Once upon a time in America, the hanger steak was referred to as the butcher's steak. It was called this because only the butcher really knew anything about it. You see, when you remove a hanger steak from the diaphragm of a carcass, it is encased in fat and hard to see. It must be trimmed and trimmed again. It takes time, and since there is only one on each steer and is so flavorful and good, and with little public demand, they rarely made it to the butcher's window. Instead, they made it to the butcher's table. Can you blame them?
1. Purchase some hanger steaks. For each beef cow that is butchered there is but one hanger steak. So they can occasionally be hard to find. Surprisingly, however, they are not as expensive as you might think. If hanger steaks are proving hard to find, ask for skirt steak instead. Or even flank steak. They are from similar areas of the cow and are similar in texture.
2. Season the hanger steaks and get them ready to grill. The hanger steak is prized for being the most flavorful cut of steak that a cow has to offer. So don't go messing that up with a bunch of heavy spices and marinades. This steak is best when coated with some fresh cracked pepper and sea salt. Some steak purists might even just cook it as is.
3. Fire up the grill and start grilling the steaks. If you are using a charcoal grill, wait until the coals get ashy before you start cooking the meat. Also, heat the grill with the lid on for about 10 minutes so you can clean the grates easier. The steaks have a light coating of canola or vegetable oil to help them brown quicker and keep them from sticking to the grates.
4. After a couple minutes on each side they should be done. The steaks should only take a few minutes to cook on each side since they are so thin. But you don't want to cook these steaks past medium; they will become so chewy you won't be able to eat them. Use your digital thermometer and remove them once they have reached 120 degrees F (rare), 130 (medium-rare), or 140 (medium).
5. Cut the across the grain thinly. Once you've removed the steaks from the grill, let them rest for about 10 minutes, loosely covered. Use this time to make a quick salad of greens and herbs to serve with the steak. Here's a recipe for balsamic vinaigrette: equal parts balsamic vinegar and olive oil. I know it's too easy, but it's good. Once the steaks are rested, slice them thinly across the grain. Serve atop the salad.
In France they call these steaks "onglet." In Britain they call them "skirt." In Italy "lombatello" is the name. And in Mexico they call these delicious steaks "arrachera." If you find yourself in one of these places, just get that.
Don't waste your time seasoning these steaks with a bunch of fancy spices and what not. Just stick with salt and pepper.
If your hanger steak comes untrimmed, remove the vein of connective tissue running down the middle.