Everyone is talking about Second Cuts. New steak cuts from previously neglected pieces of beef add variety to your grilling and also significantly contribute to an appreciation of individual parts of the animal. Some of these new cuts open up new culinary worlds in the process. Best example: the onglet. The French have loved the long cut all along and slowly the fascination with hanger steak is spreading to Germany too. Connoisseurs describe it as one of the most exciting pieces for the barbecue. So it is time to take a closer look at this special piece of meat.
The supporting muscle to the diaphragm
From an anatomical perspective the onglet is the supporting muscle to the diaphragm, in Germany it is called “Nierenzapfen” (hanger steak). However it has nothing to do with the kidneys (Nieren) – aside from them being in a similar location in the cow. Other nations have given the cut other names, in France the cut is referred to as the “onglet”, in English-speaking countries it is mostly known as “hanging tender” or “hanger steak”. Regardless of which name it is given the onglet always provides surprising culinary moments. For many people their first onglet moves the goalposts of what meat can deliver in terms of flavour.
Where does this enthusiasm for the flavour of the onglet come from? It is probably the unique intensity and complexity of the flavour: earthy, intense, beefy, punchy. These are attributes that apply to the onglet like no other cut of beef. There have been meat fans for whom the flavour was even too intense. If you like intense meat flavours, you will love the onglet, because it intensifies everything that can only be tasted in hints in fillet, roast beef and other cuts. The flavour is reminiscent for many of offal like liver or heart. But even though the onglet is considered to be offal it is made up of pure muscle meat. The classification is much more about its location, in direct proximity to the liver and the kidneys, which also have an impact on the taste of the onglet. The onglet tastes rich in iron and has a mineral taste. Depending on the breed, age of the animal and duration of the maturing process this flavour is intensified even more, often to the level of a unique culinary experience.
A unique muscle
The onglet is a unique muscle – that should already be clear by now. It is also unparalleled in that there is only one of these cuts in the cow. While almost every other area in beef – mirrored right and left along the spine – appears twice, this is not the case with onglet. The low demand for this previously underestimated cut ensures, however, that this numerical inferiority in comparison with the other prized cuts is hardly noticeable.
If you buy a whole onglet you should be aware that it still requires some work in order to make this muscle completely edible. A thick tendon runs through the cut – therefore it is imperative to still do a bit of paring before grilling or frying. However as this tendon runs through the muscle and is clearly visible it can easily be removed with a sharp knife. This preparatory work is compulsory as the tendon doesn’t soften when you barbecue the meat. Alternatively this task can be done by any good butcher. If you pare the onglet yourself you can even save yourself some money.
Prepare onglet perfectly
Preparing an onglet isn’t daunting – essentially you can treat it like any other barbecue steak. It benefits from powerful roasted flavours and a cooking level that shouldn’t be above medium. In short: the onglet is salted with coarse sea salt and browned on the hot grill on both sides for approximately two minutes. As the steak is very lean it can be helpful to brush the steak with some oil before browning it – this optimises the heat transfer and ensures a perfect crust is formed. Then continue to cook the onglet on an indirect heat (approximately 180 degrees) for approximately 10 minutes. The best thing to do is to monitor the cooking process with a core temperature gauge. The French love their onglet cooked rare (core temperature approximately 50 degrees), but medium (56 degrees) or medium rare (53 degrees) is also a real treat.
What do I need to consider when I buy onglet?
For starters a good onglet benefits from the same factors as all of the other meat cuts. Features such as animal-friendly husbandry with the ability for the animal to exercise, ideally a stress-free slaughter process (as much as is possible), natural feed are all basic conditions to consider for any form of meat consumption. First of all it is advisable to ask the butcher about the background to the animal’s life. However, what is just as important to the taste experience is the aging process. The onglet is not naturally a tender muscle. It is put under strain and consists of very coarse fibres. Sufficiently long aging in a vacuum is therefore crucial for a perfect culinary experience. The onglet should be matured for at least two weeks – better still, three weeks. Dry aging isn’t possible with the onglet as the muscle isn’t protected by fat or bone.