Just a few short months ago I’d never even heard of a ‘flambadou.’ That was until I read the book ‘Food from the Fire: The Scandinavian Flavours of Open-fire Cooking’ by highly esteemed chef Niklas Ekstedt.
In his book, he describes the flambadou and includes two recipes with its use, one of which is flamed oysters cooked only with on-fire beef tallow dripped onto the raw oysters from a flambadou, served with shallot and apple dressing.
Straight away I got onto google and started to look at what this flambadou device is, and how and why it’s used. It turns out it plays right into my love of cooking with live fire, adds a lovely smoky taste to food and adds a bit of theater to intrigue guests to boot.
So of course, I went out and bought one.
As an introduction to the flambadou, I wanted to keep things very simple. I wanted to eat something I was familiar with, and not add much else in the way of strong flavors, so I could see what effect the flambadou had, without having to fight through layers of other flavour to see what it added.
When I went to my local butchers, he had some pre-trimmed hanger steak on display. I also had some bone marrow waiting to be used in my fridge. So I decided to grill a very simple hanger steak, with flambadou dripped flaming bone marrow, and serve it with my homemade chimichurri.
Sounded good to me…and indeed it was.
What is a Flambadou?
It’s a re-purposed candle-snuffer. OK, no it’s not, but that’s what numerous people have guessed at when I’ve shown them mine!
A flambadou is a thick metal cone with a large opening at the top, and a small one at the bottom, attached to the end of a long metal handle.
To use it in cooking, you place the cone end directly into the hottest of embers or coals in your fire until it becomes glowing red hot. You then put – traditionally – either pork lard or beef tallow into the cone where the fat then bursts into flames, renders and drips out of the bottom of the cone while still on fire, onto your food of choice.
Traditionally it was used most during rotisserie style cooking, to crisp up the skin of the meat and add a nice smokey flavor as it turned on the spit. Nowadays I’ve seen it used to melt flaming nduja sausage, bone marrow, Iberico pork fat and more onto foodstuffs as diverse as steak, oysters, charcuterie, and fillets of fish.
For my first little experiment with it, I decided to drip flaming bone marrow onto hanger steak.
What is Hanger Steak?
Hanger steak used to be a little-known cut that you’d barely ever see or hear of, though in recent years it’s become somewhat fashionable and has leaped in popularity. I would say deservedly so.
Hanger steak, also known as onglet in some parts of the world, is a small steak weighing in the region of 450 to 700 grams, taken from the lower belly near to the flank steaks, between the loin and ribs and is actually sitting at the bottom of the diaphragm muscle that separate the stomach and lungs.
It’s said that it earned the name ‘hanger’ because that’s all it does, it just hangs there, a muscle never used and that does no work for the animal. This fact makes it incredibly tender!
Another name you might have heard used for this cut is the ‘butchers steak.’
Because it was relatively unknown, hardly anybody ever asked to buy it. But also, because it’s so intensely flavored, and the fact there’s only one small piece per animal, it’s said that butchers would keep this delicious cut for themselves.
Hanger Steak Look and Taste
Hanger steak has probably the most pronounced and prominently visible ‘grain’ of about any meat you are likely to find.
Because of this, it can have a somewhat stringy mouthfeel and texture when eating, but as already discussed, because this muscle does no work, it can still be beautifully tender. To keep it this way, you have to make sure NOT to ever cook it past medium rare.
When it comes to flavor, hanger steak does, of course, taste beefy, but intensely so and more than most other cuts. However, it’s most defining flavor note is being gamey, almost offaly, with a subtle almost livery flavor.
I’ve seen it said that due to it’s proximity to the liver and kidneys, it takes on some of their flavor. I’ve no idea how true this is, if true at all, (sounds unlikely?) but when you taste hanger, the flavors are certainly there.
Why Did I Choose to Use Bone Marrow in the Flambadou?
Most people use beef tallow or pork fat. But the fact is, anything with a very high-fat content will work, will render, melt and burst into flame inside the flambadou.
Now, I love bone marrow. You will see it pop up numerous times in my cooking, and luckily for me, because I’m such a good customer for a few local butchers, I often get marrow bones for free! So I happened to have some in my fridge waiting to be used, so use them I did.
Preparing Hanger Steak for Grilling
Confession time! I bought my hanger steak ready trimmed from my local butcher. But if you cannot, then this is how to prepare it.
Remove the silverskin: Almost always there will be some silverskin on one side of the cut, you want to trim away any and all silverskin that you see, because this is just tough and not very nice to eat.
Remove center connective tissue: The highly noticeable grain of the muscle seen in a hanger steak creates a distinctive V-shape. Running down the center of the cut, where the point of the V is, sits a tough, chewy connective tissue that should be removed before cooking.
Most people will halve the steak along this line and then remove the connective tissue. But you can just about remove it keeping the two halves together if you wish.
It’s now ready for cooking.
At this stage, it’s usual to marinade hanger steak with South American or Asian flavors, the heavily grained nature of the cut meaning it takes on flavors incredibly well, as well as the marinade, being able to tenderize it further.
However, for my cook I only used salt and pepper as I was trying to see what flavor effect the flambadou had on the meat.
Grilling Hanger Steak on the BBQ
Hanger steak is best when served between medium rare and medium, between 130f and 140f.
Because it’s so heavily grained and striated, If you cook it past medium rare it tends to become rather tough and chewy. And it really doesn’t suit being blue or rare, it just tends to feel too ‘mushy’ without enough substance or bite.
As always with a thinner cut of steak, it is essential to grill it at a very high heat, searing it quickly to enjoy the flavors from the Maillard crust, while not having it on the grill so long that you overcook the center.
So grill temps over 500f and an instant-read thermometer are pretty much essential to ensure you sear it correctly for a nice char and crust, but don’t overcook the inside!
When you serve it, make sure to cut against the grain
My Cook – Grilled Hanger Steak with Flambadou Dripped Bone Marrow
First of all, remove the bone marrow from the fridge way before you intend to cook so that it can come up to room temperature. Once it has, scoop the marrow out of the bone shaft and place it in a dish, ready to be used in the flambadou later.
As discussed previously, I bought my hanger steak pre-trimmed.
So first of all, I sprinkled a good heaped teaspoon of sea salt onto both sides of the steak a good 3 hours before I wanted to cook it, then let it sit covered in the fridge to allow the salt time to draw out moisture and then be re-absorbed, taking the salt in with it.
A good hour before I wanted to cook, I fired up my Kamado grill and slowly brought it up to a searing hot temperature of almost 600f.
When ready to cook, I simply took the steak out of the fridge, patted it dry with kitchen paper, brushed it with a very small amount of oil, and placed it on the grill.
Note that I do not add any pepper before grilling, because at the temperatures I’m grilling at the pepper will burn and become bitter.
With the steak on the grill, I left the lid open and grilled it for 30 seconds, before turning it over. I leave the lid open with thin steaks because I want all the heat to be direct, coming from below only. With the lid closed you would accelerate the cooking with heat also coming from above, this having the effect of heating the inside more quickly, and reducing how much Maillard crust you can build on the outside.
I did this for a total of 3 times per side every 30 seconds (total 3 minutes, 1.5 minutes per side) before I started to use my instant read thermometer, checking for internal temperature so I could take it off at 120f. It took slightly more than 4 minutes total to hit 125f internal when I removed it.
I recommend taking it off your grill at 120f to 125f, because the surface of the meat will be so screaming hot from the grill, the internal temp will climb a further 10f or more due to carry over cooking while resting, settling at 130f to 135f and perfect for serving.
Allow to rest covered in foil, for a good 10 minutes.
While the steak is resting, leave the lid off your grill and put the cone end of the flambadou directly into the hot coals, and place a hot ember or two inside to get it red hot. Also pile up some hot embers around it.
When the meat has had a good 10 minutes rest, slice it on a bias and against the grain, into decently sized medallions, not too thinly.
Slicing it against the grain is super important to ensure it feels as tender as possible when eating.
Next, take the flaming hot flambadou, insert a piece of bone marrow which will instantly ignite, and drip the flaming marrow all over the hanger steak, to add an extra layer of smokey, richly intense beefiness.
Of course, have your dinner guests watch this for a bit of theater.
Now grind some pepper over the steak, and in my case add some of my homemade chimichurri sauce before serving.
This is a straightforward recipe, so simple it’s hardly even a recipe! But I wanted to know what the flambadou brought to the table by way of flavor.
And my verdict is: I like it! You could definitely taste the extra strong beefy, buttery and umami flavor of the bone marrow, and the meat certainly tasted smoky. However…
I think because I grilled my steak over single species lump charcoal, enough smoky flavor was imparted to the meat anyway and so any smokey flavor the flambadou might have added wasn’t ‘standout’, it merely accentuated and deepened it.
Overall, I loved the hanger steak, loved the addition of bone marrow, loved the theater of the flambadou, and will undoubtedly do it again.
BUT, I need to use the flambadou with some other meats, and quite likely fish, to see what it can bring in the way of layering smoky flavors to foods that aren’t already smoky. There needs to be some contrast, or layering of flavors I think.
Dripping flaming, smoky bone marrow over grilled steak? It just intensified flavors that are already there. I think dripping beef tallow or pork fat over seafood will be a better way to test it and get the most from the flambadou. I’m on it…I’ll write that up soon.
Grilled hanger steak, medium rare, lightly seasoned with salt and pepper, basted with flaming bone marrow from a flambadou to add incredibly intense smoky, beefy flavor. (served with my home made chimichurri sauce.)
- 500g Hanger steak
- One bone marrow shaft
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- Prepare hanger steak for grilling, by removing any silverskin and the tough, connective tissue running down the center, at the tip of the ‘V’ created by the grain.
- Salt your steak on both sides, place back into the fridge for at least 1 hour, 3 hours being best.
- 1 hour before you intend to cook, light your grill and allow it to come up to temp. We’re looking for 500f+
- At least one hour before cooking, take your bone marrow shaft out of the fridge to allow it to come up to room temp. The higher temp (not fridge temp) will make scraping out the marrow easier, and ‘bursting into flames’ in the flambadou easier too.
- Once your grill is up to 500f+, take your steak from the fridge, pat dry with kitchen paper and very lightly oil both sides.
- Place onto your grill and DO NOT close the lid.
- Flip the steak every 30 seconds. This sounds too often, but it helps toward building a flavorful crust without overcooking the inside.
- After 3 minutes (1.5 mins each side), check the internal temperature of your steak very often. You are aiming for 120f to 125f internal and because it is a thin steak, it can very quickly overshoot your target temp if you don’t check internal temp regularly.
- Once you reach 120f to 125f internal, remove the steak from the grill and rest under tin foil for a good 7 to 10 minutes. During this time the internal temp will rise to 130f to 135f due to carryover cooking, and take it to a perfect medium rare.
- While the steak is resting, place your flambadou directly into the hot coals, and place a couple of embers inside. Allow it to sit there for the whole time the steak is resting, it will come out glowing red hot.
- Once the steak is rested, slice it into thick medallions, cutting against the grain and on a bias.
- Now, wearing heatproof gloves, take the flambadou from the coals and insert a piece of the bone marrow. It will instantly ignite and melt. if it doesn’t ignite, light it by putting the flambadou back into flame. Drip the flaming marrow fat all over the sliced hanger steak.
- Grind fresh pepper over the steak. Now eat and enjoy.
If you cannot get hold of bone marrow, beef tallow or pork fat will also work well in the flambadou.
I served mine with homemade chimichurri, but you can serve with any accompaniments you wish.
(Prep time excluding waiting for grill to come up to 500f+ temp is only 5 minutes.)
- Category: Dinner
- Method: Grilling
- Cuisine: Steak
Keywords: Hanger steak, steak, bone marrow, flambadou, grilled steak
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