Hanger Steak

by R.B. Quinn and Min Merrell

When you come across a hanger steak, don’t pass it up.  It’s as good as it looks.

Cheaper, chewier, beefier.

The good news in a down economy is that trendy, cost-conscious chefs have been featuring less tender cheaper cuts of beef alongside the pricy filet, ribeye, and strip.  The new restaurant cuts flat iron, skirt, and hanger are more available in the regular supermarket than ever.  Skirt has migrated from Mexican butchers and the flat iron is always on sale at Kroger.  Even better, the elusive hanger is now a regular item at Whole Foods.

We think it’s a relative bargain at eight dollars per pound. There’s only one 1 1/2 pound “hanging tender” per animal which is why it’s also called the butcher’s steak because they took them home.  Butchers have been taking hangers home for the family forever.  If you’ve had a “bistro steak” or the “onglet,” you’ve probably had hanger.

Recipes for grilling these cuts of meat always recommend marinating them in an acidic bath to tenderize and break down the the muscle fiber a bit.  Sure, we’ve Allegro’d, Dale’d and moho’d our way through plenty of salty, sour steaks that we thought needed it, too. They were fine, but unless the meat is well dried, marinades discourage crust and overpower these naturally flavorful beef cuts.  The crust is the best part of the steak.  The leftovers were limiting because the flavor profile was predetermined last night. You don’t need them.

The road to success for cooking these big flavored cheaper cuts is to keep it simple.  Lightly rub the meat with a little oil.  Season with only salt and pepper. Quickly grill them over a nice hot fire only until rare to at most medium-rare.  Use steak knives.  If you really want a tender steak, buy a filet, but it’ll never have the flavor. Not the most attractive steak cut, the hanger features a membrane that separates the two halves you have to work around.  No big deal.  Often a restaurant and we will cut the steak in long halves eliminating the membrane. All these steaks, have long muscle fibers that benefit from high heat cooking and a rare to medium rare center.

R.B.’s Perfect Crusty Grilled Steak Tips

  • Always pat the steak dry before cooking.
  • Don’t worry about the steak coming to room temperature before cooking.  It’s easier to keep it rare if it’s a little cold and you’ll have a little more time to develop a crust.
  • Get your grill as hot as possible.
  • You don’t have to use a fancy oil on the steak.  Regular vegetable oil is fine because it’s not for flavor only to help with the crust.  Rub it in enough so the steak looks shiny, but not dripping in oil. Too much causes the oil to burn and will give you an unpleasant charred bitterness.


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