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Sep 9, 2006 05:52 PM

What is a Hanger steak?

I cannot believe with all the cooking I do, that when a friend of mine asked this question, I had NO idea!! I think it is flank steak, but I am not sure. Help me with Hanger Steak 101.

Thank you

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  1. Not flank steak, though similar to it and skirt steak in flavour, grain and chewiness. And like them, it comes from the underside of the animal. It's actually part of the diaphragm and "hangs" between the loin and the rib, whence the name. AKA hanging tenderloin.

    1 Reply
    1. Yeah, I thought it was the same as skirt steak..NOT! Link below explains it in addition to carswell's succinct answer ... there is only one hanger steak per animal.

      1. In addition to the above information, it helps to understand that it's a muscle in the deep interior of the steer. It is very coarsely grained.

        There is a thick membrane that diagonally runs through the middle of the cut. Many people prefer that membrane to be removed but it divides the cut into two smaller parts. Those of us who don't mind the soft gristle prefer to keep the cut intact, as it's easier to keep it to medium rare that way.

        As with all coarse-grained cuts, it helps to slice it thinly (though not too thinly) and on the bias, but the cut is a tad less tough than flank.

        It has a unique flavor profile, perhaps the "beefiest" cut, which is why non-beef lovers tend to prefer other cuts.

        In the US, it used to be something of an economical waste cut that butchers took home (hence, "butcher's tenderloin") or sold to understanding customers -- hanger is what I grew up thinking "steak" was by default -- but skyrocketed in price in the past 20 years after fashionable American restaurants discovered they could sell French bistro fare. It's still hard to find in many American supermarkets because the restaurant wholesale trade now dominates the market for the cut. Sigh. I have but one store in my area that dependably offers it every week, fresh (several others have it available in small quantities at least monthly, it seems).

        8 Replies
        1. re: Karl S

          So from reading you here, it's best to cook a hanger steak to medium-rare? I had heard from a food person, that hanger steak is the one steak that should be cooked to medium(not medium-rare). Should hanger steak be marinated before cooking for best results?

          1. re: BLM

            hello, Karl S. eats/prepares it more than I do, but the hanger I got from an excellent butcher--it was Niman Ranch beef--actually had a rich 'gaminess' like mild venison, from the proximity to the organs, I would guess. Perhaps that's why your source likes to cook it a bit longer. My preference would definitely be to marinate, and go with your own inclination whether med.rare or med.(I wouldn't go any past that) is best. salud

            1. re: moto

              Hmm. I'm not convinced about the sympathetic gaminess. Any gamey flavour could just be due to factors like hanging time and the nature of the muscle per se.

              Conventional wisdom notwithstanding, cooking beyond medium rare brings out the gamey flavour in game. I expect the same would be true with hanger steak. In any case, people who insist their meat be cooked medium or well-done should give hanger steak a pass: like flank steak, the more it's cooked, the tougher it becomes. That's why flash cooking over/under high heat is the universally recommended method.

              I've never understood the advice to marinate hanger steak. To tenderize? But if properly hung and prepared, it's a tender cut. To add flavour? But it's generally considered the most flavourful cut of beef. To hide the flavour? Then you should be buying regular tenderloin, not hanging tenderloin. ;o)

              None of this is to imply that hanger steak shouldn't be paired with powerful flavours, by the way. A favourite prep these days comes from Domaine de la Ponche near Vacqueyras (via Patricia Wells):
              - Brush the butterfiled steak with olive oil and season with freshly ground or crushed black pepper.
              - Sear in a screaching hot cast iron skillet, 1 or 2 minutes a side.
              - Transfer the steak to a warmed platter, pouring any pan juices over it.
              - Season with sea salt. Sprinkle with a finely minced mixture of 4 garlic cloves and 1/4 cup fresh rosemary leaves. Tent loosely with foil and let rest 5 minutes.
              - Slice across the grain. Serve moistened with the cutting juices and a few drops of fresh lemon juice, and pull the cork on a rich Rhone-style red (Vacqueyras preferred, of course).

              1. re: carswell

                We also found hangar steak to be gamey, or as my husband described it "tastes like kidneys". We cooked it rarish, as we do all steak. We've had better success with Flatiron steak, which is more like flank steak, but a lot juicier; it comes from the chuck blade.

                1. re: coll

                  Same here, I find that onglet has a gamy, slightly organy quality. I love it but between the flavor and the chewiness it can really freak out people used to, say, filet.

                2. re: carswell

                  I don't see the need to marinate most cuts of beef, especially the hanger steak. It definitely has a slight livery flavor to it but not overwhemingly so. If you are a big fan of beef, you'll like the steak. If you prefer a tender (and tasteless) filet, it might be too much for you.

                  I eat my hanger steak rare to medium rare, most of the time naked, with only salt and pepper. Occasionally I'll saute some shallots in the pan while letting the steak rest and then deglaze with stock and finish with some butter. Thats about as dressed up as I make a steak.

                3. re: moto

                  It was suggested that hanger steak should be cooked to medium, as if it's too rare it gets mushy(plus it should be marinated). Also flank steaks are more tender than hanger steak(flank is best marinated for two days). These are the things I've heard.

              2. re: Karl S

                I find the quality of hanger steak to be terribly variable.

                The first I ever had, I ordered from Lobels. It was fantastic, but half the piece had been oxidized (like freezer burn). Lobels replaced it, and sent me another piece with almost as much oxidation.

                My favorite restaurant serves it sometimes...I've had it there twice. Once it was great, once it was borderline bad.

                Recently I got some from Whole Foods. It sucked.

                What's the deal?

              3. To me the flatiron steak is more livery than hanger and hanger is not quite as gamey as skirt steak. It is definitely one of the most flavorful cuts and relatively inexpensive. I like it simple as well as marinated. I think because it is so flavorful, it is great as is and yet it can withstand quite a bit of additional flavoring. However, I never liked butter or cream with it because the agressive flavors of this cut just seem to fight against the mellow dairy flavors.

                1. My wife who hates anything that tastes even slightly of liver likes both hanger and flatiron steak.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    So, have you told her that liver can taste like hanger or flatiron steak?

                    1. re: Karl S

                      The best liver I ever has was at a German restaurant, Sauerbraten Liver (I didn't order it, just had tastes, but I should have got it). If I had to make liver in the future, I would figure out a way to replicate it.