The hanger steak belongs to a group known as the flat steaks, which includes the flank and skirt steaks. A cut that is historically popular in Europe, the hanger steak hangs (hence the name) between the rib and the loin, where it supports the diaphragm. This cut has grown in popularity. It was originally known as a "butcher's steak," since consumers didn't know to ask for it and butchers kept and enjoyed it for themselves.
Hanger Steak Nomenclature
You might see hanger steak on a French bistro menu listed as onglet, or hear it referred to as skirt in the UK, lombatello in Italy, and solomillo de pulmón in Spain. Generally, it's still sold in the U.S. as a budget cut of meat. It might also bear the name hanging tenderloin or hanging tender, due to its location on the animal. "Hangar" steak is a common misspelling. The increasing popularity of hanger steak both among restaurant chefs and home cooks means it's no longer quite the bargain, but it's still an affordable and versatile cut.
Cooking a Hanger Steak
Because the hanger steak comes from a supporting, rather than active muscle, it yields more tender meat than the skirt or flank. All three cuts earn high marks for beefy flavor. Do note that the hanger steak can get tough when improperly prepared. While you can use most cooking methods to prepare a hanger steak, the tenderness suffers when exposed to dry heat for a long time. This steak fares best at medium rare cooking; anything above medium turns it tough. Before grilling or broiling a hanger steak, marinate it for moisture with a strong acid component such as citrus juice, vinegar, or wine, then cook it hot and fast to 125 to 130 F to allow for some residual rise once you pull it off the heat. Cook it over direct heat on a grill, 2 to 3 inches from high heat in a broiler, or in a smoking hot skillet on the stove to develop a crust.
How to Cut a Hanger Steak
The grain of a hanger steak runs perpendicular to the length of the meat. Carve a hanger steak by first cutting it into short sections (roughly thirds or fourths of the length), then turn them and cut across the grain into thin strips. The strong fibers in this cut can be chewy; cutting it this way makes it tender and easy to eat.
Serving a Hanger Steak
Similar in texture to the skirt steak and the flank steak, the more tender hanger steak makes a great choice for dishes such as fajitas or bulgogi. It's also a preferred cut for traditional carne asada. The strong beef flavor allows this cut to stand up to assertive flavors. The traditional carne asada marinade starts with lime juice, which makes the perfect accompaniment flavor-wise. You can also simply rub some oil on the meat and season it liberally with salt and pepper before cooking it, then serve it in thin slices with chimichurri, pesto, or a balsamic drizzle.