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Onglet is the French name for a cut more commonly known in English as hanger steak. This rather forgotten choice is a flat cut from the diaphragm or lower belly. It is very loosely textured, can have a tendon running through it, weighs about 400g/1lb and is also known as butcher’s steak, because it is said butchers recognised its superior flavour and thus never put it on display but kept it for themselves.
The special attraction of onglet is a big beefy flavour but some people find it rather strong because of overtones of liver and kidney. It is especially good to serve with highly flavoured sauces.
Best cooked over high heat on or under a grill, in a pan or on a barbecue, onglet requires great care. First, cook on the rare side of medium rare – perhaps two or three minutes each side at most and then rest for a longer time, as much as 20 minutes on a warm plate in a warm (not hot) place, until it is almost room temperature. Cut into finger-wide slices, from top to bottom across the grain, just before serving.
It’s often suggested that steaks are coated with olive or other oils before cooking but this tends to create unwanted smoke; using a heavy, non-stick pan is a better plan but an ordinary pan at high temperature is unlikely to stick. Seasoning is best added after cooking, while the steak is resting.
It is very important to keep the cooking temperature high; too low a temperature encourages moisture to escape, which means the steak will stew and toughen. Equally important is NOT to turn the steak constantly which makes timing impossible to calculate – once is enough. Avoid pressing down on a steak as this expresses moisture.
See our onglet with red wine shallots recipe.
Fresh steak should be refrigerated for several days only. They may be bought frozen or frozen at home, in which case use them within a month or so and defrost very slowly, ideally in a refrigerator overnight. Vacuum-packing further extends life, for months as fresh meat and up to a year for frozen steaks.
Not commonly sold, it’s worth asking if it can be sourced at your butcher. More easily available from web-based specialist meat suppliers.
Unquestionably, beef steaks are more tender and most delicious when the carcass has been well aged under controlled conditions. Three weeks, 21 days, is an accepted minimum but developing techniques have extended this to well over 30 days. Ageing meat in caves made from blocks of Himalayan salt, which appears to control unwanted bacterial action, gives extended ageing time. Look for ageing information on labels and expect to pay more for maturer steaks.
The best beef will have a definite dark red colour, indicating it is the more likely to have been nicely aged. Beef that is pale and pinkish is usually too little aged and thus likely to be tough and lacking in flavour; this is especially true for steak cuts.