How the story begins…
So there you are in the supermarket or at your butcher’s shop and you spot it, or maybe you don’t. Maybe your eyes gloss over it and dismiss it because it’s not your standard fare. Maybe you see it but have no clue what to do with it or if it’s even any good. Perhaps you already buy it but usually use it as food for your animals. But have you ever thought about enjoying a piece of this meat yourself? If you haven’t, you really should! Beef hearts, this arguably unconventional and dare I say almost provocative cut of meat is the topic of conversation today.
Maybe the idea of it being “organ meat” makes you turn away. But I’m here to tell you there’s nothing concerning or intimating about about this cut of meat in the least. And let me put your main worry to rest by saying that while beef hearts are considered an “organ meat”, remember that hearts are a muscle so you’re not going to get any of that organ flavor, instead what you get is amplified beef. Still not sold on them or wondering why you should try them? I get it, so let me try to give you as much information about them as I can.
Now initially this post was part of my Grilled Beef Heart with a Chimichurri Sauce recipe, but as it turns out, it made the post extremely long since it seems that I had way more to say about beef hearts than I thought! So here we are, an entire post dedicated to talking about this cut of meat that most people overlook or ignore. Let’s get into why you should do the opposite of that.
Let’s get to the heart of the matter!
So, why even use this strange muscular organ as meat for your dinner? Well, for one it’s usually cheap especially if you get it on sale, for two it’s meaty…very meaty, and for three it is tasty. Oh, and also, it’s pretty good for you from a nutritional standpoint since beef hearts are great for YOUR heart (there’s no doubt some irony there) plus it is rich with protein, amino acids, B-complex vitamins, as well as phosphorus, iron, zinc, and selenium.
Now, I’m not going to sit here and try to tell you that this cut is exactly like your ribeye, or even your filet mignon – of course it isn’t, there are fundamental differences between them – However, I am going to tell you that it is an absolutely delicious and completely underrated cut that you should 100% give it a try. Now, with that being said, I’m sure you have two main questions you’re just itching to know so let me try to answer them for you.
Field testing is required…
What does it taste like? Well, after biting into a piece and savoring so that I can best describe this to you I can say that this muscular organ has a beefy, almost slightly gamey flavor to it that I can best describe as a rich/amplified beefiness. It is nothing like liver or any other organ meat either in terms of taste or texture (in case you were worried). And even when cooked to rare, the tinny/iron-like flavor is much less compared to other cuts of beef. Yet still the meaty flavor is in its own way intense, which is exactly why it pairs so perfectly with a strong sauce such as a chimichurri! Another thing that adds to that pure beefy intensity of flavor is actually the texture.
Which leads to the second burning question I’m sure you want to know. What about the texture…the mouthfeel? Well, as stated above, it’s a muscular organ, so in a sense it’s a very lean meat. There is no fat or marbling that runs through it which means that texture-wise it’s a dense, slightly chewy, and wholly meaty cut. And trust me when I say once you remove the surrounding fat and silver skin layer that surrounds it (I highly recommend asking your butcher to do this for you simply for convenience sake), it’s all meat. There’s no bones, cartilage, tendons, veins or anything through it. Just pure meaty goodness.
Some sciency stuff simplified…
To understand the texture even further, we can look at it from a molecular level. The heart is an organ that needs to be strong, because of this, its meat has more collagen than any other cut you’ll find. Why is this important? Well, put simply, meat fibers (which you can’t see with the naked eye) are all wrapped in collagen, and these fibers are grouped together into bundles which are wrapped in even more collagen. And those bundles are what make up the “grain” of the meat (which you can see and which you might recall being told to slice against). The harder that part of meat has to work when the animal is alive, the stronger those bundles need to be to support it. Since the heart never rests, it is one of the hardest working muscles, which means that the collagen in a cut of heart is not only strong but abundant. However, just because the grain is very tightly compact and contains a lot of collagen that in no way means that this is a tough or rubbery cut…I mean, it can be if it’s not cooked in the right way, but then again, so can your ribeye. The truth is that collagen basically melts away at the right temperatures which means that heart can be a succulent and tender cut that practically melts in your mouth…if you treat it right.
So now what?
Now that I’ve hopefully abated your fears or concerns over the taste and texture I’m sure you have one final question about it that pretty much is going to be: Well, what the heck do/can I make with it?
Honestly, you can treat it like any other beef cut but to give you a few ideas you can:
- Grill it almost like you would a steak and serve it with a chimichurri sauce.
- Make Anticuchos – a Peruvian beef heart recipe that skewers thin pieces of marinated beef heart pieces and grills them over an open flame.
- Use your beef hearts in a comfort food stew that utilizes your instant pot or pressure cooker or a low and slow stovetop simmer.
- Braise it in a rich stock of wine and broth in your slow cooker along with veggies.
- Make a tartare out of fresh hearts using salt, pepper, lemons, worcestershire sauce, and capers (if you like capers) and serve it with slices of crusty crostini.
And there you have it. Beef hearts: a rich and meaty cut that is delicious and nutritious and one that I hope you give a try someday!