How To Cook Beef Tongue
While not too popular in America, beef tongue is quite popular in Europe and Latin America. If you have never had it before it can be quite intimidating and even a bit off putting. However, if you can find the time and courage to put in the work you’ll end up with the most beefy piece of beef you’ve ever had. In my opinion, it is one of the most delicious pieces of cow you can eat. In this post I’m going to go over a classic way showing you how to cook beef tongue, along with a recipe and alternative suggestions.
Table Of Contents
1. What Is It?
What Is Beef Tongue?
Beef tongue is the tongue of a cow usually severed from the base. It can range in color from black to pink and believe it or not feels quite like a human tongue. It is commonly described as the most tender piece of beef available and when cooked properly has an almost foie gras consistency.
Beef tongue is most often served braised with a reduction (or a gravy) in Europe, while in places like Mexico they make it into tacos or soup. Some ranchers in Argentina will even BBQ or smoke it for a very unique flavor and texture.
Where To Buy Beef Tongue?
These days you should be able to find a beef tongue at most major grocery stores. If not in the butcher section it will be in the freezer section. The tongue will weigh in at around 2-6 pounds (1-3 kg) depending on the age and size of the cow. I am partial to smaller sized tongues less than 1.5 kg as they cook faster and are more tender.
How To Clean And Prep Beef Tongue
So to start cooking a beef tongue it is actually extremely simple. Just rinse the tongue under a cold tap for a bit to wash away any undesired bits and then braise the tongue in beef stock for 3-4 hours. My stock is homemade by boiling cow bones with an onion, a bulb of garlic, 2 carrots, oregano, mushroom powder, mustard seed, black peppercorns, thyme, and a cup of red wine. If you don’t have some stock on hand you can just use bullion, store-bought, or add the rest of the ingredients with water since the tongue is basically the beef component.
Add the tongue and stock to a pot and bring up to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and put on the pot lid. Let simmer for 3-4 hours. You should check the pot every hour or so and skim away some of the scum that comes on the surface. This isn’t necessary, it just provides for a cleaner broth at the end.
Peeling The Tongue
To check for done-ness stab the tongue with a thin knife. If the knife goes in and comes out with no resistance then it is ready to be peeled. What?!? Are you shocked you have to peel the tongue? Well, you do, and many people don’t like this part. Fortunately for me, this activity is my partner Alona’s favorite part. Just make a small incision right down the center of the beef tongue and peel the skin layer away.
Now the tongue at this point is perfectly edible, but there’s one more thing I like to do when cooking tongue European style. And that is another half hour of braising with the skin off to make the beef tongue even richer and more tender.
European Style Tongue
Simmer the tongue for another 30 minutes in the stock. Then, remove the tongue and let rest for 10-15 minutes while making the reduction. In a small saucepan on medium heat add two tablespoons of butter and when melted, two tablespoons of flour. Whisk around for a minute then add in a cup of the beef tongue braising liquid. Turn the heat to medium low and let reduce for 10 -15 minutes or until desired thickness.
Next it is time to prepare the beef tongue. I like to cut about 1 cm slices starting from the bigger end. This part is the most tender and juicy and is what you should serve people if you are entertaining.
I usually clean up the slices a bit so they are more uniform and appealing, but you can absolutely just slice and eat. The meat is super tender and can easily shred if you wanted to make shredded tongue, but if you want to keep the slices then try for a long sweeping cut.
Beef Tongue With Reduction
- 1.5 kg Beef Tongue
- 2 liters Beef Stock if you use store-bought it is fine, just get reduced salt since they tend to be too salty.
- 250 ml Red Wine
- 2 tbsp Butter
- 2 tbsp Flour
- 1 pinch Salt optional (taste for seasoning)
- 1/2 tsp Black Pepper freshly cracked
- Rinse your tongue under cold water to remove any unwanted particles.
- In a pot add the tongue and the stock and the wine and bring everything to a boil. Once boiling reduce to a simmer and place the lid on. Braise for 4 hours, or until a thin knife can go in and come out with no resistance.
- Pull out the tongue and make a small incision right down the middle. Use this incision to peel the skin off the tongue.
- Place the tongue back in the pot and braise for another 30 minutes. Remove to a board and let rest for 10-15 minutes while you made the reduction.
- In a small pan on medium heat add the butter and flour. Whisk together for a minute and then add about a cup of the braising liquid. Whisk together and reduce until desired consistency. Taste for salt and pepper and season as needed.
Tacos de Lengua
One of the most popular beef tongue recipes is the Mexican Tacos de Lengua. You can check my recipe in a separate article if you want to see more pictures. It is honestly one of my favorite things to make and so tasty. Normally these are street food, but it is common for Mexican households to make tacos de lengua at home. I keep my recipe real simple, just simmering the chopped up tongue meat in a bath of blitzed stock and serrano chilies.