What's So Awful About Offal?

"Offal" is the word used to describe the internal organs of an animal (everything except the muscle and the bone). When I mention organ meats like liver, kidney or heart as the more nutritious option to tenderloin and chops, most people recoil in horror. And yet, a side by side comparison reveals that liver (from a healthy animal only of course) is perhaps one of the most super foods on earth.


Vegans and meat eaters alike don't merely scrunch their noses but actually freak out when confronted with chicken feet, pig's ears or other unfamiliar parts and pieces of commonly eaten animals. These cuts are very much out of style for most of us these days and it's no surprise since they require a bit more culinary prowess than flipping a burger on the grill. But I buy the argument that it's worth learning how to cook "offal" because it's a big bang for your buck and if you have a slow cooker (crockpot) there's no easier meal to make.


Today I'm simmering 2 pig's feet with bay leaves, an onion, celery, red pepper flakes and 1/2 cup white vinegar. Assembly time: less than 5 minutes. Simmering time: 3 hours.

Tonight I'll trim the meat from the bones, add it to some wilted baby kale and collard greens and serve with mashed sweet potatoes. A succulent meal for two in under 15 minutes for less than $5. 

Not a small point: these pig's feet came directly from my farmer so I trust that the animal was pasture-raised (as all of his animals are) and humanely treated to the last. It seems wasteful not to use all parts of the animal and, as a culinary bonus, the "offal" is very tasty.

The heart, for instance, is mineral-y in flavor but when soaked in milk, it becomes very tender and delicious. My favorite way to prepare it is in a Moroccan-inspired braise from the cookbook mentioned below. I've used beef, elk and venison hearts and served it many times simply calling it "beef" so as not to set off a firestorm of protest. 

My absolute favorite cookbook for inspiring recipes in this category is called "ODD BITS - How to Cook the Rest of the Animal" by Jennifer McLagan. Much more than an ordinary cookbook, Odd Bits delves into the nuances of these unusual meats and inspires with tantalizing tales (pun intended) of their historical use. Everything old is new again!

Check it out on Amazon HERE.