Hanger Steak: The Cut for Non-Cow Aficionados

Lean, tough, but oh so tasty!

Cards on the table: I find bloody beef somewhat revolting. Although I don’t eat it often, I can enjoy smallish bites of meat that have an interesting flavor – think lamb, duck and other full-flavored proteins. But to me, beef doesn’t have an interesting enough taste – not to mention health benefits — to include on my consumption list. This attitude changed the first time I tried hanger steak a couple of years back. While I still don’t eat it often, this is the first steak I can honestly say doesn’t just taste like beef.

This cut is called the Butcher’s Steak because those savvy dudes used to keep this formerly little-known part for themselves. In our country, anyway. Hanger steak has long been popular in Europe, In French, it is known as the onglet, in Italian the lombatello, and in Spanish the solomillo de pulmon. Until recently, those hanger steaks that weren’t squirreled away by butchers were added to the hamburger grind. The cut is still so obscure here that you’ll rarely find it on those cow charts that sometimes decorate the meat counter.

Hanger steaks come one to a cow, weighing roughly a pound and “hang” between the last rib and the loin of the animal. They’re the opposite of a Kobe steak; tough, almost stringy and without the fat marbling of the pricey cuts. There’s an inedible membrane that runs down the center that must be removed. Local butchers now often slice this out before sale, making the final steak smaller in diameter.

Hanger steak isn’t usually found on charts of beef cuts but is located
between the plate and flank near the kidneys

What’s so special about hanger steak is the extremely rich flavor. It’s not just beef. Supposedly, its close proximity to the kidneys is what makes it so unique and delicious. To my palate, the taste of hanger steak compared to other steaks is like rich, livery squab compared to blah chicken.

As with most things food related, the hanger steak is coming into its own in the Bay Area. It often appears on restaurant menus and has become slightly easier to find at retail. The go-to source used to be JJ&F in South Palo Alto (not no more since ownership changed) and sometimes at Schaub’s in Stanford Shopping Center. Those are still good sources but Draeger’s has also begun offering it (for around $10/lb.). The Menlo Park Draeger’s almost always carries it now (that store has the premier meat counter in the chain) but it can be ordered from the other stores. Most likely, some other upscale markets also make it available.  The key: butcher shops that buy sides of beef and do their own carving, vs. the Safeways of the world, which sell pre-packaged meat.

This cut is supposed to be best marinated and cooked quickly over high heat (grilled or broiled) and served rare or medium-rare to avoid toughness. I still hate rare meat, however, so my personal favorite approach is to cut the long, narrow steak into generous pieces, marinate them, thread them on a skewer and grill them to taste (medium to well for this rare-meat-phobic girl) over charcoal. Nirvana is to serve the delicious brochettes with easy-to-make onion confit, which is fabulous with anything grilled. Making his dish is a perfect time to dig out those monster cabs you’ve been hoarding. During prep as well as at the table!

Coconut-Marinated, Grilled Hanger Steak Brochettes with Onion Confit

Serves 4 or more


Approximately 1 lb. hanger steak, membrane removed and cut crosswise into 2-inch pieces

Magic Marinade (see below)

Onion confit (see below)

This amount of marinade below will easily cover twice the amount specified above so buy more steak if desired or freeze the extra marinade. The onion confit recipe will also make extra; it freezes well, too.

Let the steak pieces sit in the marinade for 12 hour up to 2 days. Light your grill. Remove meat from marinade but don’t scrape off the excess and place on metal skewers. Grill as desired. Save extra marinade in the freezer and reuse.

Serve with warm or room-temperature onion confit on the side. Can be garnished with chopped parsley for color.

Magic Coconut Marinade

2 cups coconut milk (canned)

1 cup tamarind concentrate

1/3 cup black (Chinese) soy sauce

(optional) 4 sliced garlic cloves

Mix ingredients. Save extra marinade in the freezer and reuse. All these ingredients are available at Nak’s Asian Market in downtown Menlo Park.   This marinade is absolutely great with just about anything.  See the post (“My Magical Marinade”) for more details.

Onion Confit

3 onions, red, yellow or white, thinly sliced

4 shallots, thinly sliced

6 T olive oil

pinch of sugar

¼ – ½ cup red wine (can include some cheap port)

¼ cup red wine vinegar mixed with some balsamic vinegar

(optional) 1T thyme leaves

salt and pepper to taste

Saute the shallots and onions in the oil until soft. Add the sugar, then the wine and vinegar. Cook on low heat until the liquid is completely gone and the vegetables are fully caramelized, which can take 30 or more minutes. If the liquid disappears before the cooking is done, add more wine. Stir in the thyme and season with salt and pepper after removing from heat. Can be stored in the fridge for a couple of weeks or frozen in batches.


5 responses to “Hanger Steak: The Cut for Non-Cow Aficionados

  1. Where I purchase the steaks? I don’t care how to cook. Thx.

  2. Hanger steak is not easy to find. If you live near Palo Alto, try Schaub’s, but call first. Meat counters that break down their carcasses rather than buying meat precut will be more likely to have it. But there is just one steak per cow. A similar tasty and less-expensive cut is flatiron steak.

  3. There are actually two steaks per cow, if your butcher knows what they’re doing and cuts it right they’ll remove the silver-skin from the middle of the cut leaving you with two cuts; one (slightly) thinner than the other. And the hangar steak (also sometimes called “onglet” or “butcher’s tenderloin”) actually hangs down from the spine (where the kidneys are) where the loin and sirloin are generally divided.

  4. I think Jeremiah is right about 2 steaks per cow, NAMP 1140 but peninsulaeatz is actually right too, if she meant to write, 1 Hanging Tender per steer, NAMP 140. Using NAMP’s words, the Hanging Tender is a soft, grainy textured, elliptical shaped muscle that is attached to the diaphragm and the juncture of the lumbar/thoracic vertebrae.” I am writing an entry on Hanger Steak and came across your post. Hope that helps.

    Oh and I am interested to try your hanger steak recipe. It reads like it might be a very female friendly way to prepare hanger steak. Do you know if you had hanger steak from a grass fed or grain finished animal?

  5. peninsulaeatz

    Given how difficult it is to find hanger steak locally, I’m guessing what I used is from traditional grain-fed cows, since I used to buy it from a regular market — which no longer carries it, unfortunately. The local (I live in Palo Alto, in the San Francisco Bay Area) source of grass-fed beef is Whole Foods (which doesn’t sell hanger steak) or farmers markets (ditto). A pity.

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