Ribeye, strip loin (NY strip), porterhouse and tenderloin (filet mignon) get all the glory, but two of my favorite steaks to grill are the hanger steak (or hanging tender) and the flat iron steak (or top blade). I love these two cuts because they have an unrivaled affinity for an intensely hot charcoal fire and are very flavorful. Quickly grilled to medium-rare, these can be some of the most delicious steaks you’ll ever serve.
The hanger steak is often called a “butcher steak,” because the butcher is inclined to take them home. These steaks used to be rather inexpensive, but they have been gaining in popularity – and in price. For those who like to marinate steaks, the hanger steak is a perfect choice. The structure of the muscle and grain of the marbling help it take in the marinade.
The hanger steak comes from the plate of the cow, just behind the front legs. This is not a hard-working muscle, so it is juicy and tender. There is a tough membrane that runs down the middle of the steak. This should be removed before grilling. You may find the butcher has already done this for you. If the marbling in the steak branches out in V-shaped strips from the center, the membrane is probably still there running right down the middle. You can split the steak in two to remove the membrane. If the marbling in the steak runs in only one direction, the butcher has already removed the membrane for you.
The hanger steak has a deep, rich beef flavor, and is relatively easy to grill correctly. For tender results, the grilling temperature and final internal temperature are both very important. Grill hanger steaks over a very hot fire, about 800°F. Hanger steaks are long, thin, and rather round, so roll them on the grill to brown them on all sides and ensure even cooking. Remove them from the grill when an instant-read meat thermometer registers an internal temperature of 130°F,then let them rest for about 5 minutes as the temperature rises to a perfect 135°F. Slice the steaks across the grain for serving.
Flat Iron Steaks
Dry-rubbed Hanger Steaks Grilling Over a Hot Charcoal Fire
The flat iron steak is a rather new cut, developed in 2002 based on research by the University of Nebraska and the University of Florida. It comes from deep inside the chuck roll, and was previously sold as part of the humble chuck roast. When separated into its own cut, the flat iron steak is second in tenderness only to the tenderloin, but it is much richer in flavor. As with the hanger steak, there is a very tough membrane that divides this muscle in two. It should be removed before grilling. When the membrane has already been removed, flat iron steaks will typically be flat and wide, resembling a flank steak in shape. You may find the steaks have been cut across the muscle. In this case, you will likely see the membrane quite clearly, running right down the center. Flat iron steaks should be grilled over high heat to medium-rare doneness in the same manner as hanger steaks.
You probably won’t see these cuts in every butcher case, since there’s only one hanger steak and one flat iron steak per animal, but both cuts are worth seeking out. Good butchers should be able to guide you to other unusual specialty cuts depending on your cooking style and preferences. Add extra layers of flavor to your next hanger or flat iron steak with a smoky dry rub and spicy jalapeno butter - check out the recipe here.