Grilling enthusiasts have been debating the merits of hanger steak vs ribeye for years. If you’re new to the party, you’ll want to weigh in on this topic yourself. This guide will serve as a primer to ensure that you’ll know what you’re talking about when you do.
Hanger Steak vs Ribeye
The hanger steak comes from the plate primal, situated between the loin and the ribs. It’s a flat and slightly chewy cut, with tons of flavor. The ribeye is very flavorful too, with a tender bite and plenty of marbling. Cut from the rib primal, it’s a popular cut that’s easy to find, although it is rather expensive.
All About Hanger Steak
If you’ve never heard of hanger steak, it’s long past time you were introduced to this unique cut. It’s not well-known outside the grilling and restaurant communities, but within those circles, hanger steak is one of the most prized cuts available.
Hanger steak is cut from the spot just below the diaphragm of the steer, between the ribs and loin. In fact, since the steak “hangs” out between these more popular cuts, butchers decided to put that term in the official name.
You might also see hanger steak marketed as “butcher’s cut,” especially on restaurant menus. That’s because butchers used to take this cut home for themselves once they realized how delicious it was. Now that the word is out, you can find it on the shelves.
The hanger steak contains plenty of muscle, which gives it a slightly chewy texture. If you prize tenderness in a steak above all else, then you might not appreciate what this cut has to offer.
On the other hand, if it’s sheer taste you’re after, this is an enticing choice. While it’s a “flat” cut, similar to flank and skirt steak, hanger steak is packed with beefy flavor.
All About Ribeye
Now here’s one you’re sure to have heard of, even if you’re an amateur griller. Cut from the rib primal, the ribeye is one of the most sought-after steak cuts on the market. Its reputation is well deserved, too, for the reasons we’re about to discuss.
Ribeye steaks are cut from the portions between the sixth and twelfth ribs of the cow. The longissimus dorsi that runs through the rib primal gives each steak an “eye,” which is considered the heart of the cut.
The intense marbling, or intramuscular fat, is what sets the ribeye apart. There are tendrils of creamy white fat running through the steak, which melts during cooking. This gives the meat a rich, almost buttery flavor.
When it’s cooked properly, ribeye is tender enough to melt in your mouth, though it’s not quite as soft as the tenderloin. But it also has more beef flavor than that cut, which is why many grillers prefer it.
Hanger Steak vs Ribeye: The Breakdown
What do hanger steak and ribeye have in common, and how do they differ? If you’re still not clear on that point, we’re here to break it down, point by point.
The hanger steak comes from the primal that’s known as the “plate,” down around the cow’s belly. The ribeye, meanwhile, is taken from the rib, which sits up higher.
A steak’s location on the animal plays a large role in the flavor and texture of the cut. For example, cuts that get a lot of exercise are tougher, because those muscles have worked harder.
Neither the hanger steak nor the ribeye get much of a workout during the steer’s lifetime. Despite that, both are very flavorful, though the ribeye is a bit more tender than the hanger.
The hanger steak is flat and narrow, with a ropy grain. By the time it’s made it to the butcher counter, most of the exterior fat should have been trimmed away, though there may still be a hint of white marbling throughout.
The ribeye is a broad, round or oval-shaped steak. The “eye” that runs through the rib primal will stand out, either in the center or toward the edges of the cut. There should also be plenty of marbling offsetting the muscle itself.
Some of the ribeyes you’ll find at the supermarket will weigh up to 2 pounds. That’s an enormous cut, and far more than the recommended serving size. Nonetheless, American diners are often thrilled to find steaks this large on restaurant menus.
Hanger steaks are smaller by design, though the exact size will depend on the age and weight of the steer. The entire hanger can weigh up to 1-1/2 pounds, but they’re usually cut smaller—around 10 ounces.
The hanger steak’s coarse grain allows the meat to absorb marinades well. It’s especially good when doused in a teriyaki or bourbon marinade for up to 24 hours.
You don’t want to ruin a ribeye’s excellent flavor by marinating it. A generous sprinkling of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper should do nicely when seasoning this steak.
Both steaks are superb when grilled. Use a medium-hot fire, and sear the steaks for 6-8 minutes per side, or until cooked to medium rare. As an alternative, try a cast-iron skillet set over medium-high heat.
You can cook a ribeye past medium without sacrificing too much of its texture, but we don’t recommend it. The meat will be more tender and flavorful if it’s cooked to medium rare. Ditto for the hanger steak—overcooking will make it unpleasantly tough.
Don’t forget to allow the steaks to rest for 5 to 10 minutes after they’ve finished cooking. That way, the juices will redistribute, which will improve the texture of every last bite.
Availability and Pricing
It’s far easier to find a ribeye than it is to procure a hanger steak. Since the latter is not as popular, it isn’t a supermarket staple. If the stores were to display it on a regular basis, they would probably end up wasting a lot of product.
That said, you should be able to buy a hanger steak at your local butcher shop. Ask your butcher if they can get it for you. It might take a few days, depending on where you live, so be sure to plan ahead if you don’t see hanger steaks there on a regular basis.
Ribeyes, meanwhile, are readily available in supermarkets, butcher shops, and even smaller mom-and-pop grocery stores. If you’re searching for something you can throw on the grill tonight, you might want to go for ribeye instead of hanger steak.
Though you can find both cuts online using retailers such as Wild Fork Foods and Omaha Steaks, this isn’t our favorite way to procure meat. It’s preferable if you can see the steaks before you purchase them.
As far as pricing is concerned, hanger steak is the better deal, hands down. Because more people have heard of ribeye, it has a relatively high price point as far as steaks are concerned.
The Bottom Line
Which one is better—ribeye or hanger steak? It’s up to you.
If you want our opinion, it’s a virtual tie. We love the flavor and texture of both cuts and enjoy experimenting with them whenever we can. Try it yourself to see if you’re able to choose a favorite.
Best of luck, and happy grilling!