Contrary to what you might read in many places, the Hanging Tender, NAMP 140, also known as the Hanging Tenderloin, Hanger, Pillar, Onglet (French) and Butcher’s Tenderloin, is not a “part” of the diaphragm of an animal. It is instead a muscle and cut of meat that has stumped a lot of butchers, including published authors like Merle Ellis, who wrote the useful meat book Cutting Up in the Kitchen where he said, “I can’t tell you what the Hanging Tender is. I’ve looked in dozens of reference books and talked to scores of butchers, and nobody seems to know just what the thing is. It’s just there.”
The “thing,” the Hanging Tender, is an elliptical-shaped portion of muscle that is called the “Pillar of the Diaphragm.” The pillar is actually the V shaped union of two smaller muscles, joined by a membrane that together help to hold the diaphragm in place. The pillar gets its Hanging Tender name because it literally hangs off the kidney just below the tenderloin on the inside of the left, and only the left, hindquarters and attaches to the last rib. Because it is only found on the left side, there is only one Hanging Tender per steer.
Economical, Hanging Tenderloin is known for its rich, beefy flavor. Some may label the flavor profile “livery,” a taste that old wives’ tales attribute to the Hanger’s proximity to the kidneys. But the truth is that Hanger Steak is only livery if overcooked. Shorter cook times reduce the incidence of “liver” flavor and are a tactic that old wives should try.
When looking for a whole Hanging Tender, you will likely have to order in advance, seek out a Specialty Butcher, or try a Mexican market where Hanging Tender may be marketed as “Arrachera.”
To cut Hanger Steaks from the Hanging Tender, just remove the silver skin membrane (by starting a tear with the point of a knife and then pulling on it with your fingers), trim as much external fat as you choose to (retaining some external fat allows it to crisp up when cooking) and then separate the two lobes along the thick vein of inedible fat that runs lengthwise up the middle of the Hanging Tender. If there is a leathery silver skin fascia skin on your Hanging Tender, remove it by poking a hole in the Silver Skin to open it and then pulling/trimming it away with your fingers or a Paring Knife. Some chefs allow this skin to burn off but that can lead to excessive charring, so Smart Kitchen advises removing it.
Also don’t worry if your raw meat has some gray “burns” on the meat. They are likely scalds from the hot water wash used to prevent E Coli contamination in the packing plant. The Hanging Tender is an “interior” cut and gets sprayed. If you have any gray areas and you find them unsightly, trim them off.
Hanging Tender can also be found cut into strips for Fajitas or Bulgogi and as part of a custom Ground Beef Mixture. Some restaurants swear by a ground beef mixture of 40% Hanger, 40% Chuck and 20% beef fat.
The roughly V-shaped Hanger steak has historically been more popular in Europe (in the U.K. it is known as a Skirt Steak) but is gaining in popularity in the U.S. Tough, almost stringy and lacking the Marbling of more expensive cuts, in the domestic meat case, the Hanging Tender is typically trimmed of excess fat, denuded to remove the thick silver skin membrane surrounding the meat and separated along a thick, inedible, central elastic vein of fat into two roughly equal lobes, (though one will be larger) to form Steaks.
The resulting Hanger Steak is typically merchandized as an approximately 8 ounce (225 g), 1.5 to 2 inches thick (3.8-5 cm) steak with a diagonal (roughly 45°) Meat Grain and abundant juices but little internal fat. Because the steaks are usually purchased already trimmed and best cooked quickly to a “rarer” level of doneness, there is little shrinkage. Six to nine ounces (170 g to 255 g) should suffice per diner. Hanger Steaks can also be Butterflied to make a thinner steak or more portions. Though tough, they can be very good, economical, steak eating if handled properly.
PURCHASING HANGER STEAK
Finding a Hanger Steak in a traditional grocery meat case is another matter. Historically, the Hanging Tender has been a cut overlooked by the public but savored by more knowledgeable butchers. Since the meat carvers personally liked the cut but couldn’t move it, Hanger Steaks often went home with the meat cutter, giving the cut a nickname of Butcher’s Steak and sparking some speculation about Hanger Steaks being a “secret” cut that the meat men kept for themselves. We doubt the secret cut part of the story is true, since the butcher has access to every cut at wholesale or better prices and is a clever merchant. It is more likely that with only, at most, 2 steaks per steer that the Hanger Steak did not present well in a meat case.
That being said, today there is still only one Hanging Tender per steer, producing a limited supply of Hanging Tenders, which are not treated gently by packing plant workers more intent on other cuts and happy to toss the Hanging Tender into the Ground Beef pipeline. If you are looking for a Hanger Steak, it may well feel like attempting to make an illicit purchase. You are most likely to find Hanger Steak on a restaurant menu, by special ordering or at a Specialty Butcher Shop.
If you do find a Hanger Steak for sale, it will be darker than the typical steak and should be firm to the touch without excess liquid pooling in the package. Make sure to ascertain if the silver fascia skin, has been removed during processing. If it has not, you will want to remove it by starting a tear in it with a knife point and trimming it away with your clean fingers or a knife.
Cooking Hanger Steaks
Hanger Steaks are tough but flavorful. They benefit from Marinating and, once marinated, can be cooked with a Dry Heat Method like Broiling, Sautéing or Grilling. A thinner Hanger Steak will cook more quickly but, in general, 3 minutes a side on High Heat should yield a Rare level of doneness. 4 minutes a side on High Heat should deliver Medium. Keeping it 5 inches (12.7 cm) from the heat source will discourage excessive charring and burning. Obviously, it should be turned at least once during the high heat cooking. Low & Slow Roasting or roasting in general does not work well for Hanger Steak, which can be extremely tough if improperly cooked. Hanger Steak is juiciest and most tender served Medium Rare at most.
Once cooked to your satisfaction, Hanger Steak should rest, 5 to 15 minutes before service. When eating Hanger Steak, it is best to slice your bites across the Meat Grain but with a Hanger Steak, “across” does not mean at a 90° angle to the length of the steak. The grain actually runs at about a 45° angle. Without too much more geometry, we suggest a 22.5° angle for bisecting the Hanger Steak’s meat grain. Just know that slicing across the long diagonal muscle fibers will make a significant difference in whether your Hanger Steak is rib eye tender or rubber band chewy and tough.
STORING HANGER STEAK
After purchase but before cooking, Hanger steaks will be good for only about 2-3 days refrigerated, perhaps 4 if they have been marinated. Frozen in their original package they will be good for 2 weeks or so. If you need to freeze them for longer, you will need to re-wrap them in foil and a plastic freezer bag with as much air removed as possible.
Smart Kitchen has two recipes for Hanger Steak. One is Hanger Steak Seoul inspired by Chef David Chang of Momofuku in New York City and the other is Coconut Hanger Steak adapted from Susan Hathaway’s recipe at Peninsulaeatz.