Some tongue.

Over the past couple weeks, I haven’t been cooking anything that takes longer than 10 minutes—the pizza, many salads, a few pieces of fish—but Jim and I had something serious brewing up in our kitchen. Like, 6 days brining and then 24-hour waterbath serious. Yes, a serious, 7+ day recipe. Beef tongue.

We’ve been eating more ethically lately, buying meat from the small, local, and humane meat producers in our area. We get to see how the animals live before they are slaughtered—on big open terrains, munching on grass, or hanging by the lake. They’re happy. And I’m much happier too—the meat tastes better, I don’t feel badly eating it, and it’s healthier.


But it’s more expensive. In my new favorite cookbook, we’re told that to eat meat ethically, you should expect that half as much meat will be twice as expensive. It’s true. This shouldn’t deter you, however, but unless you’re a bahgillionaire, you’ll have to rethink your meat-eating. Firstly, you’ve got to eat less meat. Fill your dinner plate up with substantial foods, like lentils, so that you fill up without needing a big hunkin’ steak. (Though, of course, remember to splurge on the steak every once in a while.) Secondly, you’ve got to start cooking with cheaper cuts—chuck, short-ribs, etc.—and offal.

Offal is the entrails and internal organs of the animals that make your meat. Offal’s the lump category for things like heart, liver, and tongue. Offal’s cheap. I mean, real cheap. The big ol’ tongue we bought from our fancy-pants free-range organic meat supplier was about 5 bucks—put that in perspective with the about 30 dollars we spend there on pork tenderloin. Offal’s cheap.

It’s also quite fatty too, which is all the more reason to keep your portions small. The taste of tongue is delicious—meaty but awesomely tender. I don’t really know how to describe it, other than I think it has the flavor of a steak-um. A steak-um but 10 bahgillion times better. Try it. You’ll get a delicious meal, money left in your bank, a clear conscience, and leftovers for days. Can’t beat that.


Pickled Tongue

adapted from the River Cottage Meat Book

For the Brine:

  • 5 quarts of water
  • 1 pound light brown sugar
  • 3 pounds coarse sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon juniper berries
  • 5 cloves
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 sprig of thyme

For the Brined Tongue:

  • 1 whole fresh beef tongue
  • 1 herb satchel (with thyme, oregano, celery seeds, and peppercorn)
  • 3 small carrots, chopped
  • 1 onion, halved
  • 1 leek, halved crosswise and lengthwise
  • 1/2 garlic bulb, outer leaves removed

Put all the ingredients for the brine into a large stockpot and stir well over low heat until sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil, allow to bubble for 1 to 2 minutes, then remove from heat and let cool. Once cooled, put the tongue in a large non-metallic container (i.e. Tupperware) and cover it with the cooled brine. Put in the fridge and let brine for 6-7 days. (Or up to 10 if you tongue is over 6 pounds.)

Days later, when your tongue is (finally) ready, remove from brine and soak it in fresh water for another day, changing the water at least once. (Soak for two days if you have an over 6 pound tongue.)

When ready, remove the tongue to a dutch oven with the ingredients for the brined tongue. Cover with fresh water, bring to a simmer, then poach gently on the stovetop over low to medium-low heat for 2Β½ to 3 hours, or until tongue is very tender and yields easily when pierced.

Then (you’re not done yet) remove the tongue and discard the rest. Place tongue on a cutting board and peel or cut away the skin (you’ll understand what I’m talking about when you see it.) When you’re removing the skin, make sure to get rid of all of it, cutting the outer layer off pretty generously–the meat of the tongue is very tender, but the skin’s texture isn’t very pleasant.

Serve with lentils and cabbage, and a good, grainy mustard.

Serves 10 or more.

29 thoughts on “Some tongue.”

  1. I love this philosophy of eating. I am following it hard but it is really hard to get meat from a farm here for some reason. I finally found one and I will be getting my meat at the end of July!!! I can’t wait. We have been eating a lot of fish and seafood as it is abundant here. Every so often I get some pork or beef that has been humanely raised but your right it is costly!!!

    I love the recipe and the work you put into it!!

  2. Robin, I tip my hat to you for exploring an ingredient of mixed feelings for people.

    I’ll try anything once, including you tongue!

  3. Tongue is a classic dish where I come from, although we make it quite different: cook the tongue in a light stock and peel of the skin while hot. Slice it up and serve with tomtotoesauce (make some standard white sauce and a a cup of tomatoeconcentrate) and mushrooms. Get some mashed potatoes on the side and think about grannie stiching your socks…

  4. How adventurous Robin. I have never had tongue. Offal is scrapple to me and that is the only place I’ve been. This looks inviting though.

  5. I don’t care how cheap or nutritious it is I’ll never eat offal. I won’t even eat steak & kidney pie.

  6. Now I’ve never had tongue and could never envision making it myself but perhaps tasting it at a restaurant. Have you ever had tongue before this? I generally don’t try a type or cut of meat before I’ve had it somewhere, only because I don’t know how to prepare it or what it should look like when it’s done.

    By the way, how do you pronounce offal? Because I’m pretty sure its something like: aw-ful.

  7. I love offal of all sorts. love it. love it. love it. yes, tongue is high in cholesterol and it is delish. but offal is not something you eat every day, so enjoy it when you do! if you’re interested in another tongue recipe, we have two veal tongue recipes on our blog. Sliced super-thin and quickly grilled w/ some lemon and salt… MMMMMMMMM.

  8. I couldn’t help but think of the scene in Dances with Wolves where Kevin Costner one of his native pals hands him a freshly cut out buffalo tongue.

    I love your commitment to eating ethical meat dishes. It’s something that I’ve been considering for a while, but haven’t quite gotten around to doing. If there’s one good thing that’s come of all the BSE scares, cloned meat controversy and frightening images of the way chickens are treated, it’s the inspiration that’s given so many people to think about where their food comes from.

    Good article, good recipe, well written and nice photos.

  9. I wonder why it is that I happen to link to food bloggers who all post about the same thing at once. This is the third post in a row on my various links that features beef tongue. That happens to me a lot.

    ANYWAY. πŸ™‚ I am not a big fan of tongue. I’ve had it on a sandwich and also yakitori style and I never dug it that much. But Steve is a huge fan and told me after seeing recent food posts that I need to make it soon. I may try your recipe to do it, considering it brines for so long. I may enjoy it more. And hey, it’s from the River Cottage Meat Book! What could be bad? πŸ™‚

  10. Excellent post! I am actually a fan of most offal (tripe and tongue being at the top of the list). Where I come from it is not so unusual (3rd world country = creative ways with “economy parts”). I had my first taste of tongue when I was a kid and was hooked! Really tender and delicious πŸ™‚ And most days I will readily eat it over a steak. I have never attempted the big task preparing it myself! Hats off to you…I’m now inspired! πŸ™‚

  11. Well God bless your adventurous soul! I’ve eaten tongue (on a sandwhich, like corned beef) but have never cooked it. You’ve given us all a bit of inspiration.

  12. I love tongue. Yes I do. I usually have it on tacos. Stop giggling.

    I’ve only been able to browse river cottage and it’s a beautiful book. My favorite preparation for tongue is probably “estofado” although this post will probably change that.

  13. I like to eat tongue. All this time I knew only Indonesian recipes of tongue, now I can try yours. TFS.

    Btw, if you like tongue and spicy food, you have to try Sate Padang. You can check the picture in my album: Sate Padang Buatanku.
    Tell me if you need the recipe πŸ™‚

  14. Girlfriend, I came here in search of your DB post, but instead was greeted with the title “Some Tongue” and nearly snorted my iced tea. You crack me up.

  15. Awesome! Thin slivers of beef tongue, freshly grilled, taste fantastic with some sticky rice. There are many things that can be done with offal and I love that you have a local and humane source of beef.

  16. We did tongue in culinary school and I was SO grossed out that I nearly barfed in a trash can. I just can’t deal with the ‘extras’ from the beast- worse yet is offal. There is a reason it is pronounced ‘awful’

    Serious kudos to you tho, Robin. I have to admire a woman who tackles a 7-day recipe.

  17. you’re brave for putting it up, but i’m a huge fan of tongue. it’s something i grew up eating (we cook it differently); i think it’s one of the better tasting meats out there; like u said, very very tender. good for you!

  18. My wife and I would sooner have sex change operations than eat something like this!

    Says a lot more about you and your wife than the tongue.

  19. I think I would eat anything, and I mean ANTHING. But not this. My grandmother used to eat tongue in the Jewish Deli on rye bread, she loved it. I can’t even look at it!
    You are daring!!!!!

  20. Thanks to your inspiration, the pickled tongue was a big hit, my guests LOVED it! And I had a nice leftover for a delicious tongue sandwich to boot. My photos did not look hot as yours but we really love the Cottage River Meat book. I haven’t been able to put it down since.

    I love how your photo color pops, I assume it’s HDR?

    Thanks Robin!

  21. Thanks for sharing the recipe. It was FANTASTIC! I didn’t soak the tongue as long as the recipe said to and I used the brine that I soaked in to cook the meat. It came out so flavorful and tender. I never expected it to taste that good. It sort of reminded me of corned beef but more tender. If you gave someone a bite of it, they would NEVER know they were eating a tongue. By the way, my grocery store had it on sale for .99 cents for the whole tongue. I was slightly repulsed buying it, but couldn’t pass up a deal that good.

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