There are many fascinating facts about the way that cuts of meat get their names. Take the tri-tip and the London broil for example. You can go to many grocery stores and find meat labeled as London broil, but would you believe that there is not really a specific part of the cow that a London broil steak comes from? Tri-tip, on the other hand, is an actual cut of meat but for centuries it usually ended up as scrap that was ground into hamburger.
What is London Broil?
London broil originally was made from broiled flank steak, skirt steak, or other lean cuts of beef, but is more often a thick-cut steak or roast taken from the round these days. Ironically, one place you won't find this steak is in London, England. No one knows where the name came from, but the dish is commonly believed to have originated in Philadelphia, Pa. A possible explanation may be as simple as the presence of New London Township, a small town about 50 miles from Philadelphia where the dish might have originated.
What is known about the dish is that it was once cooked under a broiler, often with only simple flavors. Over time, cooks realized that marinading the meat in an acidic mixture would tenderize the meat and help it retain its juiciness when cooked. Today, London broil recipes almost always call for a marinaded before being slow-cooked in the oven or grilled on the barbecue. Frequently, the cut is first pan-seared in a hot cast iron skillet, then finished in the oven or grill.
What is Tri-Tip?
Tri-tip comes from a similar part of the cow as London broil. The triangular cut is taken from the bottom sirloin steak rather than the round, but it is similar in that the cut is lean. The origin of tri-tip dates to some time between World War II and the mid-1950s with several individuals having claims to the origin. Other names for tri-tip roast include Santa Maria steak or Newport steak, referring to its West Coast origins.
What is known is that butchers reoriented and modified the method they were using to result in the sirloin steak tip cut, resulting in a triangular piece of meat, hence the name. The cut of meat is best known in the Central Valley of California and traces much of its history to the region where it is often barbecued or grilled using a simple spice blend consisting of salt, pepper, and garlic. The tough, lean cut of meat becomes a tender and delicious steak or roast that is popular when sliced thin and piled on a sandwich.
Common Features of Both Cuts
One thing you'll notice when researching these two cuts of meat is that they have very similar cooking methods. Both cuts of meat are typically marinaded, usually using a mixture of Worcestershire Sauce, olive oil, and vinegar. This helps loosen the tough meat fibers and create the tender texture and nice beefy taste that you associate with more popular steak cuts like a New York strip.
The manner in which these two pieces of meat are cut is also a factor in the finished product. In both cases, you'll want to use a very sharp knife to cut against the grain in order to get the tender chew you are looking for. Finding the grain is easier with tri-tip than with sirloin steak and top round steak. Flank steak and skirt steak, when used, are also cut against the grain.
Is Tri Tip Steak a London Broil?
Since London broil refers to a method of cooking rather than a specific cut of meat, it is easier to consider that the two dishes both prominently feature recipes that begin with a marinade. Marinading lean, tough cuts helps to relax the dense muscle fibers and encourages the meat to retain moisture as it cooks.
Can You Cook London Broil like Tri-Tip?
Where these two cuts differentiate is in the process of cooking. It is most common to sear a London broil in a cast iron skillet and finish in a hot oven. In years past, broiling the cut was the most popular way to prepare it. Using the broiler, the meat goes under high heat for just a few minutes, then gets flipped and broiled for another few minutes before being sliced across the grain.
On the other hand, a tri-tip is usually a large, ungainly piece of meat that can weigh five pounds. It is sold in trimmed and untrimmed varieties and is typically cooked whole. The size makes it ideal for barbecue grills and smokers that can handle the large cut of meat. The most common way to cook tri-tip is to slow cook it for several hours. Searing and reverse-searing are both popular techniques used to produce tasty, tender tri-tip. flavorful steak.
Is London Broil a Good Cut of Meat?
London broil is a method of preparation, not a cut, but you'll often see cuts of beef labeled as London broil in the local grocery store. These are typically lean parts of the round, which can be tasty and delicious. The classic London broil taste highlights the beefy flavor.
What is the Closest Cut of Meat to Tri-Tip?
The triangle steak is taken from the lower portion of the bottom sirloin tip. On its own, it is a tough cut of meat that is best when grilled or smoked to medium rare. While a top round steak or a sirloin steak make a good replacement for London broil, a beef brisket is probably the most similar to Tri-tip in terms of tender chew and beefy flavor when cooked correctly.
Classic Side Dishes for London Broil and Tri-Tip
There are several traditionally favorite side dish recipes that pair well with tri-tip and London broil. Extremely tender thin strips of beef cuts are delicious on their own, but there are a few things that go great with either recipe.
Probably the number one go-to side dish is fluffy mashed potatoes. Try making roasted garlic butter for the potatoes and top with fine-diced chives. Classic roasted corn in the husk is another great side that pairs well with either dish.
Cutting Across the Grain
Identifying the grain on tri-tip is easier than top round steak since you can usually see where it is. The hard part about tri-tip is that the grain changes part way through. Finding the grain on a London broil is best done by placing the meat on a cutting board so that it sits with the long side facing you. Cut thin strips across the short side and you'll be against the grain.
A tri-tip is most easily cut by first cutting the roast into two. Lay the roast with the point facing away from you and the short side on your left. You'll cut from the crook on the flat side to the center of the tip. The long section on the right-hand side is cut straight across until you hit the tip. Next, rotate the remaining part 90 degrees, then keep slicing in thin strips.
Orienting the meat this way will get you the correct cross-grain cut and result in tender, delicious beef.
London broil and tri-tip share aspects of a cooking method, but are somewhat different in final taste and texture. Properly cooked, both of the cuts are tender and tasty and are a great sliced sandwich filling. The key is to give either cut a good, long marinade to help tenderize the meat and loosen the tough fibers. Don't forget to make sure you cut it across the grain to give your meat the perfect, tender finish.