The hanger steak, otherwise known as the hanging tenderloin or butcher’s steak, is a specific type of beef steak primarily cut from the underbelly of the cow, stretching to both sides of the upper belly in a forked shape.
The hanger steak is best known for its particular flavor and the softness of its texture, creating a significantly prized piece of meat oftentimes eaten on its own or added to a certain few dishes that accentuate the delicate flesh and excellent taste of hanger steak.
The ideal hanger steak substitute is chuck steak. However, skirt steak and flank steak also work well in cases where you’re marinating and grilling the meat. The best non-beef hanger steak substitutes are chicken breast, tofu steak, and Seitan steak.
How is the Hanger Steak used in Cooking?
The hanger steak, apart from being eaten entirely on its own as a stand-alone cut of meat, is also quite popular in Mexican cuisine wherein it is marinated and grilled before being served alongside tortillas.
This particular cut of meat, especially in the United States, is relatively uncommon due to the fact that it is often directly supplied to restaurants and similar establishments instead of being sold in grocery stores or other areas where consumers may normally purchase meats.
Hanger steak is usually used in a similar vein to the skirt steak or flank steak wherein it is simply seasoned and subsequently cooked in some way, such as grilling or pan frying.
The hanger steak is then cut into “dimes” or smaller slices so as to create a more cohesive and enjoyable experience, allowing it to also be dipped or seasoned further.
Why Should the Hanger Steak be Substituted?
The most likely reasons a cook may require a substitution in recipes where the hanger steak is normally needed could be due to its lack of availability to the common consumer, due to its rather high price range in the cases where it is available, and even religious or ethical beliefs preventing the individual from consuming certain parts of an animal.
It is fortunate, then, that the hanger steak has several alternate cuts from the same animal that are considered quite similar in flavor and texture, as well as a few other types of non-beef substitutes that can be used in much the same way, with a few extra steps added.
Hanger Steak Ideal Substitute
Though hanger steak is considered quite similar to a variety of other steak cuts that can replicate or approximate it in terms of texture and flavor, there is a single type of steak that is said to be the absolute closest approximation, perhaps even being superior to hanger steak itself in certain situations and markets.
This, of course, is the shoulder steak, otherwise known as the chuck steak.
The shoulder steak is considered a “sub-prime” cut of beef that is approximately one inch thick and removed from the upper portion of the animal’s torso, occasionally including certain parts of its clavicular and shoulder bones.
The shoulder steak is considered quite close to the hanger steak in terms of flavor and texture owing to its mixture of fatty portions and lean muscle, creating a similarly rich flavor and tender texture that is quite difficult to tell apart from the hanger steak, especially if cooked in the method of broiling or grilling.
This is best done through the direct substitution of hanger steak as a stand alone cut of meat itself.
Though the shoulder steak is oftentimes prized for its excellent use as a ground beef and similar forms of processed beef, it is best to utilize other cuts of meat with slightly lower costs in the case of substituting hanger steak, as the shoulder steak is at its closest to the hanger steak in its complete and intact form.
Hanger Steak Substitute for Barbeque and Marinating
Though the hanger steak is known for its tenderness and ease at which it may be chewed once cooked appropriately, this factor can be altered in potential substitutes through the use of certain cooking methods and other forms of preparation prior to cooking.
As such, another excellent substitute to hanger steak is the skirt steak, of which is often confused with the flank steak or the hanger steak itself due to its location and similarity of use.
The primary benefit to utilizing the skirt steak in place of the hanger steak in recipes is its excellent flavor, occasionally eclipsing that of the hanger steak in meats of higher quality.
This, however, is offset by its relatively tougher and chewier texture, making the skirt steak more unpleasant to eat if not tenderized or cooked in a manner that is conducive to the softening of its connective tissues.
Therefore, the ideal method to utilize skirt steak as a hanger steak substitute is to first induce some form of tenderization prior to cooking it, either through mechanical impact, the use of certain types of marinades, the use of plant enzymes or other compounds or even through high pressure slow cooking.
Hanger Steak Non-Beef Substitutes
Occasionally, a situation may arise wherein an entirely different form of food may be required in order to substitute hanger steak. This may be due to a variety of reasons, such as religious and ethical beliefs, dietary restrictions or even simple culinary experimentation.
We have compiled the closest non-beef approximations of hanger steak below, the majority of which should be easily acquired in any grocery store or marketplace.
Not suitable for individuals wishing to replace hanger steak for vegan or vegetarian reasons, chicken breast may act as a substitute for hanger steak both in a nutritional and textural capacity.
The drawback to using chicken breast as a hanger steak replacement, however, is the massive disparity in flavor, with chicken breast oftentimes being described as bland or otherwise mild in flavor, especially in comparison to beef steaks.
Chicken breast is best used as a hanger steak substitute in instances wherein it will be added to a meal alongside other ingredients that may lend their flavor to the chicken breast, such as in fajitas or stews.
Another method that allows chicken breast to act as a replacement for hanger steak is to marinade it in much the same method hanger steak would ordinarily be marinated, bringing their relative flavors closer together.
Tofu Steak Replication
An extremely common vegan substitution for hanger steak or practically any other type of meat, tofu processed in a certain method so as to replicate the texture and appearance of steaks can also act as a substitute for specific cuts of meat, even hanger steak itself.
However, the majority of tofu steak replication products are not intended to recreate one specific type of meat cut, instead acting as a sort of catch-all wherein the tofu steak replication is meant to act as a substitute for practically any type of meat.
This makes tofu steak replication a poor textural substitute for hanger steak if not painstakingly treated in order to recreate the soft and delicate texture of the steak.
Oftentimes used as a substitute to tofu steak replication products or meat products themselves, seitan steak is a form of wheat gluten treated in such a way so as to replicate the texture and appearance of a variety of meats, including that of hanger steak.
Seitan steak may be marinated and treated in much the same way as hanger steak would be, with the sole exception being instances wherein excess fat may be needed so as to protect the seitan from being burned, as the majority of seitan’s constituent compounds are simply proteins and monosaccharides.
1. Jacobs, Barbara; Jacobs, Leonard (1987). Cooking with Seitan: Delicious Natural Foods from Whole Grains. New York, NY: Japan Publications. ISBN 9780870406379.
2. Rob Firing. (2018) “Steak Revolution: All Cuts, All Ways—Perfect Every Time” Retrieved Through Google Books Cooking Category. Collins publishing ISBN 144345186X, 9781443451864
3. Ray Venezia, Chris Peterson (Apr 12 2016) “The Everyday Meat Guide: A Neighborhood Butcher’s Advice Book” Chronicle Books ISBN 1452147183, 9781452147185