Hanger is like that indie band that hasn’t quite hit top-40 mainstream status yet, but is big enough that everybody and their mothers have heard about it. – SeriousEats.com
Beef carcasses used to be hung on ceiling high meat hooks at packing plants and slid along rails from one processing step to the next.
A lone singular muscle which hung at the bottom of the suspended carcass – where the fore quarter is separated from the hind – would drag along the floor collecting sawdust as the carcass moved through the production line. Meat cutters at the time, aptly dubbed it the Hanger Steak.
The hanging muscle was not used in the normal fabrication process for the most part back then, but was often used for ground beef, cut for stew or discarded. When red meat was deemed an unaffordable luxury for most in the early 1900’s, plant workers would take the unused piece home for their families.
Hanger Steaks also became known as, “Butchers Steak”, because butcher shop owners often opted to keep the muscle for themselves rather than sell it to their customers.
Cut from the Hanging Tender
All other beef muscles come in duplicate form – there are (literally) two of each type of muscle found in cattle except for this one. Hanging Tender became an industry standard term for this singular muscle sensation.
An extension of the diaphragm muscle, the Hanging Tender is also considered an extension of the Outer Skirt. Comprised of two solid muscle parts connected by a strand of heavy silver skin, the whole Hanging Tender should be separated at the seam. The two halves of the muscle then become steaks; there is one Hanging Tender per carcass, which yields two Hanger Steaks.
Called, “Onglet” in France, “Lombatello” in Italy, “Solomillo de Pulmón” in Spain, and “Arrachera” in Mexico, Hangers are one of the richest flavored steaks available. They have the grainy characteristics of the skirt and also share the robust beefy flavor with nice marbling.
Proper cooking is imperative – Hangers can be grilled, broiled, smoked, seared and cut for fajita, take to marinade well (because of their loose texture) and are best when marinated. They should be seared rare to medium rare and sliced against the pronounced grain.
When history meets trend, great things happen. Add frites, and you’ll have one of the hippest menu dishes around.
By Russ Kramer & John Cecala