If you’re not ready to look at raw liver, you might want to find something else to read today. Strap on your big girl pants today, folks, it’s time to get that package out of the freezer and feed it to your families!
We’re going to talk about how to prepare and eat beef liver in particular today, simply because that’s what I have experience with. Beyond “liver and onions,” there are plenty of other meals we could call “liver recipes” that won’t get you kicked out of your house (or at least your kitchen) by your families or loved ones. You might recognize some of them:
- Shepherd’s Pie
- Beef Jerky
My Liver Eating Story
Like many of you, I knew organ meats were supposed to be healthy to eat, and the liver at the farm where we get our grassfed meat was so doggone inexpensive, I was certain it was the one to try. (The heart was inexpensive, too, but I didn’t realize it wouldn’t come “ground”…and that’s another story the size of a soccer ball that I might tell before the post is out!)
I bought a package of beef liver, and there it sat. In my freezer. For months.
I finally figured out a few ways to get it out of the freezer and onto the table, and only one of them got the, “Don’t ever do this to us again,” treatment.
If you’re determined to complete this week’s Monday Mission: Try Organ Meats, you’ll find some inspiration here for sure!
Capture the Liver’s Nutrients in Stock
The very first strategy I tried was to use the liver in my first attempt at beef stock. I figured that some of the nutrients from the liver had to get into the stock, which would be better than not eating it at all, right?
I used Kelly’s method and Nourishing Traditions and simply slipped the ubiquitous meat in there (slipped being the operative word – this operation is not for the squeamish). It came out looking a little bit like a very thick rubber shoe insert. I didn’t take a photo because I was rather afraid of the whole process; sorry to deprive you of its loveliness.
I also figured there had to be something left in the liver, too, right? I’m guessing iron probably doesn’t cook out of the meat and into the stock. I used my food chopper to hack the liver into very, very tiny pieces, then froze it in ice cube trays. Whenever I remembered, I’d add a few cubes – only 1-3 at a time! – to any recipe that called for ground meat. It is noticeable sometimes, but not bad.
While I don’t think is the perfect system for eating liver properly, it’s better than giving up and throwing away the frozen package after a year, right?
Why I Don’t Eat Liver Once a Week
Although many Weston A. Price Foundation sources recommend liver once a week, I don’t stress out about that figure. Considering traditional foods, the way it seems that God created certain things to be eaten, I think we have to keep ratios in mind. There’s ONE liver in each cow. One. A cow typically has over 200 pounds of usable meat. So for every 200 pounds of beef you eat, you should consume one or two pounds of liver. That’s not going to come out to 3 oz. per week for anyone I know. Correction: 200 pounds was the amount of ground beef last time I priced a whole cow. How much meat is in a cow? Maybe it’s more like 400-500. However, as one commenter taught me, the liver itself could be 13 pounds! So perhaps my theory is flawed. Drat. 🙂
For a person to eat liver one or even two times a week, they’d have to have more than their fair share of the cow. That means someone’s got to go without, and then we’re creating food inequalities and relegating the less healthy eating habits to the poor or uneducated, most likely. I’m okay with getting a little liver in here and there until it averages out to one per cow.
Take Two: Liver and Onions Recipe
In case you haven’t guessed, it was the time I went with the standby of liver and onions that my family revolted. Even my 5-year-old, who would eat practically anything at the time, wasn’t having it.
I picked an amazing liver recipe that I thought would give the best chance of success. A quick, quick fry, a little bacon, caramelized onions, unique herbs…and it was still an 80% fail. Three out of four Kimballs wouldn’t eat more than their “no thank you bite” and I could eat it, almost appreciate it, but not relish it.
The problem with cooking liver, if you want to know, is that when no one eats it, the leftovers get progressively worse every second they’re in the fridge. So even though I liked the liver recipe on day one, I could only tolerate it by day two, and the next time I attempted to finish the leftover, I couldn’t do it anymore.
Take Three: Gradual Integration
My most recent eating liver method is probably the one I recommend you try if you’ve got that package staring you down from the deep freeze.
I thawed the liver, but just barely, cut it into chunks, then did this in a food processor, then this …
And into the freezer.
I use 2-4 liver cubes at a time in any recipe that calls for ground beef. The hardest part is remembering to grab it out of the freezer! You can add the frozen cubes without thawing right to the pan where you’re browning ground beef, which helps.
The very best way to hide the flavor completely is something spicy like chili or tacos. I highly recommend starting there. I don’t ever lie about whether there’s liver in a meal, by the way, because I don’t like being sneaky about food…but I don’t exactly shout it from the rooftops if no one asks. My husband would rather not know most of the time, so this arrangement works out well.
Be sure to start with small amounts until you learn your family’s flavor threshold. I recently added quite a bit of liver to my beef jerky, and although my husband likes it, it turns me off just a little (may be the over-sensitive pregnancy tastebuds working there). A colleague tried a piece en route to a conference, and she wasn’t having any of it. I tried not to be offended when she spit it out and said, “Oh, no. No way.”
It’s Okay to Cheat: Organ Meat Capsules
Most of the time, our family leans toward an easy solution that makes the whole eating liver thing much easier to swallow, literally.
We buy Paleovalley’s organ complex capsules containing grass fed liver, heart, and kidney for a more diverse array of nutrients, gently freeze-dried.
Six capsules equals about an ounce of organ meats, so a daily supplement of 3 pills would easily get you 3 ounces a week. Organ meats are especially important foods for fertility and during pregnancy, so I feel like even traditional cultures might have saved a greater percentage of that one liver per cow for those of child-bearing age.
You can also cheat by using Pluck Seasoning, an awesome product created by Chef James Barry, instead of salt and pepper on your food! (Get 15% off at Pluck by using my link!)
Does the Source Matter?
Most sources I read recommend sticking with organic, grassfed liver for a variety of reasons. Although it may be a myth that hormones/antibiotics/chemicals/toxins build up in the liver of animals – many say they only build up in the fat – it still seems safest to find a well-sourced farm for your liver purchases.
Here’s one source that recommends organic calves’ livers only, because their short lifespan would make them less likely to have buildup of toxins.
Here’s 10 Questions to Ask Your Farmer to help you find a good source of meat in your local area. If you’re in a dead zone for local foods, there’s always ordering online, either actual liver from U.S. Wellness Meats or the Paleovalley capsules or desiccated liver powder from Perfect Supplements. Use the code KS10 for 10% off at
A Note on Raw
Many people also recommend cutting raw, frozen liver into capsule sized pieces and popping them like pills. Well. If you’re going to try it,
apparently you have to freeze the liver at least 14 days to kill bacteria. I have no idea how that works. Please don’t sue me for sharing that. You know what the government would say in an asterisk about consuming raw meat.
EDIT: A few helpful commenters have pointed out what I already know if I had considered this for a minute – no, freezing does not kill bacteria. I culture yogurt from frozen starters all the time. So…interesting. What’s with the recommendation to freeze for 14 days? I’m not sure it’s going to do anything. Still not afraid of raw meat that was grown carefully and handled carefully, but it makes you wonder about the recommendation.
I did end up trying this method for pregnancy 4! See here for details.
What about Other Organ Meats?
I realized I didn’t list many options in the Monday Mission but got hung up on the health benefits of liver. You can visit that post for the update listing other options, including beef heart, which is in my opinion the best place to start if you’re afraid of strong flavors.
I tried a pound of beef heart from a local butcher, but it seemed a little pricey. I was so excited when I saw $1-something a pound at our farm, but boy, was I surprised when my friend pulled the whole heart out of the bag when she delivered to my house! Gah! That sat in the freezer for a while, intimidating me, let me tell you!
Ultimately I just strapped on the big girl pants, thawed it, cut it into small pieces and food processed it exactly like the liver above. Heart has a much, much milder flavor than liver. It’s a lot like ground beef, but I would classify it as “sweeter.” Whereas I’d only add 2-4 cubes of liver to any dish, it’s pretty easy to add up to a quarter pound of heart to a pound of ground beef, even in grilled hamburgers.
How do you like to eat your liver?
For even more, Kelly the Kitchen Kop has a really good post in her archives on the health benefits of liver, along with some tips on how to prepare it from experts (Kelly herself is kind of in my boat!).