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Types of  Offal

Go to:  Offal Recipes

 

OFFAL, also called variety meats, are those parts of an animal which are used for food but which are not muscle meat.

 

The name offal means “off fall”,  in other words, the bits which fall from an animal when it is butchered. The term covers items such as the heart, liver and lungs (collectively known as the pluck)  plus kidneys, brains, head, feet, tongue, intestines and tails.  Offal from birds is generally referred to as giblets.

 

They are a generally underrated highly nutritious food and an excellent source of protein with  the liver, kidney and heart in particular providing a good source of iron, vitamins A, D and C and many offer cooks flexibility in their preparation including grilling, frying, casseroling and braising.

 

 

Brains  

Considered a delicacy in some cultures, it's very important that brains be eaten as fresh as possible, so either cook or freeze them the day you buy them.   Brains and sweetbreads can be used interchangeably in most recipes.

Heart

Heart is currently not as popular as it once was in the West which makes now is a good time to take advantage of the relatively low prices.  To prepare,  rinse it in cold water, then cut out any blood vessels and connective tissue. 

 

Beef heart  should be cooked slowly using moist heat.  As it is quite large, it is sometimes  sold sliced as well as  whole.   

Lamb heart is best lightly sautéed or grilled it until it's medium rare.  Be careful not to over cook as it becomes very tough.  Alternatively they can be cooked slowly using moist heat. 

Pork heart is best cooked using moist heat

Veal heart is best lightly sautéed or grilled it until it's medium rare.  Ie careful not to over cook as it becomes very tough.  Alternatively they can be cooked slowly using moist heat. 

 

Kidney

Whilst more popular than other offal, kidney's are still relatively cheap in comparison to many other prime protein sources.

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Beef kidneys are quite tough so they need to be cooked slowly using moist heat, such as braising or stewing.  To prepare, cut off the outer membrane, then cut them in half lengthways and remove  and discard the central fatty core.  Because they have a very strong flavour, they should be soaked in water which has lemon juice or a little vinegar added for about an hour. 

Lamb kidneys are prized for their tenderness and are therefore best cooked quickly using dry heat such as grilling or sautéing both whole, halved or sliced.  They quickly become very tough so care should be taken not to over cook them.  To prepare, peel off the outer membrane and snip out the little white core if desired.

Pork kidneys are quite tough so they need to be cooked slowly using moist heat, such as braising or stewing.  To prepare, cut off the outer membrane, then cut them in half lengthways and remove  and discard the central fatty core.  Because they have a very strong flavour, they should be soaked in water which has lemon juice or a little vinegar added for about an hour. 

Veal kidneys are the most highly prized of all.  They are very tender and suitable to be cooked using dry heat such as grilling or sautéing.  Don't overcook as they quickly become very tough.   To prepare, peel off the outer membrane.

 

Liver

Liver is an excellent source of iron and Vitamin A. Although most livers are relatively cheap, calves liver is quite expensive. 

Beef  liver should not be confused with calves liver as it is much tougher and more strongly flavoured.  When grilling or sautéing, care should be taken not to over cook it and it's best when served  a little pink in the middle .   To prepare - slice and remove any large blood vessels.

Calf liver is the most highly regarded and has a soft melt-in-the-mouth texture when cooked properly. Generally sold quite thinly sliced, there is little preparation needed other than to wash and dry it, and it only takes a couple of minutes on each side to cook.

Chicken liver is almost as highly regards as calves liver because of their exquisite flavour. To prepare - Wash and cut into required pieces or finely chop. They are an excellent addition to ragouts.

Lamb liver is almost as tender as calves liver, but slightly stronger in flavour and is therefore excellent for grilling and sautéing. To prepare - wash and dry. Coat lightly with seasoned flour when frying.

Pig liver has a very strong flavour and is generally not as popular as other livers. It is however, excellent when used in pates.

Sweetbreads 

Sweetbreds are the soft and delicious glands of calves and lambs.  Considered by many to be a gourmet ingredient they are usually much more expensive than other types of offal.  They should be eaten as fresh as possible so if you aren't going to eat them the day of purchase, freeze them immediately. Brains and sweetbreads can be used interchangeably in most recipes.

Testicles

Testicles are popular in certain cultures and although bull's testicles probably the most popular those from smaller younger animals  have a milder flavour. 

Tongue  

Tongue is obtained from beef, calves, lamb and pigs. It may seem surprising, but one cooked tongue is lean and meaty and are a favourite for use in sandwiches, salads and even casseroles.  To prepare  - boil in water for about 20 minutes, then plunge into cold water, allow to cool enough to handle. Then peel off the skin and trim off any gristle and fat.  It can then be pressed or immediately cut  into thin slices and served it hot or cold.   Different tongues can be used interchangeably in recipes though their cooking times vary according to their size.

 

Tripe

Tripe is the term given to the stomachs of various animals, but most recipes that call for it intend for you to use beef tripe.  Of a cows four stomachs,  the first three are used to obtain various types of tripe. Smooth tripe comes from the first stomach;  honeycomb tripe is obtained from the second; leaf tripe comes from the third. 

Before it is sold, tripe is thoroughly washed and  usually bleached and because it is extremely tough and requires lengthy periods of slow cooking to tenderize it it is also often sold partially cooked.

Honeycomb tripe is considered the best being meatier and more tender than the others however all  tripe can be used interchangeably in recipes. 

 

 

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