posted as a 2-inch thick, 5- to 6-pound steak.) This is not a top round steak, but a top round roast.

The site goes on to discuss the cooking method that makes a London broil.

The characteristics common to most London broil recipes call for:

  • Marinating the beef
  • Broiling the beef to medium-rare in a oven or
  • Grilling the beef to medium-rare in a barbecue grill
  • Slicing the finished dish thinly, across the grain, at a 45-degree angle

Derrick Riches wrote the following on London broil for about.com,

"Your Guide to Barbecues & Grilling."

If you think you know what this is, you're probably wrong.

London broil, despite what you might find at the local meat market is not a cut of beef but rather a method of cooking. It was one of the first recipes to become popular in early restaurants and so the name London broil because synonymous with a cut of meat. Originally that cut of meat was flank steak, but over the years the name has been applied to almost any cut of beef that is very lean and less tender. Hence you might find London broil being a steak or a roast that comes from the sirloin or round sections of cattle. This of course makes the whole thing very confusing.

To make matters worse the original method of the London broil was simply a flank steak, pan-fried to medium-rare, cut cross grain and served. This method is perfect for a flank steak because it becomes very tough if cooked too long and by cutting it into strips you made it easy for even the dullest of teeth to get through.

Later the method was changed to include marinating the flank steak and then grilling or broiling it. This makes the name make a little more sense. Now the origins get even more confusing. The marinade traditionally used for London broil has ranged anywhere from a simple mixture of olive oil with salt and pepper to a wide collection of ingredients. You need to remember that chefs in earlier days tended to make mix seasonings, sauces and marinade more from what was on hand than from a specific recipe.

To get a good marinade for London broil, try a mixture of soy sauce, olive oil, garlic, ginger, balsamic vinegar and honey. This gives it the basic flavors that make beef great.

From here you need to grill the marinated flank steak, hot and fast and to no more than medium. Overcooking will make it tough no matter how long you marinated.

When the steak is ready remove it from the grill, allow to rest for about 5 minutes, then carve, cross grain, and serve in strips. It's great on mashed potatoes (a traditionally favorite side dish).

If you've been paying attention you will have noticed that most recipes that involve flank steak are prepared this way, from traditional fajitas to anything with flank steak. This is generally a tough cut of meat, but it has great flavor and if you prepare it right, people will love it.

OK, now for all those other things called London broil. These cuts all have something in common, they are lean and tend to be tougher, so the same rules apply.

You might find "London broil" in anything from a 1-inch cut to a 4-inch roast. Marinate for 2 to 3 hours per inch and grill to no more than medium. On the thick roasts you will want to grill it directly for about 2 minutes per side, then grill indirectly for about 30 minutes. The internal temperature should not pass 130 degrees. Allow thinner cuts to rest for about 5 minutes and whole roasts to rest for 10 minutes. Resting allows the meat to relax and the juices to flow. Carve the London broil cross grain and serve. It's a great way to get a really good meal out of a less expensive cut of meat.

Here are a couple of recipes that use flank steak, but London broil could be substituted.

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