Kitchen Stewardship | A Baby Steps Approach to Balanced Nutrition

What to do With that Beef Heart in Your Freezer (and how to tell your husband)

July 6th, 2012 · 56 Comments · Do It Yourself

Warning: Raw meat photo spoiler! Do not open if you are pregnant or otherwise do not want to see pictures of raw beef heart…

“What is that?” poor dear husband asked upon seeing this hunk of meat on the cutting board after a lovely dinner of summer hamburgers while the kids were at Grandma’s.

grinding beef heart (9) (475x356)

“Beef heart,” his knowing wife answered casually.

“Um, that looks disgusting.”

“Thanks, dear!”

“So…” poor husband queried. “What exactly do you do with that?”

“Put it in stuff,” she said, avoiding eye contact.

“Like what?” came the wary “not-sure-if-I-really-want-to-know” question.

“Hamburgers.”

The Look

hamburgers without buns

I love the look on my husband’s face. It’s the “Oh, man, I’ve been had!” sheepish and somewhat disgusted look.

“You mean I just had beef heart?” A deep sigh echoed in the kitchen. “Why can’t we be normal people?”

Don’t worry, he was still partially grinning and half kidding with that. I would have told him what was in the hamburgers had he asked. No secrets at the Kimball house, just some well-placed silence every so often.

We proceeded to chat as I ground the meat, giving the food processor a workout and a half. It likes to jump around the counter as it gets going.

I explained that I’d cook it up and freeze it and just put a little in anytime I used ground beef.

(More sighing.) “We are so weird.”

See, he uses the plural pronoun, which shows he’s really starting to take ownership of this lifestyle.

He reminds me often when I worry about what the kids will be offered to eat at neighbors’ houses or when I mention that both parents at such-and-such house drink Diet Coke: “Dear, just remember, we’re the weird ones here.” Oh. Right.

“So why do we want to eat beef heart?” he wondered as the knife slammed through fat and muscle.


Why Beef Heart is Healthy and Nutritious

Paul with cows calf farm (2) (475x356)

I had to look it up, but here’s why:

  • The beef heart has more protein than the rest of the cuts of the cow. How cool is that? (I was on a quest recently for real food protein sources, too!)
  • Beef heart is high is B Vitamins, including folate, which is important for a healthy pregnancy.
  • Beef heart is rich in Coenzyme Q10, or CoQ10, responsible for more energy, strengthening your immune system and acting as an antioxidant. CoQ10 also is pegged for preventing heart disease.
  • Collagen and elastin, two nutrients that promote supple, wrinkle-free skin, are abundant in beef heart.
  • Beef heart is also high in iron, selenium, and zinc, three nutrients that are often on the "I am deficient in…" list.
  • The heart contains amino acids thought to improve metabolism.
  • Sources: 1, 2

I’m sure all this would have impressed him, especially the part about all that protein, but I think I claimed that traditional diets always included the organ meats, and that shows their importance in a healthy diet.

“Also, it was free, because Mom doesn’t know what to do with this. Or the tongue,” I tossed out, waggling my eyebrows. “But don’t worry, that’s long gone!”

He knows when he’s been had. He doesn’t even remember eating the tongue. (We had beef tongue fajitas a month ago or more. He never knew, and I was smart enough –this time – not to tell the kids or Facebook about it until all the leftovers were demolished.)

What to do with a Cow’s Heart

Don’t sing a country song about it and break it into pieces…just break it into pieces without the country, thankyouverymuch.

The first time I got beef heart, it was ground, and using it was fairly easy.

The second time, I asked a friend to pick up some on a grassfed meat run, and she came back with an odd look on her face.

"Um…you know that cow heart you asked for? I’m not sure it came exactly how you suspected," she cringed as she pulled an item out of the bag that struck me as the size of a basketball.

"Yikes!" I cried. "That’s not ground! Maybe that’s why it was such a good price…"

Note: DO make certain your organ meats are organic and grassfed, please. The nutrient value is much higher and you don’t want toxins accumulating in the organs.

It wasn’t really as big as a basketball…more like a football…but nonetheless, that heart sat in my freezer staring at me and daring me to do something with it for quite a few months, until I finally decided I just needed to grind it up.

It’s really quite easy.

You just sort of hack it into pieces like so:

grinding beef heart (6) (475x356)

Put them into a food processor:

grinding beef heart (8) (475x356)

Turn it on and allow it to jump all over the counter, and then, ta da:

grinding beef heart (5) (475x356)

Ground beef heart.

You can freeze it in small portions, 1/4 lb. or less, raw, or you can cook it up:

grinding beef heart (7) (475x356)

And freeze it in very thin packages. That’s what I chose to do with this one, and then I’ll add it into anything that calls for ground beef. You can usually crack the cooked beef apart into smaller chunks that are a good size to toss into the pan with spaghetti, chili, casseroles, or soups. Use no more than one quarter of the total or it may change the taste too much; heart is a bit "sweet" compared to other cuts of ground beef.

One whole beef heart filled about three quart-sized bags of cooked meat, and I keep it in the upstairs freezer so it’s handy for any meal.

If you want to add it raw to hamburger, though, you’ll have to make burgers the day you have it all thawed and raw.

They’ll be delicious…and what a great topic of dinnertime conversation! (Ahem – wait until after dinner.)

What have you used beef heart for?

This post is part of a series on Sourcing Quality Animal Products.

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56 Comments so far ↓

  • AmandaLP

    My partner has sliced it and cooked it like steak, but liked it trimmed and roasted with butter. I haven’t liked it all that much, but will have to try it ground at some point.

    Interestingly enough, my food coop has bison tongue and heart cheaper than the beef counterparts, so I’ve been using those :)

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Wendy

    I’m not sure how my Mom prepared it when I was younger–maybe just boiled it?–but then she sliced it . . . I loved beef heart sandwiches. I’m so glad you wrote about this today. I think I’m taking a trip to get some heart.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Deb

    I have to admit, I’m a little scared of organ meats! I’m getting 1/4 cow in the next few weeks. I’m determined to use the organs this year! I have an awesome new food processor so I really have no excuse.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Katie G.

    I would use boiled beef heart cut into cubes as treats for my dog when I went to obedience classes with her. I would also sneak a few bites if I got hungry (I was probably 12 years old), and I didn’t even know it was healthy!

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Tori

    Great post! My kids love beef heart….get this….boiled :) We take the whole heart, clean it, then put it in a pot of water-just enough to cover the heart. Add onions, garlic, salt, pepper and boil until tender. Take it out and slice it, eat it just like that or put on sandwiches. Easy great lunch. Sometimes I’ll saute some onions and add that to the sandwiches. Now, if I want my husband to eat it I’d have to grind it up, but the kids are won over to the taste with only the above things. Doesn’t have a “gamey” taste at all, just a slightly stronger beef-taste.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Sarah W

    How a propos! I just butchered a beef heart this week and added it to our 4th of July hamburgers! I froze the rest in ice cube trays for addition to future ground beef meals. I have previously made the heart kebab recipe in NT. I trimmed it though, of the outer and inner membranes. This does result in a fare amount of wasted meat b/c I am not super skilled or patient. I gave that part to my neighbor’s dog. Check out this video that actually shows how to butcher a beef heart! http://www.offalgood.com/videos/how-to-butcher-a-beef-heart

    [Reply to this comment]

    Laila Reply:

    WOW! I really liked watching that! Asked my son (he’s my knife go-to guy) if he’d do this if I got a beef heart. LOL! He said no. Good thing I watched this. Thanks for posting it.:)

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Kate @ Modern Alternative Mama

    I have a heart and TONS of liver sitting in my freezer still. :( I have never really liked liver but I really have not been able to tolerate it since I got pregnant with Jacob. I know he’s 11 months old now and all…somehow pregnancy screws up my tastes. :)

    [Reply to this comment]

    Lydia Reply:

    Hi Kate,
    We make our liver, sort of like popcorn chicken, so therefore we call it “Popcorn Liver” on our menu. I cut the mostly frozen liver into strips. Dip the strips into a beaten egg with 1 Tbsp. Worcestershire Sauce added in. Roll the strips in a plate of cornmeal seasoned with Creole Seasoning. Fry in a hot cast iron pan with a little olive oil or coconut oil. Do not overcook and watch that your corn meal doesn’t burn. We serve the liver with a side of quinoa and green salad or veggie of choice.

    [Reply to this comment]

    Marilyn Culverson Reply:

    I have done this with liver, then put it in a casserole with spaghetti sauce and rice. Baked at 350 for 1 hr+ and threw grated cheese on top. Return to the oven to melt and lightly brown. Served over rice or noodles. My liver hating kids loved it. My liver LOVING husband didn’t as it no longer tasted like liver!!…exactly!!!!!

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Kate,
    I hear ya…at the least, incorporate it into your next stock – you’ve got to be able to get some nutrients out of the meat into the stock, don’t you think? I’ve done it and didn’t think the stock tasted weird or anything.

    Maybe you can grind it up and add bit by bit to spaghetti, casseroles, chili, etc. Liver is harder to hide than heart, but doable in small amounts…

    Good luck! :) Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Tara @ Simply Made Home

    I have frozen beef liver from the last time we butchered a cow. Could I thaw it, grind it and freeze it again?

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Tara,
    I’m sure the FDA or USDA or so-and-so would say no…but I’ve done it and nobody died! ;) Just don’t let it sit around at in-between-y temps on the counter or whatever. Liver should be used, I’d say, no more than 10-15% of the total meat as its flavor is harder to hide than heart. Good luck! ;) Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Tara @ Simply Made Home

    Oh-and my husband often reminisces about the “good old days” when we were “normal.”

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Bevie

    I made stew with my last one. It went quite well with a dash of your “well placed silence”.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Lydia

    We have our butcher grind our heart into our ground beef. No one in our house is really aware of it’s presence unless a discussion like this post comes up. ;o)

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Marilyn Culverson

    Never thought of just grinding it and hiding it. I soak it in salt and water or milk for 1 hr or over night. Dry it off, dredge with seasoned flour. Brown all side in a frying pan. Stuff with your favorite stuffing and roast on low in your crockpot for 8-9 hrs. Remember the heart is just a tough muscle like other less tender cuts of beef.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • j

    did you remove the valves/chordae tendineae before grinding?

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Ummm…I’m going to guess and say “no” unless they look totally inedible. ? Am I supposed to? (cringes and waits…)
    :) Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

    j Reply:

    They look pretty inedible to me so i have removed them in the past. it was a royal pain in the rear. i wonder if yours came with them already removed? i was curious if there is an easier way to remove them. (this blogger removes them: http://livingmydreamlifeonthefarm.wordpress.com/2012/02/01/have-a-heart-heart-shaped-box-of-chocolates-nope/)

    [Reply to this comment]

    roland Reply:

    Try Beef tongue as well,Kidneys,Spleen,Yummy!!!!!!!!!!!!

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Mandi

    corning it is fabulous way of tenderizing it. The process takes about three weeks in the fridge but not much time at all to prepare.

    Stuffed heart is fabulous as well.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Mare @ just-making-noise

    We LOVE heart. When we lived in Costa Rica. I would get my meat from a butcher weekly and he would ground up 1/2 pound of heart to a pound of beef for me. I would use that in anything called for ground beef. So GOOD! I love the “sweet” flavor and that it is so good for us :)

    [Reply to this comment]

  • delloraine

    I don’t tell my family what I’m making until they eat it and like it. we make organ meats a regular part of our menu. Calf liver, beef sweet breads, and heart. I haven’t tried kidneys yet;not sure what to do with them. I cube my heart and remove the strings and tough part cook it in a skillet with onion,garlic,cayenne power, and woestershire. After its cooked I put it through the food processor and make it pasty. we eat in on crackers or bread.

    [Reply to this comment]

    roland Reply:

    Delloraine yr remark on Kidneys,(Roaring here,Sorry) take them & boil the P out of them ,Then when done Slice them up in to a sandwich with tomato,Lettuce,& Mustard. (Mayo ruins the taste of the Kidneys .)

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Andrea Merrigan

    Wow! I dont know if I could handle organ meats. I am not a big meat eater and handeling chicken breasts and ground beef sometimes even makes me gag. Way to go on grounding it up yourself, your my hero for being able to do that!

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Rebecca

    Haven’t tried beef heart but we did have beef tongue recently. No one else would take the tongue so I did! It was really yummy–we made tacos out of it, and slow cooked it all day with spices and onion. It was surprisingly good and tender!

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Tiffany (As For My House)

    We get our grass-fed beef by the half-a-cow lot, so when the processor calls and asks about how I want it cut, I tell him to grind the heart in with the ground beef.

    All the benefits, without the fuss… :)

    [Reply to this comment]

    Tiffany (As For My House) Reply:

    I do, however, have some beef liver sitting in my freezer that I admit I’m squeamish about…

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Tiffany,
    Me too…I bought it to grate and add to the baby’s eggs and such, but I just can’t remember it at the right times. I need to just grind it and use it or make it into stock (or both). Thanks for reminding me it was there! :) Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Christy

    I prefer my heart in stew – http://bit.ly/L1djpU
    but if I get it free and its already ground I add it hamburger dishes. Now liver, we have slowly gotten up to 1/3 liver to 2/3 hamburger in our taco and spaghetti and meatballs but that is a bit much in the meatloaf. I rarely make hamburgers because my grassfed beef is to dear for my family of 10 to have burgers (big boys can go through some serious meat) but I would probably only add a bit if I had it.
    My family knows I do this but I am like you, why bother tell them? I don’t announce that I add garlic or onions or anything else. ;o)

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Michelle @ Find Your Balance

    I’ve never done heart but I’ve done liver – with the same technique. Especially the silence part.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • molly b

    Wait!! How did you know I have a beef heart in my freezer that I’ve been wondering how to cook up and serve?!! :)

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Karen

    Your site is very interesting and I do enjoy reading it.
    I have not has the opportunity to cook beef heart, but I have cooked Venison heart. I usually cook it in a pressure cooker, then grind it up to make a sandwich spread. Putting dressing, onions, and other chopped up vegs of one’s choice. Very good.

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  • Kathryn

    we eat it every week in tacos! I don’t even mix it with ground beef anymore. the family still doesn’t know!

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Mandi

    I just came across this link for grilled venison heart, but you could do it with a beef heart.
    http://honest-food.net/2012/06/13/grilled-deer-heart-recipe/

    [Reply to this comment]

  • via Facebook

    I don’t eat any of the organ meats anymore since I read they have more cholesterol than any other cuts.

    [Reply to this comment]

    Mrs. Yoder Reply:

    Seriously? I didn’t know anyone believed all the lies the AHA tells people about cholesterol anymore! Unless you have GOUT or suffer from a genetic condition called Hypercholesterolemia then there is no reason to avoid cholesterol in food. Unless you aren’t eating actual food but are really eating pseudo-food like hydrogenated vegetable oils. Those WILL kill you. Do some more research on cholesterol. Check out mercola.com off the top of my head or any of Paul Chek or Mark Sisson’s books.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Emily via Facebook

    LOL! Well you have to admit there is a bit of an ewww factor despite there high nutritive value.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • via Facebook

    I’m Peruvian, so we’re really big into cow hearts – we marinate them then grill them like kabobs – it’s both tasty & delicious!! I’ve managed to turn many a non-believer into true fanatics “)

    [Reply to this comment]

  • jennifer

    I’ve roasted beef heart and thought it was amazing. Rich flavor and great taste.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Tara via Facebook

    “just some well-placed silence every so often.” I love this!

    I have a bunch of hearts in my freezer too that I was wondering what to do with. Maybe I’ll get the ol’ food processor out and grind them. Can you refreeze it raw?

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Rachel

    We recently switched from being raw vegans to embracing a whole foods/real foods lifestyle, and I must say, I am a bit squeamish thinking about handling beef heart, liver, etc., let alone eating it. Any pointers on how to overcome that? I’m trying to be gentle with myself and my journey back to being connected to animal foods, but sometimes I feel like it is a bit out of reach- especially when there are organ meats involved. Any tips or pointers would be received in gratitude!

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Rachel,
    Yikes, sorry I missed your comment for so very long! For you…I’d let someone else handle it! (for now) See if your farmer/butcher/whomever will sell you ground beef heart and then just add it in to any ground beef you’re using. Do you think that would help? I’m sure meat in general is a big, squeamish step for you – I’m proud that you’re even reading posts like this! ;) Welcome aboard!
    :) Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Kayla via Facebook

    this made me laugh.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Jennifer via Facebook

    I am pregnant and probably shouldn’t open this, but I am going to anyway. We have a heart in the freezer and have no idea what to do with it.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • via Facebook

    Tara Kelly – of course the FDA or whomever doesn’t recommend it, but if you are careful not to leave it at room temp very long at all, I have done it before. Freeze in ice cube trays for access to small bit, or muffin cups, or “plops” on a cookie sheet and store in a bag. Good luck! :)

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Leah via Facebook

    I don’t know about the science behind this, but in describing appropriate food preparation for consuming raw meats, Sally Fallon suggests freezing meat for 14 days in order to eliminate dangerous bacteria in meats. Maybe a new topic for research, Katie? ;*)

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Julie via Facebook

    We slice and saute in butter – Yum! Will read the article for more ideas.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Gina

    As the daughter of a Peruvian, it is culinary tradition to serve up beef-hearts kabob style after marinating for at least a day in tasty & delicious spices, garlic, and vinegar. MMMMMMMMMMMMM I’ve turned many a non-believer into a hardcore fanatic!

    [Reply to this comment]

  • via Facebook

    I grew up eating beef heart and just ordered one with our grassfed cow order this year. Lamb heart is also in the freezer.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Lisa via Facebook

    I get the “eat like normal people” too! :-) Have anyone ever done with with deer heart? I wonder if the taste is similar. My husband hunts so I could easily get the heart and grind it in with the rest of the meat. I bet it’s similar. I make dog treats out of deer liver. When I make them with beef liver, they smell awful while dehydrating, but deer liver doesn’t smell at all.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Mrs. Yoder

    One thing that you may like to add to this article as an update is that beef hearts are one of two food sources for vitamin b5. The other is turkey livers (yuuuUUUmmm). B5 is known sometimes as the stress vitamin because it helps your body deal with stress and supports your adrenals. This in turn can help with women going through menopause OR women who suffer from hormonal imbalances due to stress and lifestyle factors. ::raises hand::

    Also, it’s easier to eat heart if you grind it up and eat it half and half with grass-fed ground beef. No one notices the richness of the meat at all that way.

    My local Whole Paycheck also started carrying grass-fed beef hearts, tongues, liver, soup bones, etc. after about a year of my pestering the poor butchers for these items. You may try it because I’m buying heart for $3 a pound there!

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Nia

    Katie,
    Kudos! To you and your family and all the people out there able to enjoy their beef heart and liver. We tried it due to issues with cavities. Got one pound each of heart and liver. Let me tell you, my family didn’t seem to notice a difference, as I mixed it with ground beef 1/4 cup of each to one pound ground beef. I suppose on some level the kids noticed because they didn’t eat as much as usual whenever the meal had ground meat. I on the other hand would get bites where I could taste the liver and other bites where my meat would be really chewy so I’d know it was heart and I could handle that sometimes, but the liver it was all I could do to chew it and swallow. I couldn’t spit it out or everyone would surely notice and get suspicious. So I bravely finished up the liver and heart, to not purchase anymore to this day. Ours were ordered from a grassfed co-op so I guess I had high expectations on flavor, but no, still tastes like the liver granny tried to feed me growing up.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Susan

    Just stumbled across your site today. I have two new kittens and decided that I was going to raise them on a raw diet. Have had several pets over the years and always fed them Purina cat/dog chow. The calf heart has been sitting in my fridge for several days before I finally worked up the courage to break out this morning, and as I was cutting it up, I thought this looks like a fine piece of meat! I now have a freezer bag with 1″ chunks, and I’m thinking about having some for dinner after reading this article! Thank you!!!

    [Reply to this comment]

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Welcome!  Meet Katie.

I embrace butter. I make homemade yogurt. I eat traditional real food – plants and animals that God created, not products of plants where food scientists work. Here at Kitchen Stewardship, I share how I strive to be a good steward of my family's nutrition, the environment, and our budget, all without spending every second in the kitchen. Learn more about the mission of KS here.

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