Last Thursday, I found myself with both a fresh deposit into my bank account, a long list of grass-fed meets to buy, and a free afternoon.

The internet told me that this Thursday in particular was the start off of the farmers’ market in Manassas, VA. Add all of those together, and I was in!

Cooking Tongue

It was a rather small affair with only a few vendors, but quite a few really good ones anyway.

I went hope with all kinds of goodies, but was most excited about my strangest purchase: a 3.3 lb frozen grass-fed cow’s tongue.

This isn’t a cut of meat I’d ever tried in my life, but I knew it was a relatively simple one. No weird veins or extra parts to chop out. That’s good.

Cooking Tongue

So, I took my 3.3 lbs of tongue back to the house with all of the other farmers’ market wares, including a ton of potatoes and carrots.

After some excessive researching, I learned that the method is pretty straight forward, but a teensy bit complicated. That’s why I decided to take you on a tour of my kitchen on The Day of the Tongue. Ya ready?

Note: I followed this fantastic article from American Table and Elsa’s Summer Tongue recipe for the one demonstrated below.

How to Cook Tongue

First, you need to thaw the tongue. I tend to do that by placing it in a cold water bath. Since one researcher said that you need to soak tongue in cold water for about 2 hours to extract excess salt, I figured I could thaw and strip salt in one swoop.

Take the biggest bowl you have, place it in the sink, add the tongue, and fill with cold, cold water.

Cooking Tongue

Let it live here for about 2 hours.

Meanwhile, you’ll need a huge stockpot or  pot large enough to hold this guy and a ton of veggies. Find it.

Then, prepare your mise en place. I used these ingredients:

  • 3 sliced onions,
  • 3 peeled and chopped carrots
  • 2 large red potatoes, chopped into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 whole head of garlic, chopped roughly
  • 1/4 cup of butter, or 1/2 a stick
  • 1 large white potatoes, same
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 quart of beef broth
  • 1/2 cup of honey or cane syrup (I mixed both, and could have used less)
  • 5 bay leaves
  • 5 allspice berries
  • 1 tbs of coriander seeds
  • 1 dash of red pepper flakes

On the stove, I slowly melted the 1/4 cup of butter. Then, I threw in the onions and garlic with a pinch of salt, the bay leaves, allspice berries, coriander seeds, and red pepper flakes. Let them sweat together.

cow tongue recipe

Then, add your broth (or water, or a mix of broth and water), vinegar, and honey or syrup mixture.Let the flavors come together while simmering (about 20 minutes).
Cooking TongueCooking Tongue

Once your tongue has thawed out and soaked 2 hours, you’re ready to add it to the mix. Carefully add it to the entire mixture, and cover with a lid.

The water's risen because the tongue has entered the pot.

The water’s risen because the tongue has entered the pot.

Let simmer 40-60 minutes. After that time, check to see if the membrane and buds can be removed easily. If not, allow it to continue cooking.

tongue stew 002

I used a combination between kitchen shears and a sharp knife to separate the membrane from the meat. When you hit meat (looks like shredded meat), you’re good. Remove anything else, including the kind of hard bits of membrane.

tongue stew 005

Remove any hard, reflective bits.

Remove any hard, reflective bits. This part is kind of a “learn as you go” process.

Once the membrane can be removed with ease (sharp kitchen knife or scissors), do so, then dice the pieces into small cubes. This part is messy and kind of gross. Remember: there are taste buds AND a harder membrane underneath the buds!

tongue stew 009

Once everything is  diced up, just toss it back into the pot with the carrots and potatoes. All the heat to rise, then simmer on med-low until root veggies are tender or the meat is soft (I started cooking at 1 PM and didn’t finish until 7 or 8. It took a long time!)

tongue stew 011

Seriously, that’s it.

This recipe calls for more fluid than really necessary, so I used a lot of my extra broth to create a gravy. The vinegar and honey create a sweet and sour tang unlike anything I’ve ever tasted in an another traditional flavor medley. It’s divine!

tongue stew 015

Let’s talk about the basics here.

Why did you want to cook tongue anyway?

Well, people around the world ate beef before we had our gorgeous specialty cuts. Why not opt for the relatively cheaper cuts of meat from the animal? This tongue was from a grass-fed cow. To get a roast this size and at this quality would be way more expensive!

How much was it?

The sign at the farmers’ market advertised tongue at $3/lb. Unfortunately, the package was marked at $5/lb, which means I paid nearly double (won’t be using that seller in the future). Still, the price was low for something of this quality and locality. At 3.3 lbs, I paid about $19.

Would you do it again in the future?

You know, I’m not sure if I’d go out of my way to do this again unless I had some help in the kitchen. The cleaning of the tongue was a pretty long process. Maybe it’d go faster in the future. But, the flavor was awesome! I’d sure as heck eat this again.

Is this something any ordinary chef can do?

Absolutely! If you know how to boil water and put a lid on it, you’ve got it. It took time to clean the tongue, but the rest of the process was a simple building of flavors. The vinegar and honey add so much flavor from the get-go that you’re really guaranteed something yummy in return.

What was the taste and texture?

This recipe is a very sweet and sour version of a classic beef pot roast. It was definitely German tasting, and I loved it! The texture of tongue is extremely lean, but the meat does not fall apart like our traditional roasts. So imagine something that’s soft and flavorful, not chewy at all,but that stays together even after a long time of cooking. I liked it!

Would you, or have you ever, cooked or eaten tongue?

Paid Endorsement Disclosure: In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. Disclaimer: None of the posts on this blog should serve as medical advice. I am not a medical professional, and I advise you to seek out professional assistance before making any major lifestyle changes.
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  • Deborah

    I haven’t tried tongue yet, but I am sipping some oxtail broth as I read your blog post.

    Mmmmm there was so much yummy fat on the oxtail. It wasn’t chopped up, so it did look rather disgusting after simmering it on the stove, but it was delicious! Bones are in the freezer for bone broth. Going to go visit the organic Amish farm again this weekend…never know what you’ll find. :)

    Thanks for the interesting and informative blog post!

    • Rachael Cleveland

      Awesome! I know these different cuts can be a little frightening at first, and my dad still cringes when I talk about making tongue. But, it was DELICIOUS! Definitely changed my mind! So glad you have a healthy source of funny cuts. ;)

  • Eric Colleary

    Thanks so much for the mention and for sharing your results! It is a lot of work, and if I could find a cheaper regular source of tongue I’d also consider making it more often. But it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be. Great job!

    • Rachael Cleveland

      I agree on all accounts. It was quite a process, but the resulting meals were rather fabulous. Thank you for your help! :)

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