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As we as consumers become more adventurous and more conscious of sustainable food production, we’re – as a whole – starting to eat more and more of the whole animal. Offal has made a comeback and is found on the menus of some of the best restaurants in the world. Nose-to-tail eating has become a trendy new way to tackle degustation, and bone broths and stocks are being promoted as a great way to stretch the carcass even further.
You may have noticed this at your local butcher over the last few years. Along with the mince, porterhouse, eye fillet et al, there may be a couple of new cuts you don’t immediately recognise.
2 of the most popular new members of this nouveau boeuf movement are hanger and skirt steak.
Anatomically speaking these cuts comprise the diaphragm. The diaphragm is one muscle, commonly cut into two distinct pieces: the hanger steak and the outer skirt steak, composed of tougher muscle from the dome of the diaphragm. The hanger is attached to the last rib and to the front of several of the lumbar vertebrae, and literally “hangs” and does very little work. This makes the hanger quite unique as it is a very flavourful piece of meat which is still quite tender and lean. It is sometimes known as the butchers cut as the butchers tended to keep it for themselves! The hangers lack of popularity is often attributed to its slightly coarse texture and the fact that there’s only 1 hanger steak per cow.
Skirt steak is long, flat, and prized for its flavour rather than tenderness. It’s often confused with flank steak but is a more flavourful meat when treated correctly. There is some sinew running through the meat – it is a working muscle after all – and so is often served thinly sliced.
The key to getting the best out of both these steaks is preparation and cook time. Hanger, being the thicker and more tender cut, is perfect for grilling and barbecuing and roasting. It takes marinades extremely well so is great for all types of Asian cooking, especially Japanese and Chinese dishes with rich sauces and condiments. Like all great cuts of meat, you don’t want to overcook it. High heat and extended rest time, if you’re cooking a whole piece, is non-negotiable. If you’re cooking it thinly sliced in a wok or in hot-pot, just keep an eye on it so it doesn’t get too overcooked.
Skirt is the ultimate stir-fry steak. Not only does it take on marinades exceptionally well – its flat, wide shape makes it perfect to cook in a wok thanks to the large surface area. As mentioned above, there is a bit of sinew running through the steak, which is why slicing it pre-cooking is great as you can trim it away as you go. As a working muscle, it only requires a little bit of cooking at high heat. Leave it too long and it will get a little tough. But! It’s so packed full of beefy flavour that you probably won’t mind.
So there’s a quick look at some of the best steaks going around. Hopefully, you learnt something new here, and if you didn’t, hopefully, you’re more inspired then ever to try these delicious cuts!