Why You Should Eat Organ Meat (And How To Make It Taste Good)
Outside of your local Crossfit gym, organ meats (offal) aren’t too popular, especially in North America. It’s probably because their slimy texture and earthy taste are enough to send most people running for a juicy steak or burger.
Which is sad, because grass-fed offal is a home run when it comes to nutrition. Here you will learn how to make organ meats into edible – even delicious – meals that are affordable and full of things you’d normally buy in vitamin capsules. Check this out:
- Liver is packed with hard-to-find pre-formed vitamin A (not just beta carotene), which is important for your bones, eyesight, reproductive health, immune system, and skin. Liver also has tons of vitamin B12, high-quality cholesterol, copper, zinc, vitamin B6, and riboflavin.
- Kidney is rich in selenium and B12.
- Heart is full of mitochondria-boosting CoQ10 (a key ingredient in Unfair Advantage).
- Brain is loaded with omega 3s, cholesterol, selenium, vitamin B12, and vitamin C.
The other nice thing about offal is its lack of popularity makes it dirt-cheap. It will cost you a lot less than a shelf full of supplements and it’ll take your diet to the next level.
The downside to offal is…well…it’s disgusting. Saying organ meat is an acquired taste is an understatement. Eaten plain, it’s pretty gross. If you’ve sampled organ meats and you just don’t like the taste, experiment with a few of the following tips. They’ll disguise the flavor and painlessly introduce you to the many benefits organ meat has to offer.
Before we get into tips, though, a quick note on meat quality: the organs of bacon pigs, especially kidney and liver, accumulate mold toxins like ochratoxin A from the pigs’ diets . No word on whether the same happens in cows, but I’d rather not take the chance, so I *only* eat organs from grass-fed, carefully raised animals. I recommend you never eat industrial meat (feedlot or CAFO meat) at all, and this recommendation goes double for organ meats.
Now let’s get into how you can add more grass-fed offal to your diet.
Mix it into ground beef
One of the easiest ways to eat more organ meat is to add it in small amounts to your burgers, meatballs, etc. If you get the ratio right – say, 20-30% organ meat to 70% ground beef – you’ll barely notice a change in flavor but you’ll boost the value of your food considerably. (It helps if you use lots of herbs too…)
Getting the consistency right can be tricky, so the easiest approach is to see if your butcher can mix the two for you. If not, you’ll have to do it yourself. Chop up your organ meat of choice and mix it in by hand, or in a meat grinder. I use a Kitchen-Aid pro mixer with a sausage grinding attachment. Don’t blend it or you’ll end up with meat paste. Yuck. Unless you’re making liver pate.
Liver, kidney, tongue, and heart all mix into ground beef well. If you choose liver or kidney, freezing it for a short time will make it easier to chop into small pieces. Heart and tongue are muscles, so you will barely notice them. Ground beef with higher fat content will disguise the taste better (75% lean is a good option), as will spices. Garam masala is a good option that you can find pre-mixed at most grocery stores. Be sure you buy it organic and store it in a dark, dry place. A high-quality herbes de provence blend is another excellent option, especially if you want to make meatballs.
My favorite is a *lot* of turmeric, with oregano and whole fennel seeds.
Freeze it into pills
True story: I once thought it would be a good idea to have a raw lamb liver smoothie. I put two lamb livers in a Nutribullet blender with some water and herbs and blended it for 2 minutes. It was one of the most vile experiences of my entire life. One of the unblended stringy vein things from the liver got caught in my teeth. DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME!
Smoothies are out. Instead, chop organ meat up into swallowable chunks and stick it in the freezer. You’ll end up with natural multivitamins that go down easy with a glass of water. Take a few throughout the day to get all the benefits without the taste. Just toss a couple into the back of your mouth like you would capsules, and wash them down.
The other nice thing about freezing chunks of liver is that you can leave your organ meats raw, preserving precious nutrients that would break down if you cooked them. A couple pointers:
- Partially freeze liver or kidney beforehand so it’s easier to chop.
- Make very small pieces and take a few, rather than cutting out larger cubes. You don’t want to choke on frozen bits of organ. If you learned to rapidly drink beer in college, you can put those skills to work on chunks of liver.
- When you chop the pieces up, spread them out on parchment paper and put them in the freezer for 10 minutes. Doing so will flash freeze them so they don’t stick together. Then you can dump them all in an airtight container and they’ll stay separate, so you don’t reach for one piece and end up with five.
Add it to a curry, sauce, or stew
Again, dishes with lots of spices are offal-friendly.
- A rich tomato sauce will cover up the taste of just about any organ meat, especially heart or tongue. Just be sure you aren’t sensitive to nightshades.
- Indian and Thai curries made with coconut milk are usually rich and well spiced. Indian curries hold organ meat especially well. Many pre-mixed curry blends either have MSG or lower quality spices, so mix your own (it’s much easier than it sounds) or get organic spice mix from a company you trust.
- The other good choice is Vietnamese pho. It’s easy to make in a slow cooker, and it traditionally includes tripe (stomach lining), tendon, beef knuckle, and sometimes tongue. The tendon and beef knuckle are both superb sources of gelatin that’s great for your gut, skin, teeth, and hair. I always add Upgraded Collagen to get a lot more collagen than you can get from boiling bones! You can use white rice noodles if you’re on a carb re-feed day, or carb-free kelp noodles anytime.
- Chili is also thick and savory enough to hide organ meat flavor. There’s a great grass-fed lamb chili recipe in Bulletproof: The Cookbook.
Buy organ sausages
This option is the easiest one. Grass-fed organ sausage tastes amazing. It’s also versatile and pairs especially well with eggs and avocado for a Bulletproof breakfast. You can use it pretty much anywhere you’d use normal sausage. Three good options are:
- Braunschweiger – a traditional German sausage made from beef trim and beef liver. Make sure it’s grass-fed and freshly made.
- Headcheese – a combination of beef trim, heart, and tongue, plus a combination of bright spices. You’ll just have to get past the name.
- Liverwurst – a mix of trim, liver, heart, and kidney.
US Wellness Meats sells all three of these organ sausages, and all the meat is 100% grass-fed and grass-finished. You can munch on the sausages right out of the package or lightly pan-fry them. Either way, you’d have no idea you’re eating organs.
My favorite source of grass-fed beef is from my friend Glenn Elzinga from Alderspring Ranch in Idaho. I’ve eaten countless pounds of the beef liver and kidney and heart that Glenn sells. found in 15 years of sampling grass-fed goodness. Check out Alderspring Ranch organ meats here.
Organ meats are way more affordable than ground beef is, and they have many more nutrients than you’d expect. It’s not hard to learn to cook them so they’re at least edible. Eating them once or twice a week gives you more benefits than just eating steak or burgers, and frees up some cash so you can splurge on the expensive, fatty ribeye cuts when you do have steak!
What’s your favorite way to have liver and kidneys? I’d love to hear some new ideas in the comments here (liver popsicles don’t work either, by the way).