Offal/Variety Meats

When I first met my husband, I was shocked that he enjoyed liver and hearts.

Apple & Calvados Chicken Liver Pate

It was truly inconceivable to me that someone would choose to eat an animal’s internal organs. He shared that growing up, his family didn’t have much money – his parents were both students and working hard to put food on the table. When his mother went to the market, she found that she could buy chicken hearts very inexpensively. She brought them home and figured out how to make them so delicious that to this day, my husband enjoys them.The fact is that until recently, these parts of the animal were highly undesirable and therefore, super inexpensive. However, that is quickly changing. In many ways, offal and “nose-to-tail” eating (a very au courant term to describe the use of every part of the animal) have become central to the best kitchens. Like my mother-in-law, the most accomplished Chefs see offal as their greatest challenge –  transforming something so undesirable into something so delicious.

As a primer, offal/variety meats are either glandular meats or muscle meats.

Glandular meats such as liver, kidney, sweetbreads, brains share the following qualities:

  • They are internal organs or glands – NO muscle tissue
  • Very tender
  • Very perishable

Muscle Meats such as heart, tongue, tripe, oxtails are:

  • Muscle tissue
  • Very tough – must be cooked for a long time



  • Veal (8 -12 oz) and lamb (1.5-3 oz) are the most popular – sautéed and broiled
  • Beef, which is tougher, needs to be braised
  • Pork kidneys are not often used


  • They are the thymus glands of calves and young beef – the gland disappears as they age
  • They must be degorged (the process of soaking in water to eliminate impurities such as blood and grit), blanched, peeled and weighed down
  • It’s best to braise them or bread and sauté


  • Calf’s brains are the most used
  • They must be degorged, peeled and poached – then they can be served with black butter or dipped in batter, deep-fried and served with tomato sauce


  • Usually from veal or beef
  • Trim coarse fibers and veins inside and at top
  • Best to brasise because they’re tough


  • Beef served cold as sandwich meat – fresh, cured or smoked
  • Veal and lamb also available
  • Best to simmer, remove skin and trim gristle at the base of the tongue


  • It’s the muscular stomach lining of animals
  • Beef is the most used
  • It must be simmered a long time


  • Used to make sausage casings


  • Fatty membrane covering pig’s stomach
  • Looks like lace
  • It’s used to help foods keep their shape- melts away in cooking (i.e. crepinettes – sausages wrapped in caul)


  • Very rich in gelatin – older animals have less
  • Used a lot in stocks, soups, etc…


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