When people talk about their favorite beef steaks I rarely ever hear of hanger or skirt. Maybe they’re destined to be turned to ground beef, or only enjoyed by butchers who have them as left over cuts.
The hanger and skirt steak are two of the most underrated cuts of beef. Sure, they may not look as attractive as a filet mignon or New York strip. But, they pack an amazingly delicious flavor and ridiculously tender texture when seared to perfection.
But, given that both the hanger and skirt steak look so similar, come from the same part of the cow, and are prepared in a similar fashion it’s understandable that they are often confused. I mean, are there even any differences?
Well… let’s just say there are more similarities than differences. Here we go through the similarities and differences between hanger steak and skirt steak, if you can substitute one for the other, and which one is the best.
Are Hanger Steak And Skirt Steak The Same?
The first thing that needs to be addressed is that hanger steak and skirt steak are actually not the same cut of meat.
But look, I totally get it. They look similar, they taste similar, they have a very similar texture, and they even come from the same primal cut of the beef, the plate. Plus they are both relatively rare cuts to find unless you go to a quality butcher of course.
But, the truth is that hangar steak and skirt steak are not the same cut. Although they both come from the plate of the cow, the flank steak is cut from above the lower belly, and the hangar steak “hangs” from the diaphragm.
But, they share very similar marbling and are prepared in a very similar fashion. It’s because of this that you are so easily able to substitute hanger steak for skirt steak and vice versa – which is a lifesaver if the local shops have run out of one or the other.
Hanger Steak And Skirt Steak Differences
Despite their initial and countless similarities, you can distinguish between a hanger steak (left) and skirt steak (right) when you look a bit closer at each cut. Here are some of the most obvious (as well as subtle differences) between the two cuts:
One of the most obvious differences between the two cuts of steak is the size. Hanger steaks usually come as a single cut from the whole cow, which is also known as “butcher’s cut” or “bistro cut” while the skirt steak comes as two cuts per cow.
In addition to the number of cuts per cow, skirt stakes are also quite larger and usually weigh a few pounds more than the hanger steak that you get per cow. Whole skirt steaks may weigh up to 2 pounds per cow while hanger steak would be under a single pound or less.
Both the hanger steak and skirt steak are often also confused with flank steak, as again, they look rather similar. All of these steaks, including the flat iron steak can be referred to as flap steak – which is a general name given to a thin beef steak of this nature.
Skirt steaks are longer and thinner while hanger steaks are shorter but with more girth to the cuts.
For instance, the average hanger steak cut would measure anywhere between 6 and 7 inches long while skirt steaks can go as long as 2 feet. However, hanger steaks usually have a relatively girthier build as well as wider width.
Preparation And Serving Method
In terms of the muscle groups on the cow, the hangar steak doesn’t get as much work as the skirt steak. Because of this it’s slightly more tender than the skirt steak.
This means that marinating the hanger steak is not critical to tenderize the meat, although it will still help!
When preparing a skirt steak it’s always best to marinate it for at least 1-2 hours before cooking it. This way it adds acidity or salt, which penetrates into the meat and starts to tenderize it. This is made famous by the London broil, which is a popular steak dish using lean steaks that turns out exceedingly tender. This is very popular when cooking skirt steak for a group.
A hanger steak will still benefit from the marination, but you can also simply season with salt and pepper and cook it in a cast-iron skillet or on high heat on a grill to your degree of steak doneness. Grilled hanger steak like this will blow your mind.
Both hanger and skirt steak can be used to make some pretty great lean ground beef too!
Hanger Steak Vs. Skirt Steak - What’s The Best?
Comparing a hanger steak and skirt steak in terms of quality and taste is much harder than other beef steaks as they are so strikingly similar.
Both can be prepared in the same fashion, with the same marinade, and cooked for pretty much the same time on a hot grill or skillet.
However, the small differences in size and thickness means that the skirt steak cooks more consistently. The hanger steak is slightly thicker, but also more uneven, which makes it easier to overcook and harder to get an amazing sear at the same time.
But look, if you prepare them the same way, with the same seasoning and marinade then the steaks are virtually the same deliciousness. I hate to say it, but it comes down to personal preference.
Can You Use Hanger Steak Instead Of Skirt Steak?
Because of the close similarities in taste, texture, and preparation method you can use hanger steak as a substitute for skirt steak, and you can use skirt steak as a substitute for hanger steak. It works both ways.
Though, if the recipe calls for a skirt steak, it’s always best to see if you can use that and vice versa. Sometimes recipes have assumed the thickness and size of the meat, so it will match the right amount of seasonings, marinade, and cooking time.
This means if you follow the instructions you may overseason or underseason, or overcook or undercook your substitute meat.
Nonetheless, if you adjust to your needs you can quite easily replace hanger steak or skirt steak with the other in a recipe.
So, if you’ve accidentally bought a hanger steak instead of a skirt steak, or vice versa, don’t stress. Although the hanger steak and skirt steak are different cuts of beef there striking similarities in taste, texture, and preparation method outweigh the slight differences.
For this reason, both the hanger and skirt steaks can be used in place of each other in recipes with very little adjustment needed, if any.
When it comes to which steak is best, well that depends on you and the recipe.
For more steak knowledge, check out New York strip vs. filet mignon.