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Monday Mission: Try Organ Meats

Your mission, if you choose to accept, is to…*cringe*…I know, I know…try organ meats!

It’s pretty mean, I know, to go right from the Back to Basics series into organ meats. It took me quite some time to try organs for the first time, and I’m still working on incorporating them regularly into our diet. In fact, I have a cow’s tongue in my freezer that’s been intimidating me for a few months now. (Have you ever seen how seriously HUGE a cow’s tongue is? It’s ridiculous!)

However, it’s time to challenge you to get out of your comfort zones a little. Organ meats tend to be really high in vitamins and nutrients, and if we’re really going to be whole foods enthusiasts, we can’t just eat the stems of our broccoli and feel like we’ve done the “whole” thing. Time to eat the whole cow, folks.

Health Benefits of Liver

When I was sitting in the OB nurse’s office at my first appointment for this pregnancy, there were some nutritional charts on the wall. I was pleased but not surprised to see liver right at the top for folic acid, an especially important member of the B Vitamin family for pregnant women. Liver has the real version of folic acid, called folate. Liver is also really high in iron, but it was lumped into the “red meat” category on that chart. Can’t win them all!

I’m going to talk a lot about liver this week, just because it’s a very inexpensive organ meat and one that I have the most experience with. Many of its health benefits, however, can be extrapolated onto other organ meats, and all organs tend to place high on the list of nutrient-dense foods. There are good reasons organ meats were thought of as foods for fertility in traditional cultures.

Here are liver’s star qualities:

  • Extremely high in Vitamin A
  • High arachidonic acid (related to DHA, the healthy brain fat)
  • Excellent Vitamin B profile, particularly B12
  • A unique source of copper, phosphorus and zinc
  • Almost 20% daily value of iron in just 4 ounces, plus the B Vitamins to help our bodies increase our own iron production
  • Great source of selenium, a nutrient that can be hard to come by

All these nutrients improve your health by:

  • Providing many cardiovascular benefits and protections
  • Increasing energy
  • Protecting from cancer, emphysema
  • Boosting immune system function
  • Gives bone and colon support
  • Improves vision
  • Enhances joint mobility

Sources for further reading: 1, 2, 3, 4 (link no longer available)

What Organ Meats are Good to Eat?

The most common organs that are easy to find include liver and heart, but brain, kidneys and adrenals are also often listed with health benefits. (I just got a capsule form called “Organ Delight” that includes nine of them – an easy way to swallow organs if you’re squeamish!) See my tips on eating liver (heart too) HERE.

Risks and Concerns with Eating Organ Meats, Liver

There are always two sides of any story, especially in the field of nutrition and food. Here are some of the commonly shared risks of eating liver:

  • Liver has high cholesterol
  • Too much iron can hurt you
  • Too much Vitamin A can cause birth defects or osteoporosis (This news came out in 2005, but I’m not sure if the studies done included natural Vitamin A or just supplements. If you use supplemental Vitamin A, you certainly should be wary of eating more than one serving of liver per week.)
  • Purines in liver can cause gout or kidney stones in those prone to them anyway
  • Non-organic livers could be the place of toxic build-up of hormones, antibiotics, and other chemicals. (A valid concern; we’ll address sourcing your liver on Wednesday.)

Also on Wednesday, I’ll share my hilarious first attempt at liver and onions along with ways to eat liver without getting kicked out of your house, even some in capsule form! So if you’re not quite ready to take this challenge today, perhaps by the end of Wednesday you’ll have found your courage (or a method for the non-brave that will work for you).

Need More Baby Steps?

Monday Missions Baby Steps Back to Basics

Here at Kitchen Stewardship, we’ve always been all about the baby steps. But if you’re just starting your real food and natural living journey, sifting through all that we’ve shared here over the years can be totally overwhelming.

That’s why we took the best 10 rookie “Monday Missions” that used to post once a week and got them all spruced up to send to your inbox – once a week on Mondays, so you can learn to be a kitchen steward one baby step at a time, in a doable sequence.

Sign up to get weekly challenges and teaching on key topics like meal planning, homemade foods that save the budget (and don’t take too much time), what to cut out of your pantry, and more.

Unless otherwise credited, photos are owned by the author or used with a license from Canva or Deposit Photos.

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61 thoughts on “Monday Mission: Try Organ Meats”

  1. Pingback: Reference Page: Organ Meat | Gregory Taper

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  5. I promised some photos, so please follow the links:
    At the butcher (Italian photo):

    At home, already prepared (Brazilian photo):

    Portuguese stew (Portuguese photo):

  6. Nothing wrong with organ meats – it just takes a little getting used to. some you will like some you won’t. Here in Portugal most people eat organ meats (some kinds, at least) on a more or less regular basis. Traditionaly it really was all about eating the whole animal and quite often in rural areas, animal are still slaughtered at home on a one-at-a-time small-scale basis. It helps if it was no big deal when you were a kid – just normal! Here are (only) a few of the more common mainstream examples:

    Hens turn into chicken soup when they no longer lay so many eggs. It takes a while to cook their tougher meat, but maks for a fantastic broth. Organs appear in the soup: heart, kidneys, liver, gizzard (my favorite), feet and baby eggs (had not yet developped shells).

    Rabbit stew normally appears with the heart, liver and kidneys mixed in with the eat chunks.

    Pig and Beef liver are fried in lard with onlion and bay leaves. Served with boiled potatoes and olive oil. I have this about every 2 months because I have a certain tendancy for low iron. My mother-in-law serves it to me everytime she thinks my eyes are not pink enough. My favorite way is when my grandmother seasons it with another organ (I thinks it’s the spleen). whatever it is, I like the way it changes the taste of the liver.

    The beef stomach in a bean stew served with white rice is a famous traditional dish in northern Portugal, common all over the country. It gets washed and boiled and then cut into pieces and stewed with white beans in a tomatoy sauce. Wonderful! the meaty bite-sized pieces are white and wrinkled, soft but with a firm rubbery texture.

    Pork intestin is washed, sanitized and dried for storage. Later it gets soaked and is used as a skin for sausages: meaty chouriço seasoned with paprika and then smoked, blood sausage seasoned with cumin and clove, also there are alheiras, farinheiras, morcelas…….

    Pig kidneys are roasted on an open fire on the day of the slaughter. Also Sarrabulho is made with the fresh blood. It gets seasoned and cooked. It becomes solid and is cut into cubes and then stewed with potatoes and carrots. In cities you can order a bottle of blood at the butcher. The same for chicken blood – to make Cabidela: chicken rice stew seasoned with some blood.

    Pig ears have a nice crunchy texture and is usually found in Cozido (our version of pot-au-feu).

    Brains (beef/sheep) are very nice in with scrambled eggs.

    Fish organs are also on the menu. Eating the fish flesh (not the brain – just the “normal” fish meat)in and around the head is messy and takes a while but the tastiest meat in any animal is closest to the bone! My dad (fisherman) always claims his prize liver (not all fishes – but some have extraordinay tasting livers). And the fish eggs are a must either grilled along with the fish, or boiled in their sacs and then seasoned with oliver oil, vinegar, onlion are parsley as a cold salad. YUM! Before anyone makes a face, caviar is just fish eggs from a specific fish.

    I could go on but have run out of time!

    1. Sandra, I have a beef stomach sitting in my freezer. Could you help me out with the Portugal bean stew? It sounds like a good way to try this new meat out! 🙂

      1. Hi! I have never prepared it myself (because I don´t eat beans at home. I have a hard time digesting them and end up getting sick if I have them 2 or 3 days in a row. I usually eat this at my mother’s or mother-in-law’s house – that way no leftovers!). I do know that you will need to prepare the stomach the day before – you will also need to soak the white beans the day before too.
        1- thaw the meat, wash and scrub it well.
        2-Scald it by pouring some boiled water over it.
        3-Rub it with coarse sea salt and let it soak for a few hours in cold water and a thinly sliced lemon. 4-Drain and then cook in new water until tender.
        5- drain from the cooking water (throw it out), let cool and cut into small pieces. Should be tender and very white.
        In the meantime you have also soaked and cooked the beans too. Now it is ready to use as an ingredient. I will look up the recipe for the actual dish and some photos for you.

    2. Sandra,
      What awesome examples! We’ve come so far from “natural” in our American society, really. Thank you for broadening my horizons! 🙂 Katie

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  8. Soak liver for a couple of hours in milk – this improves the flavor quite a bit. I even do it with chicken livers, which are milder than calf or beef liver. Never tried heart, I think it just was not available when I was growing up, as I think mother would have made it, she grew up on a farm. We had liver quite a bit growing up and a treat a parties was liver pate – made with cooked liver that was ground in the big meat grinder and then mixed with other things and baked. I do like tongue, my husband does not think he does. I cook the tongue with various things much like I would bones for a stock, let cool, peel. Cut into slices, dip in egg and then in seasoned flour and fry – very nice. Also good sliced for sandwiches.

  9. My family really enjoys beef tongue, kids included, but we don’t get it often. I boil it in water till tender, cool, remove the skin and discard. If I am not ready to use it right away I cool it in the broth. We always take one more step rather than serving it just boiled: I slice it crosswise, maybe 1/4 – 1/2 inch thick, coat in flour seasoned with salt and pepper and fry it in oil or butter till nicely browned and with slightly crispy surfaces. We think this is best served with mustard at the table. Yum!! We like liver best sliced into strips/sticks, instead of bigger pieces, coated with seasoned flour and fried, preferably in bacon grease, just until crisp and golden, so it’s more like finger food. Separately, I prepare well sauteed onion rings and crispy bacon pieces and then sprinkle them over top of the liver sticks on the serving plate. Delicious served as finger food with Ketchup!! The keys are not cooking it too long- keep it moist and tender … and hopefully finishing it all at the meal as leftovers seem to get tough! We just bought a half of beef but they discarded all the organs the day before I requested them – I was so disappointed.

  10. I grew up on a ranch, and now I’m back on a homestead, so I’ve always eaten organ meat. I agree with those who’ve said soaking liver in milk is the key.

    I make tongue by putting it in a pot with a sliced onion and a palmful of pickling spice (I rarely measure things — guessing 1-2 TBS), covering with water, and simmering for about 3 hours. Let it cool, skin it (and discard the skin), chill, and slice thin. Serve in sandwiches. It’s better-tasting than commercial lunchmeats, and I can pronounce everything in it. 🙂 My kids love the tongue!

    I like the heart wrapped in bacon, put in a roaster with about a pint of beef stock, tightly covered and baked until it’s tender (3-4 hours). Can also be done in a crockpot for 6-8 hours, but to me it tastes better in the oven. (325-350F is a good temp, so I can get some baking done while the oven is on so long.) My mom used to cook them this way and then stuff them before reheating and serving. I prefer it w/out the stuffing, though.

  11. I’m looking forward to Wednesday’s note! I like chopped chicken liver, and I often make it with all the chicken innards. But short of buying a whole cow, I don’t know how to find well-raised organ meats. I hope they’re as inexpensive as their lack of popularity makes them seem they ought to be!

    1. Jenn,
      Where we buy our meat from the farm we can always get liver, and yes, it’s cheap! I bought an 1/8 of a cow and split that with a friend, and we each went home with 2 whole livers after I let the farmer know I was interested in organs! 😉 Katie

  12. I can’t wait to see what you do with the tongue! I have a great big grass-fed tongue waiting in my freezer, too, and I just haven’t gotten the courage to use it. I hope you’re challenge will give me the kick in the pants I need!

    1. Ellen,
      The farmer said to boil it up and it makes a paste that you can use as a sandwich spread, so I’m waiting until I make beef stock in the next month or two. That’s the beginning and end of my knowledge! 😉 Katie

  13. I have been wanting to try liver and have chickened out at the meat counter more than once. Maybe this will be what I need. I’m interested to read about how I can prepare it without getting kicked out of my house 🙂

  14. Always thought I hated liver — until I tasted some a friend ordered at a Trader Vic’s restaurant. (Shows how many decades ago, that was.) They sauteed it in a LOT of butter over very high heat right at the table. Maybe 2 minutes on each side. What I realized is I hated my mother’s liver which was cooked to shoe leather consistency with lots of onions (hated those as a kid) and bacon grease to smother the flavor. Pure grass-fed liver, nearly raw (or at least still pink) smothered in butter is divine!

    Also, please do a little extra research before passing on the myth that the purines in liver cause gout. I’ve gotten that standard rap from medical types for years about avoiding purines in food — liver and all other organ meats, sardines, mushrooms, red meat…in other words, everything I love.

    But gout is beyond painful — it’s debilitating — so I was willing to forego some foods, ANYTHING to fend off a gout attack. Except, eating anything on the humongous list of what not to eat never correlated with an attack.

    When I finally found out that gout is strongly linked to over-consumption of fructose (think especially HFCS), I started connecting the dots. Especially the night after consuming my first can of soft drink in a couple of years when the first pain started in my foot and I couldn’t even stand the weight of a light cotton sheet.

    I’d already pretty much eliminated HFCS in my food, but now that I track all the other sources — fruit juice*, for instance, gout and I have almost completely parted company. Good riddance!

    * With the exception of concentrated sour cherry juice which is a miracle joint-pain reliever. Go figure.

    1. Allison, What excellent info – thank you soooo much for sharing your story! I like to portray all sides of the story, but I’m still encouraging people to go for it! 🙂 Katie

      1. Thanks for your kind reply about my revelations about what really causes nasty gout attacks in me — fructose rather than purine-rich foods. I love to watch medical myths dissolve — especially while enjoying another plate of liver or a rich braunsweiger sandwich.

        Re: The China Study. Glad to hear it’s not resonating for you; you’re probably picking up on all the inaccurate information, bad science and worse research conclusions it presents. Put it down immediately and use your time more fruitfully to read the reasoned critiques of Campbell’s work. Google “China Study rebuttals” and especially look at Chris Masterjohn and WAPF material; and Dr. Michael Eades.

        1. With all due respect, you might want to consider the fact that Dr. Oz just referenced the China Study on his show last week. I doubt Oprah would endorse a doctor that would quote a book with inaccurate information and bad science.

          1. Tami,
            I don’t know all the answers, and I’m definitely not a doctor, but neither is Oprah. I can’t agree with everything she does and certainly wouldn’t turn to her for definitive health answers. ??? At least I’m giving it a go for myself! 🙂 Katie

            1. Katie- I intended that comment for Allison who had mentioned the China Study was bad science and inaccurate info. Of course I know Oprah is not a doctor! I only said she “endorses” Doctor Oz and I was saying with the publicity of her show, I wouldn’t think she would stand behind a doctor with inaccurate information. I appreciate your blog and I am just sharing some of what I have learned…just didn’t appreciate Allison’s comment. : ).

  15. Hi Katie, I just love where you go with your blogs! I grew up in the North East where there is a very large Jewish population and have been eating Chicken Liver Pate almost forever. (They even serve it in the salad bars in diners in NJ.)

    Maybe those of you who haven’t tried it, can buy some at a deli (if available) as it might not seem so gross if someone else made it and you don’t have to actually be the one cooking it, etc.

    Next time you cook a chicken, throw the liver and heart into the baking pan, or crockpot or whatever, and give them a nibble. Heart is very good and doesn’t have the crumbly texture of liver because it is actually a muscle. It also has a very agreeable taste.

    Now, on to pesticides, etc. in liver. I believe that I read this in Nourishing Traditions, that much of what we are afraid might be in liver (since it is an organ which detoxifies our bodies) is not actually in it, because pesticides, toxins, etc. are stored in FAT CELLS in an animal’s body, not in its actual organs.

    People used to go on Raw Liver Cleanses; next I have to figure out how to get myself to eat it raw. It has to be frozen for at least 2 weeks to kill any dangerous organisms, but might be palatable mixed in small amounts into something like Bloody Mary mix, or something like that. The consumption of raw organs meats is also an integral part of Chinese Medicine. Has anyone had any experience with raw liver?

    1. Joyce,
      I’ve heard of people cutting up the raw, frozen liver into “pills” basically, and just swallowing them w/o chewing!

      Thanks for the chicken liver encouragement – Katie

  16. We recently moved to a new state which is turning out to be a real food wasteland. But I can buy calves liver in the local grocery…wondering if perhaps that would be safer than a more mature liver.

    1. Laurie,
      Some of the sites I referenced in this post say just that – that the shorter time of the calves’ life would make the organ meats less toxic. That’s all I know! 🙂 Katie

  17. You need to look into reading the China Study. I like reading your posts on grains and beans but it is a proven fact that you can get all nutrients needed from fruits and veg. I grew up on a lot of meats but have had stomach problems and an internal medicine doctor told me to read the Rave Diet. After doing so, I stumbled across The China Study. Trust me, I’ve had all different livers, cow tongue & probably much more my mom tried to hide in soup. I don’t hate meat or the taste of it but just know from my research it is not necessary in our diet. If u do eat it, it should be a very small amount of organic meat. Please consider doing the research…

    1. Tami,
      I’m reading it right now, actually. 🙂 Yes, a vegetarian diet can be healthy, although I do think a vegan diet doesn’t sit right with me. It’s slow going through the China Study because it’s just not resonating with me, but I’m trying! I keep coming back to the idea that any diet works great for about 20% of the population, and we should all probably have a “personal food pyramid” that fits our systems best. Mine would surely include milk and cheese, but yours might not have to! 😉 Katie

  18. Awesome! I’ve tried organ meats, but never by itself. I bury them in meatloaf, spaghetti sauce, shepherd’s pie, and whatever else I can disguise them well in.

  19. I grew up on liver, but now I am concerned about the build up on toxins. I use the organs from my organic Thanksgiving bird, but that’s about it. My kids love liverpate, so I let them pick that out once and a while.

  20. Can’t wait to read more! I am determined to eat some more liver for the sake of my pregnancy too, but the stuff is just so repulsive to me. Especially beef liver. Nonetheless, I cooked some up and I finely minced one filet, and tried just swallowing small pieces whole. Ugh! I can’t do enough of that to equal a “serving.” Maybe I can sneak some in tonight’s dinner…..

  21. Here in Norway, the most common way to eat liver
    is as a baked liverpate. It’s very tasty and everyone eats it. You can get all kinds in the store, but it’s easy to make it yourself, too.:)

  22. Soaking it IS the key, I believe, then making sure you cook it JUST the right amount of time so it’s still tender. We love liver. Even my toddler and infant will eat it. It’s always a sad day mid-summer when the last package from last year’s beef is pulled from the deep freeze. LOL

    Can’t wait to see your recipe…. I’m always up for trying another one!

  23. Yep, we’re eating liver too. I learned how to cook them with onions and bacon in bacon grease and we’re good to go. I also tried steak and kidney pie a couple weeks ago and liked it. I’m wondering how to get started on raw meat. Will you be talking about that sometime?

    1. Linda,
      I haven’t really done much with raw meat myself, so I don’t have much to say about it…yet! 😉 Katie

  24. I just really started eating liver, and while I’m not the best at cooking them, I should keep trying until I get it right. My mom makes liver (beef), rice, and gravy, and even my 7 year old will eat it. My 5 year old – not so much. She’s not really a meat eater although I did finally get her to start eating chicken – like in the last month.

    Not sure if I could do tongue or heart though. I did make broth with chicken necks yesterday. That was interesting.

  25. Kate @ Modern Alternative Mama

    I can’t do it, lol. Not while pregnant. I did cook with liver a few months ago when I was testing some recipes for my Healthy Pregnancy Super Foods book and I did okay with it. Not my favorite but I could eat it. But I tried it again a week or so ago mixed into a new recipe and I just could NOT handle it. I agree liver is great and want to get more of it in…I had them include it when we bought our cow. So I have a few packs around.

    But sign me up for the capsules! lol.

  26. Beef Heart Peruvian style – called Anticucho – marinated, sliced thin, skewered and grilled – really awesome.

    1. Fred, I would love to start using Beef Heart …instead of just giving it to the cats. Do you have a good recipe source? What you mention sounds wonderful.

      1. Me, too. Next to last beef we purchased, I DID ask for the heart… then it sat there. And sat there. And sat there staring at me every time I’d open the deep freeze. Finally I just pitched it. I hate wasting perfectly good meat. Just couldn’t figure out what to do with it to save my life. So, Fred, please share how you prepare it!!

        1. Hello Judy and Dawn,

          Glad you are up for trying it~! You will find pics, descriptions and recipes all over the Internet, but this is a good one and how I make it. Make sure they are cooked on a grill! I lived off of these when living in Peru after college.

            1. Fred,
              Please do try again – I have comment moderation OFF as of recently just to encourage wonderful conversation like this, but sometimes it will still grab a link and make it wait for me to “approve.” However, there’s no link in sight, even in the spam folder. If you can’t get it to go through, the Internet is trying to eat it. Email it to me at kitchenstew @ and I’ll add it to this post and Wednesday’s! Thank you!!! 🙂 Katie

    2. Anticuchos are so delicious – I’d forgotten about those! I grew up eating them covered in aji chili sauce – so good!

  27. Be not afraid of liver ! One of the very best things my mom made was liver and onions. It was so tasty that I would actually order liver in restaurants when it was offered. The secret is to slice your liver thin, soak it in milk to remove any strong taste, dredge it in seasoned flour and quick fry it at a high heat in bacon grease. I began making liver again about two months ago , and there are almost fights as to who gets the last piece. Kidneys are another tasty one if you soak them first. Steak and kidney pie and kidney stew are things that I remember fondly from childhood

    1. Diane,
      the two best way I ever made baby beef liver was #1 and salt and pepper to flour and put liver in and toss it around, shake off access , then slowly fry them in med heat in a frying pan with butter and onions. The second way I made it, is get season Italian bread crumbs, wet liver with water or milk then add it to the crumbs then fry them in butter in med heat with onions. This was my kids favorite way to eat their liver. I worked as a cook for many years in a restaurant and this was the way we did it with the liver was with the flour with salt and pepper only and of course onions. mmm now I’m craving liver and onions. lol

  28. Cindy (FarmgirlCyn)

    Can’t say I am looking forward to this…I have a mess of beef liver in the freezer, and one of those massive cow tongues you were talkin’ about. “Massive” being the key word here. NO idea how to make that even remotely appealing. The only liver that ever crosses my lips would be chicken liver in the form of pate. And since organic, grassfed chicken livers are not easy to come by in these parts, I haven’t had pate in several years. And I’m thinkin’ the beef liver is not a good substitution! So…bring it on?

  29. Ha, I had the same question as above. My favorite thing growing up was deer heart! Also, cow heart tastes like steak (at least from a grassfed cow!) it just has a slightly different texture. So I’m interested to hear if heart is as good as liver!

    1. Steena,
      Sorry I was so liver-friendly! Heart is definitely packed with nourishment, too. Eat it up! 🙂 Katie

  30. Wow – perfect timing! I just made some chicken hearts this past weekend – my Dad is Brazilian and I grew up eating them, so I love them – liver on the other hand, is a bit harder for me…

    I was just looking for a comprehensive list of the benefits of organ meats, so I’ll have to link back to this when I post my recipe. Are the benefits of liver the same as hearts?

    1. Jennifer,
      Not exactly sure of liver vs. hearts…I was just thinking about that today after I posted, that I really focused on liver unfairly. Maybe I’ll add an update Wednesday. I know some of the benefits are the same, but I couldn’t say which ones off the top of my head. 🙂 Katie

  31. I love, love, love liver! I crave it at least once a week and generally eat it two or three times. Mostly lamb’s liver, but I love chicken liver friccasse or liver pate.

    It’s a great thing to get your kids eating early as it does have a strong taste – I usually make pate as this is more palatable.

    I’d love it if you’d consider contributing something to this month’s blog Carnival ‘Go Ahead Honey it’s Gluten Free!’ The theme is Charmed Foods and Love Potions, and I’d love some of the food renegade crew to join in as the theme is all about foods that have medicinal, aphrodisiac or rejuvenating properties.

    Find it here:

    Naomi x x x

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