Hanger steak is extremely flavourful and really tender, but it's not used that much here in Ireland.

As part of our Back to Basics series, we’re looking at some common ingredients to help make sure our readers are making the most of the great produce that we have access to here in Ireland. Previously we looked at scallops, housekeeper’s cut of beef and chicken thighs; today we're looking at hanger steak.

Beef is so popular here in Ireland that the average person consumes around 19kg per year, which adds up to about a total of around 87,000 tonnes of beef a year in total! The nutritional value of beef cannot be underestimated; it’s a great source of protein, as well as providing iron, zinc, vitamins A and D, as well as other nutrients. 

Irish beef is renowned for its quality and a lot of that is to do with the land that the cattle is reared on: Grass-fed cattle results in better tasting beef and in Ireland, cattle are left to graze in the fields for most of the year. Grass-fed beef has higher levels of vitamin E and beta-carotene compared to grain-fed beef and it also has a higher ratio of omega 3 fatty acids and CLAs, which have been linked to health benefits such as lower cholesterol and reduced cancer risks. Irish food safety standards are extremely high and any beef products that are made in Ireland follow a very strict process, so you know you’re in safe hands! 

What is hanger steak?

Hanger steak is prized for its flavour; as it is taken from the lower belly of the calf, the muscle hasn't been used too much, meaning it is extremely tender, very well marbled and full of flavour. In the past, this type of steak was known as butcher's steak because butchers would keep it aside for themselves rather than selling it to the public. 

Also called skirt steak in Ireland and Britain (but not in the US), hanger steak is V-shaped with an inedible membrane running through the middle. It is called hanger steak because it is said to 'hang' from the cow's diaphragm.

How to cook hanger steak 

While hanger steak is really tender, it can dry out very quickly. To avoid this, we recommend cooking this steak to medium rare, as anything more will result in a tough, dry steak. 

Marinades work really well on hanger steak, particularly if you're planning to grill or barbecue it. Make sure to add some acid to your marinade, like vinegar, citrus or wine, as this will help to tenderise the meat even further, as well as adding some extra moisture

When serving a steak, it's important to always slice against the grain. Hanger steak can contain particularly strong fibres so going against the grain will ensure that the meat is easy to eat. 

How to store hanger steak

As always, we recommend that you buy your beef from your butcher. While hanger steak is now commonly seen on supermarket shelves, butchers are the best source for this cut and are more likely to have it in stock.

Beef often changes colour throughout its shelf-life; it usually starts out bright red but can turn a brownish-grey colour, both of which are totally safe to eat, as long as it is within its use-by date. Beef shin should be kept on its own shelf in a refrigerator between 0-5ºC at all times in order to prevent bacterial growth.

Hanger steak freezes really well, so if you don't think you'll get to use it before it goes off, you can stick it in the freezer, as long as the use-by date hasn't passed. Make sure to fully thaw the meat before use by leaving it on a plate on the bottom shelf of the fridge. It's important to keep defrosting beef away from other foods, as it releases quite a lot of liquid that can spread bacteria. Use beef shin within 24 hours of thawing and don't refreeze it.

Looking for some recipe inspiration?

Hanger steak can be used in any recipe that calls for a delicious, quick-cooking steak. We especially love using hanger steak in this steak and tarragon butter recipe from Dan Keane, as it's quick to throw together and works really well for groups.

Steak salad is another dish that works really well with hanger steak, but you also can't beat the classic: a delicious steak sandwich. This version from Oxmantown is one of our favourites.

Image by Harry Weir and Brian Clarke.

Image by Harry Weir and Brian Clarke.

How do you like to cook hanger steak? Let us know in the comments below.