Cooking Variety Meats

Variety meats, also known as offal, include various organs, glands, and other meats that don't form a part of the dressed carcass of the animal.

For cooking purposes, we can divide the most popular variety meats into two groups:

Glandular meats Muscle meats

Liver Heart

Kidneys Tongue

Sweetbreads Tripe

Brains Oxtails

Glandular meats do not consist of muscle tissue like regular meats but instead are internal organs or glands.This fact is important for two reasons.

First, because they do not consist of bundles of muscle fibers, the texture of glandular meats is unlike that of regular meats. Because they are not muscle tissue, they are naturally tender and do not need long, slow cooking like muscular variety meats do. If organ meats are dry and tough, it is usually because they have been overcooked.

Second, glandular meats are much more perishable than muscle meats.While some muscle meats, especially beef, benefit from aging, organ meats must be very fresh to be of the best quality. Liver, sweetbreads, and brains must be used within a day or two after purchase. If brains or sweetbreads must be kept longer, they should be blanched as described below so they will keep another day or two.

Heart, tongue, oxtails, and tripe are made of muscle tissue, just like other meats from the carcass.They are all tough, however, and must be cooked for a long time by simmering or braising in order to be made tender.

Top: calf's liver slice. Bottom: beef liver slice.

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