The hanger steak belongs to a category of beef known as the flat steaks, which also includes the flank and skirt steaks. The hanger steak hangs (hence the name) between the rib and the loin, where it supports the diaphragm. It was originally known as a "butcher's steak" since butchers kept and enjoyed it for themselves as consumers didn't know to ask for it, but is now a somewhat standard cut of meat in supermarket meat departments. Hanger steak is best marinated and grilled and is often the type of meat found in steak tacos.
What Is Hanger Steak?
Hanger steak comes from the lower belly of a heifer or steer and is comprised of a pair of muscles that make a sort of v-shape. Although there is a long inedible membrane running down the middle, hanger steak is often the tenderest cut of meat.
Historically popular in Europe, hanger steak is often seen on a French bistro menu listed as onglet; you may also hear it referred to as "skirt" in the UK, lombatello in Italy, and solomillo de pulmón in Spain. In the U.S. it might be labeled as "hanging tenderloin" or "hanging tender" due to its location on the cow.
How to Cook Hanger Steak
Because the hanger steak comes from a supporting rather than active muscle, it yields more tender meat than the skirt or flank. Do note, however, that the hanger steak can get tough when improperly prepared; the tenderness suffers when exposed to dry heat for a long time. This steak fares best at medium rare cooking; anything above medium can make it tough.
Before grilling or broiling a hanger steak, use a marinade with a strong acid component (such as citrus juice, vinegar, or wine) for added moisture and to help tenderize. Then cook the steak hot and fast to 125 to 130 F; it will continue cooking once you pull it off the heat. To develop a nice crust, place the hanger steak over direct heat on a grill in a broiler 2 to 3 inches from high heat, or in a smoking hot skillet on the stovetop.
Always cut against the grain when serving a steak. The grain of a hanger steak runs perpendicular to the length of the meat, so you will need to first cut the steak it into short sections (roughly thirds or fourths of the length), and then turn them 90 degrees 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.
What Does Hanger Steak Taste Like?
As a member of the flat steak family, hanger steak has great flavor, similar to that of skirt steak. A good piece of hanger steak will have a nice amount of marbling, which means there's a decent amount of fat to provide rich flavor and make the steak juicy and tender.
Recipes for Hanger Steak
Similar in texture to the skirt steak and the flank steak, the more tender hanger steak makes a great choice for a variety of dishes from a wide range of cuisines. Feel free to use hanger steak in place of skirt or flank. You can also simply rub some oil on the meat and season it liberally with salt and pepper before cooking it, then serve it thinly sliced with chimichurri, pesto, or a balsamic drizzle.
Where to Buy Hanger Steak
Generally, hanger steak is sold in the U.S. as a budget cut of meat, but the increasing popularity of hanger steak both among restaurant chefs and home cooks means it's no longer quite the bargain—but it is still an affordable and versatile cut. You should be able to find packages of hanger steak in the meat section of your supermarket or at your local butcher.
Storing Hanger Steak
If you purchase hanger steak but don't plan on cooking it right away, you can store it in the refrigerator for up to four days; if it is covered in a marinade, it will last an additional day. Cooked hanger steak will remain fresh for one to three days in the refrigerator. You can also freeze hanger steak for two to three months without worrying about any deterioration in taste or texture.