Hanger Steaks

Mmmm Hangers… – Anthony Bourdain constantly praises them, they are starting to pop up on the menus of better steak houses, they are starting to show up in butcher counters, and recently they were a featured item on Food Network’s “Best in Smoke” competition show. With all the publicity lately I though I’d republish this tutorial I wrote a while back.

Personally I think they are one of the best, most flavorful beef cuts out there. Not only that they are inexpensive – whole “packer” hangers can be had for under $2 a pound.

From Wiki: A hanger steak is a cut of beef steak which is said to “hang” from the diaphragm of the steer. (Anatomically the diaphragm is one
muscle, but it is commonly cut into two separate cuts of meat: the “hanger steak” traditionally considered more flavorful due to its proximity to the kidneys, and the outer skirt steak which is composed of tougher muscle within the diaphragm.) The hanger is attached to the last rib and the spine near the kidneys. It resembles flank steak, and is a vaguely V-shaped pair of muscles with a long, inedible membrane down the middle. The hanger steak is not really tender, but has a lot of flavor, and is best marinated and cooked quickly over high heat (grilled or broiled) and served rare or medium-rare, to avoid toughness. Chefs with experience preparing beef kidneys report that the hanger steak’s aroma preserves a trace of kidney.
There is only one hanger steak per animal, and the entire cut typically weighs about 1 to 1.5 lbs (450 to 675g). It is prized for its flavor, and was sometimes known as “butcher’s steak” because butchers would often keep it for themselves rather than offer it for sale. That may just be because there was never demand for it due to the finicky cut (which may take experience to cook). If no one else will purchase it, the business-minded butcher would take the cut home himself.
The hanger steak has traditionally been more popular in Europe. In French, it is known as the onglet, in Italian the lombatello, and in Spanish the solomillo de pulmon. In the United States, it is slowly starting to become popular; formerly, it was not separated as an individual cut. Even today it is usually ground into hamburger in the US.
It is also known as the “hanging tender”, and occasionally is seen on menus as a “bistro steak”.
Its U.S. meat-cutting classification is NAMP 140.

A lot of custom butchers will sell you trimmed hangers for around $5 – $7 per pound, but with a little effort, some know how, and some practice, you can trim whole primal hangers down into really flavorful meat treats in just a few minutes: Here’s how to butcher a whole hanger:

You will need a sharp flexible boning knife and possibly a chef’s knife to butcher a primal hanger. Here’s how a “packer” hanger comes from the butcher: Note the heavy membrane that sits on top.
Top view

Bottom View:

Take your boning knife and work it ( and your fingers) under the heavy membrane to get down to the silver skin and hard fat underneath

You want to remove as much of the membrane and hard fat as possible:

Once all the membrane and most of the hard fat is gone (you won’t get it all) you can start on the outside sliver skin. Silver skin is the shiny inedible membrane. This is much like trimming a whole tenderloin, you want to poke your boning knife under the silver skin, then lift and push the blade at the same time so it slices the sliver skin off the meat removing as little meat as possible:



Close up:

Whole hangers have a thick inedible membrane that runs down the center of the cut. You need to separate the primal into 2 individual steaks along this membrane. Depending on how the primal has been cut, this membrane may run down the center or off to one side. On some primal hangers you will get two complete steaks. On others you’ll end up with one nice steak and one or two smaller pieces; Don’t throw these away! Stir fry, fajitas, burritos and lots of other dishes can be made from these bits .

On this primal, we have the membrane in the center for 2 nice steaks.
Center membrane:

Cutting down the center membrane: You want to try and follow the membrane as it runs through the meat.


Separated:

Once the two steaks are separated, you want to trim the remaining silver skin and the hard fat. Again, you want to work this like a whole tenderloin poking your boning knife under the silver skin and sliding it along the meat with a slight upward pressure.



Removing hard fat:

When you are finished you should have two nice, lean, steaks like this:
Top:

Bottom:

Once you’re done, hangers can be pan seared, grilled, or prepared with any fast, high heat method. In this case we were going to grill them, but Mother Nature intervened and I ended up seasoning them with salt, pepper and a little worcestershire powder, then pan roasting them and making a red wine/shallot reduction sauce. I served them with fresh green beans and corn on the cob.

Hope this helps, Hangers are an tremendous value and an extremely flavorful cut of beef. Give them a try!

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