The hanger steak belongs to a group known as the flat steaks, which includes the flank and skirt steaks. A cut historically popular in Europe, the hanger steak hangs (hence the name) between the rib and the loin, where it supports the diaphragm. Until the 1990s, consumers in the United States only heard rumors of a "butcher's steak," since most meat retailers did not sell the cut to the general public before then.
Calling a Hanger Steak by Name
You might see it on a French bistro menu as onglet, or hear it referred to as skirt in the UK, lombatello in Italy, and solomillo de pulmón in Spain. Generally still sold in the U.S. as a budget cut, it might also bear the name hanging tenderloin or hanging tender. "Hangar" steak is a common misspelling. Its increasing popularity both among restaurant chefs and home cooks means it's no longer quite the bargain, but it's still an affordable and versatile cut.
Handling 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, though all three earn high marks for beefy flavor. But 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; anything above medium turns it tough.
Before grilling or broiling a 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 degrees 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.
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.
Putting Hanger Steak on the Table
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 or pesto or a balsamic drizzle.