Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Tender, Juicy Beef - Delicious and Dirt Cheap?

Tongue doesn't have one of those fancy euphemisms for what part of a cow or steer it is. We in the United States live in a squeamish culture ignorant of much about food. We often aren't very open-minded about new foods but would rather chow down on fast food chicken nugget mystery meat! Most of us here in the United States prefer tenderloin steaks, such as a nice filet mignon, to eating organ meats.

Incidentally, do you know what tenderloin is? How can I be delicate about this? It's a muscle by the colon and assists in the excretion of feces. We could have called it toilet names instead.

But so what? It doesn't actually touch any cow pies and it's delectable. As is tongue - don't worry, you won't eat the outer skin that touched the cow's food, only the muscle that helped it along. Just like a tenderloin.
Yep. It's at least a foot long and looks like, well, a tongue.
There's another great thing about tongue in many areas. 100% grass-fed, humanely treated beef can be much more costly than factory farmed products. Even plain ground beef runs nearly $5/lb. around here. I've looked into bulk buys of, say, 1/2 an entire animal, but even the best deals I've found amounted to at least $5/lb. when I calculated how much edible meat I would really end up with. It's a fantastic deal if you care about the fancy cuts that can run up to $20/lb., but we wouldn't buy those anyway.
What is frugal is buying some of the unpopular cuts. $1/lb.! They're practically giving away these chunks of top-quality beef from pastured animals. Oft-neglected cuts like this are a terrific way to eat a meal with ample meat for less than $1 per person or be doubly frugal by stretching the meat for more servings. We eat a tongue about twice every three weeks. One is enough to stuff ourselves at dinner and have great leftovers.
For reference, this is an 8-qt. stockpot and it's only a little bigger than it needs to be.
I've only ever cooked tongues one way. It's so easy that I haven't bothered to figure out other methods because this way the skin peels off easily afterward. I have no latent desire to spend time cutting away tongue skin, thank you very much, when this way takes ten seconds and no effort.

1 beef tongue, preferably thawed but frozen will do
filtered water

Put tongue in pot and cover with water. Bring to a gentle simmer and leave it, covered, on low heat for at least three hours. About six hours is ideal, in my experience. It will probably float as it's a fatty cut; I try to keep it lodged underwater. Remove with tongs or a fork and rest on a plate to cool for ten minutes.

You'll notice there is both an obviously tongue-shaped portion plus a base which looks like gristle. Do not throw away the base! It's the best part. It gets similar to roast beef when cooked long enough.

There's also no need to throw away the water remaining after the tongue is cooked unless it grosses you out. I like to skim off any floating residue and use the rest in stock.

Once the tongue has cool enough that you won't burn your fingers, peel off the outer layer of skin and throw it away. It should be very easy to remove. If it isn't, the tongue probably did not simmer long enough.

That's it! You can simply slice it and eat it. It does have its own distinctive flavor, but it's not unpleasant the way liver is. The meat is exceptionally tender.

One great traditional use of tongue meat is to shred and season it for taco meat, a.k.a. "tacos de lengua". We typically eat it as a simple meal with green salad and potatoes.

What do you do to keep food costs down without compromising on nutrition? Do you/would you eat tongue?


  1. Tongue is delicious! I cook it in the crockpot. To me it tastes just like corned beef.

  2. That's a great tip, Gwen! I wouldn't want to leave something simmering on the stove when I'm out of the house but the slow cooker would be fine.

  3. Other than the cow tongue, your food blog is making me hungry...

    1. This is Phil by the way!

    2. Hi Phil! But what's wrong with tongue? Have you ever tried it?

  4. No I haven't...it just looks so gross!