A sous vide London Broil is an amazingly American dish, in spite of the French used in the description and the reference to London, England. It is a cooking method long used by fancy restaurants to make cuts of beef that are ordinarily tough and unpalatable into a delicious serving of meat. Some fanciers say that it is less a cut of meat and much more a cooking method.
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The Sous Vide Cooking Technique
Sous vide is French for “under vacuum” and it’s actually pronounced sue-veed. The sous vide cooking technique yields really awesome results. It softens the cuts of beef that was once previously very hard. This cooking process involves a precise temperature control and yes, it can be quite easy to have that with sous veed. It employs the use of quite a few sophisticated tools to make cooking easier and faster. However, if you don’t have any of those tools, you can still carry on so fret not!
Without control over temperature, our foods tend to lose their flavor and become dry with a tough chewy texture. Worse still, over cooking can happen and overcooked food is never a good thing. Thus with this technique, the meat remains tender, juicy, flavorful, moist, do not get overcooked and will not dry out.
The way it works is that the meat is put into a “bag”, which can be a sealable silicone bag, a vacuum seal bag, or even a plain old Ziploc baggie. The bag is then placed in a pot of water to which is attached a precision cooker. With time and temperature having been set and after being cooked for hours, the meat is then subsequently seared or grilled or sometimes, subjected to a tender broil, for the development of flavors and a crust like texture by Maillard reaction – browning.
By cooking at a constant temperature over several hours, it is possible to turn a tough hunk of stringy beef into a tender London broil.
Sous Vide Cooking Devices
Sous vide is more than a little technologically dependent and is a relatively modern cooking method. The earliest reference to it is from Benjamin Thompson, Count Rumford in 1799 – the same Count Rumford who devised the narrow-throated chimney to create a more efficient fireplace.
The good Count had created a device for dehydrating potatoes and decided to try cooking a piece of meat in it. It was slow to cook, and he left it in the device intending to have the maids cook it the following morning. By the time they began their work, the meat was not only well cooked, it tasted delicious.
Next, fast forward to the 1960s.
French and American scientists were trying to find better and easier ways to cook food and were experimenting with boil-in-a-bag vacuum packed foods. The method was called cryovacking, and it noticeably improved the flavor not only of cooked foods, but also of fruit packaged in this way.
More Modern Developments
In 1968, retired Colonel Ambrose McGuckian, who had been a supply officer, was asked to improve the food for South Carolina hospitals. He tried cooking food sealed in bags to improve the flavor. Although he patented his method, he was not able to realize any profit from it.
French chefs Bruno Goussault and George Pralus were working with the same method, independently, and are credited with ushering in the cooking method in 1971. McGuckian continued to work on his method as a consultant for the chemical company W.R. Grace. His son recalls coming home from college and finding mysterious packages in his parents refrigerator and being asked to taste them.
The cooking method was quickly adopted by institutional kitchens and restaurants, but the early equipment was both bulky and expensive. They come in two types: counter top water bath units, which are very nice but also pricey, and a submersible pump unit that circulates the water in a container, keeping it at an even temperature.
The latter comes in several brands and is quite affordable.
It can be used with your own cooking pot, such as a pressure canner base or a water bath canner or it can be used with polycarbonate containers with a hole cut in the lid specifically to accommodate the sous vide device. Foods cooked using either appliance will need to be placed in a sealed container of either glass or plastic.
The sous vide pump that circulates and controls the water temperature is new, but the idea of sealing in the juices while food is cooking is not. In earlier times, food was first wrapped in leaves, then sealed with a layer of clay and baked in hot ashes or coals. The big difference is that the technology gives the cook greater control over temperatures and cooking times, and the silicon or glass containers are more efficient at sealing in their content.
Top Round Steak Sous Vide
One of the marvelous aspects of sous vide is its ability to turn tough, stringy meat cuts into something flavorful and tender. Top round steak is cut from the top of the rear flank. This is the area is lean muscle that is used to propel the animal forward, so it is exceptionally lean and can be quite tough. It can be used to create tender London Broil, a flavorful delicacy – and you can do it in your own kitchen.
- 1 top round roast, 1 ¾ to 2 inches thick, possibly 2 or three pounds
- Crushed or ground peppercorns
- Sea salt
- Garlic powder
- Canola oil – because it has a light flavor and is good for pan frying
Combine the pepper, salt and garlic powder. Rub it into both sides of the steak. Place the steak in a plastic cooking bag. Ideally, it should be a vacuum pack bag, but if that is not available you can use a Ziploc bag or a resealable silicon bag. You have the choice of cooking it right away or placing the bag in the refrigerator overnight for the flavors to soak into the meat.
Set your sous vide device to 132°F, or 55.6°C. Place the bag in the water bath and let it cook for 12 to 24 hours. At the end of the sous vide cooking time, remove the steak from the bag. Heat oil in a heavy pan, and sear the steak for about one minute on both sides. This will help seal in the flavors and give it that pan-fried flavor without the pan-fried toughness.
Slice the meat thinly across the grain and serve with your choice of vegetables or sides.
Braised London Broil
The order in which you do the various steps for London Broil will make a difference to the flavor, as will when and how much you marinate the meat. An easy way to plan ahead for a braised London broil is to braise the meat cut, then marinate it the night before. Once the meat has marinated, place it in the broiling bag, put it in the water bath and cook it sous vide for 12 hours. This not only works for top round roast or steak, it also works for the less popular cuts, such as beef cheeks.
You can use almost any marinade for your London Broil. The purpose of a marinade is to soak the meat is something that has a mild amount of acid, such as vinegar, red wine or lemon juice to help break down the fibers.
If you add your favorite meat seasonings to the marinade, especially rosemary, it will soak into the outer layer of each piece. This will help retain the flavor during cooking.
A Suggested Marinade:
- 1 cup red wine
- Juice of ½ lemon
- Sprig or two of rosemary
- 1 tsp. Sea salt
- 1 tsp. Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 clove fresh garlic, crushed
Heat a heavy frying pan, such as an iron skillet. Add canola or other oil for frying. Rub the meat with a little of the sea salt and black pepper. Sear it on both sides, just enough to lock in the juices.
Set the meat aside to cool.
You could even put it in the refrigerator. Add the ingredients for the marinade to the skillet so that it will take up the flavor from the meat, and simmer until it is reduced by about ¼ and the flavors are cooked together.
Tuck the meat selection and the marinade in a braising bag and allow it to soak for at least two hours. Meanwhile, heat your sous vide appliance and the water. Add the bagged meat and marinade to the water bath and cook for around 12 hours.
Remove the cooking pouch from the water. Open it, remove the meat and set it to one side. Strain the contents of the pouch to remove any large pieces, then thicken it using flour or cornstarch to use as a sauce.
Other Ways to Cook London Broil
Sous Vide is not the only way to cook London Broil. The key to London broil is to marinate, pan sear, and then cook to a specific temperature. The original method was to use a marinade to break down the tissues, and then to pan sear the steak, keeping the center medium-rare to keep from turning the piece into a slab that was shoe-leather tough.
Since less expensive cuts of meat are often used for London broil, it is not always as tender for flavorful as other cuts. The marinade also helps to boost flavor. Sous vide cooking allows the meat to be cooked all the way through without making it tough, and the cooking bag helps lock the flavor in, and even to encourage the flavors to blend, but it is not the only possible cooking method.
Smoked London Broil
Smoked London broil is a wonderful way to marry two or even three methods of cooking those not-quite-prime cuts of meat. Begin with your favorite marinade, and marinate the meat cut overnight. Make sure the marinade has a good acid base – wine, vinegar or an acid fruit juice.
Next, place the steak or roast on the screen of your smoker, after prepping it according to manufacturer directions, and smoke it for somewhere between 4 to 12 hours, depending upon the size of the piece and the temperature of the smoker. Use a digital meat thermometer to check the core temperature of the pieces, which should finish at around 200 degree Fahrenheit. You can have a lower temperature for safe eating, but the higher core temps are chef recommended.
If you want, you can smoke the London broil for three or four hours, long enough to get that good smoky flavor, then finish cooking the piece in a sous vide cooker. That gives you the best of all possible worlds with your broil.
Pan Fried London Broil
Cooking London broil on stove is possible. You can take several approaches to this. You can simply brush butter or some other oil on the steak, rub it with seasonings and sear it on both sides. Paleo and other primitive style diners will love this method. For the rest of us, use the pan frying to sear in the flavor, then bag it and give it that sous vide kiss of excellence.
London Broil Grill Temperature
You can cook a London broil cut on a grill as well as on the stove top. First, warm the 2-inch cut steak to room temperature. Preheat the London broil grill temperature to around 600 degrees Fahrenheit. You will want some garlic powder, black pepper, salt, and another other desired dry seasoning at hand, as well as several pats of butter.
Place the steak on the grill for about three minutes and place a pat of butter on top of it. Sprinkle with your seasonings. Flip it over, and repeat for a rare steak, repeat the butter and flipping a time or two more for medium or well-done. Slice into thin slices on the diagonal to serve.
Sous Vide Eye of Round Steak
Sous vide and London broil are cooking methods that are often applied to tough, less expensive cuts of meat. Imagine applying it to a good cut, such as eye of round steak! Use the directions given for the less favored cuts, and then bite into pure enjoyment!