Aside from a Ribeye steak, the Hanger steak is by far my favorite cut from a steer; With that said, it's also one of the hardest cuts to come by.
You won't find it at your grocery store and up until recently, you wouldn't find at your local butcher either - unless you knew what to ask for.
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From an anatomical perspective, the hanger steak are the crura (singular is crus or leg in Latin) - meaning they are the legs of the diaphragm.
The steak quite literally hangs from the diaphragm of the steer.
The diaphragm is a singular muscle that is cut into two separate cuts of meat - one being the hanger steak, the other being the outer skirt steak.
The hanger steak is one of the most tender cuts on the entire animal - aside from the tenderloin.
The hanger steak goes by several names; The most common name you'll find is "Butcher's Steak."
In the past, the Butcher's steak was so-called because Butcher's often kept the steak for themselves. This is because there is only one hanger steak per steer and because it is considered offal (both in the sense of being an internal organ and being waste) - especially in the United States.
There are also several different international names:
You'll often see the term "Bistro steak" in place of hanger steak. However, this term can also be used to refer to flank steak and skirt steak.
The same could be said for arrachera - however, arrachera directly translates from Spanish to English to mean skirt steak.
Almost all the cuts from the plate primal are known to have a great quality/price ratio; They are also easy to smoke and grill.
Cattle don't have collarbones so much of their weight is supported by their lower extremities. As a result, cuts from the beef plate, brisket, flank, foreshank, etc. develop large amounts of connective tissue, collagen, and fat.
However, unlike large cuts of meat like brisket - cuts from the beef plate are typically seared over high heat (500F+) as apposed to low and slow barbecue (225-275F).
Since the hanger steak is located in the abdominal cavity of the steer, it is often considered offal (internal organs of an animal).
This type of steak will have a subtle hint of liver - however, it's not overwhelming; Some people might describe it as iron-ish.
It's definitely a beefier flavor than you'd find in a steak like a ribeye.
Keep in mind, you're more apt to taste the offal flavor when the steak isn't marinated. Cuts like flank, skirt, and hanger are often marinated to the point where these subtleties are washed out.
The best alternatives to hanger steak are skirt steak and flank steak. Of these options the closest is likely skirt steak - only the skirt steak is fattier.
Keep in mind, some regions of the world confuse the hanger steak with the lumbar part of the diapraghm or outer skirt steak - especially in the United Kingdom. If you're from these regions, be sure to make the distinction with your Butcher.
Hanger steak is a rather versatile cut of meat; It can be grilled, braised, and fried.
Hanger steak is similar to flank steak and skirt steak and will take tell to marinades. Personally, I quite like the subtle offal taste and beefy flavor and treat the steak just like I would a regular steak.
When I have hanger steak I typically just use kosher salt and pepper or Lawry's seasoned salt and then reverse sear the steak on the grill until medium-rare.
It's important to mention that the muscle does feature a rather large central tendon. It's typically recommended to remove the tendon before you grill the meat. However, I don't opt to do this, simply because the sides are not the same size.
Rather, I simply grill the hanger steak with the tendon in-tact and then remove it after. Rather than discard it, I feed it to my dogs.
Like flank steak and skirt steak, it's typically recommended to cook the steak to rare or medium-rare and to slice across the grain.
As I mentioned above, it's unlikely that you'd find hanger steak at your grocery store. Up until recently, you couldn't even get it from your local Butcher (be sure to ask them though as it's likely cheaper than buying online!).
Fortunately, specialty Butchers do exist online. I've personally bought Hanger Steak from Porter Road and can vouch for the quality of the meat.
While I've never tried the hanger steak from Snake River Farms, I have bought meat from them several times.