If you are one of those people who enjoy watching cooking shows, then I’m sure you must have seen liver dishes and their preparations. The very thought of eating liver might repel most people, while some enjoy it as a delicacy. If you’re curious to know what liver tastes like, read this entire article.
Well, while some people may find the whole idea of eating liver surprising, it is a common thing in most traditional cultures. The gap between liver lovers and haters arises because of individual tastes and preferences. The liver has a strong and intense taste profile that can be described as sweet and earthy. However, it also depends on the animal it comes from.
While most animal livers can be eaten, the most popular and common livers are sourced from cows, chickens, ducks, lamb, and pigs. Most animal livers are safe to eat and are an excellent source of nutrients.
Traditionally, the liver was eaten as it offered many health benefits. Let’s move on further and find out more about the taste and nutritional profile of the liver, its uses, and how to cook it.
What Is Liver Meat?
Liver meat is a versatile ingredient that tastes delicious when prepared correctly. It is commonly sourced from animals like cows, pigs, lamb, chicken, and duck. Wondering what makes liver meat so special? Liver meat is considered a specialty as it happens to be highly nutritious. It is an excellent source of protein, vitamins A, K, D, E, and B12, as well as minerals such as copper and iron.
Back in the day, liver meat was popular due to many reasons. In Ancient Greece, liver meat was fed to athletes and weightlifters as it was believed to be a storehouse of nutrition and contained anti-fatigue properties.
Among native Americans, it was given to nursing and pregnant women to ensure the baby’s health. But in Africa’s Nuer tribe, liver meat was regarded as sacred, and only a few people could touch it. The liver is making a comeback yet again for all its nutritional value.
Facts about liver you didn’t know: Foie gras is a French specialty food made with the liver of a goose or duck. Making foie gras requires geese and ducks to be force-fed to enlarge their livers. In many countries, this is regarded as a cruel practice against these animals. Thus, it is banned in the UK and some other countries.
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What Does Liver Taste Like?
Unlike meat, the liver doesn’t fully take on the flavor of the ingredients you cook it with. But while eating liver, the number one thing to remember is that it will always have its own unique flavor. It’s never going to taste like chicken breast or any other meat that you consume.
The liver is typically reddish to brownish in color. The taste of the liver can be described as almost sweet and naturally earthy. However, it should be noted that the taste of the liver can vary depending on the size of the animal it comes from and the amount of fat it contains. However, if you find the taste of the liver too strong, there are a few ways to minimize its bold taste profile.
Livers are often soaked in milk or buttermilk to mellow some of their bitterness. But no matter what kind of liver you’re planning to eat, any veins or gristle that run through will carry the strongest flavors and unpleasant textures. So, removing these carefully will help mellow the flavors.
In terms of texture, the liver has a melt-in-the-mouth quality that delivers a lingering rich taste with spices. As mentioned above, the livers of different animals can differ in taste and texture. Hence, the liver of cattle such as goats and pigs are relatively lean.
This means it gets tough when cooked unless first boiled or steamed, but even then, can be fairly coarse. Additionally, beef liver is packed with flavors and tastes metallic, whereas calf liver is sweeter in comparison.
On the other hand, the famous and mostly consumed French delicacy- foie gras, is the liver of ducks and geese, which are force-fed for a high-fat content to make it delectable. Here again, one should be careful not to overcook it. Once the liver on the outside turns brown but is still faintly pink inside, it’s a good sign to turn the heat off.
Does Liver Taste Gross?
If you plan to have the liver for a meal, be prepared to experience unusual taste profiles. The liver has an intensely strong flavor as compared to chicken or meat. Additionally, the larger the animal, the stronger its taste profile. Thus, the livers of different animals taste different, and people mostly opt for mild-tasting chicken or duck livers.
That said, why does liver still taste gross? Liver meat contains a bitterness to it which is due to the presence of a compound called mercaptan. It’s also responsible for the unpleasant smell that often accompanies chicken liver. While you can get rid of the bitterness by soaking it in some milk, unfortunately, there is no way to remove this compound completely. So, the best way out is to mask this taste with strong flavors like onions or garlic.
Why Does Liver Have A Weird Taste?
There are a few reasons why the liver might have a weird taste. Firstly, it’s common knowledge that the liver is present in both animals and humans and is known as a detoxifying organ. Its function is carried out by the presence of many toxins and chemicals. The cocktail of these toxins and chemicals results in a strange taste.
Secondly, its high iron content also adds a metallic and odd taste. Finally, the taste of the liver also depends on the cooking style. When fried or overcooked, it develops an unpleasant flavor.
Does Liver Taste Like Iron?
Anatomically speaking, the liver is a gland that serves multiple functions like storage of glycogen, protein synthesis, and the production of bile. Hence, it offers a flavor profile that is a delicate mix of sweet, bitter, and acidic tastes.
But in particular, liver meat is rich in glutathione and thiols that are partly responsible for the “metallic” or iron-like taste of the liver. To balance this flavor, it is a good idea to leave the raw liver in acidic substances, such as lemon or lime juice or vinegar. This will help limit the oxidation of glutathione and thiols during the subsequent cooking process.
Does Liver Taste Like Steak?
If you are a fan of steaks, it’s most likely that you have experienced a liver-like taste profile in your steaks. The reason being that some cuts of beef, as well as meats, have a higher content of myoglobin, which is an iron-rich protein. The protein produces a taste like blood or offal. The logic appeals vice-a-versa. Hence, the liver, when cooked properly, may taste like steak.
Why Does Liver Taste Bitter?
There is no doubt that the liver has an inherent bitterness due to its chemical composition, as discussed above. Another reason for the bitter taste of the liver is overcooking. This taste can overwhelm your taste buds and turn you away from enjoying the meat. However, you can mellow the bitterness of the liver by soaking the liver in milk or buttermilk and adding sugar or honey while cooking. That said, the liver tastes sweet and creamy when cooked rare to medium rare.
What Does Chicken Liver Taste Like?
Among the variety of liver options available, chicken and goose livers are considered to be the mildest of the lot. But the chicken liver can have a bitter and metallic taste with slight notes of sweetness. When fried, chicken livers deliver a strong flavor, and for some people, this can be quite off-putting. However, when cooked perfectly, chicken livers turn out to be tender, creamy, and smooth in texture, having a meaty texture.
Does Liver Taste Sour?
With the varied chemicals and toxins present in the liver, its taste profile tends to be bitter. However, it certainly does not taste sour. If the liver tastes or smells sour, it is most likely spoiled and should be discarded.
Different Types Of Liver And Their Different Taste
Over the recent decades, liver meats have declined in popularity, maybe due to their taste profiles. But there is no doubt that the amount of nutritional value they provide can compete with regular meats. They are also an excellent source of micronutrients. Some food products that often feature liver as a primary ingredient include German liver sausage called liverwurst and a spreadable paste called pâté.
So, if the taste profile of liver meat is what bothers you, let me take you through a list of livers and their taste profile. This can help you choose the best one for you.
|Species||Taste & Texture|
|Beef||Robust and pungent, soft texture|
|Calf||Sweeter flavor, tender texture|
|Lamb||Mild and full flavor, soft and tender|
|Pork||Rich, mildly bitter, hint of earthy flavor, rough texture|
|Chicken||Mild flavor, tender, creamy and smooth texture|
|Cod||Mild and fishy, smooth and soft texture|
How To Tell If The Liver Has Gone Bad?
When dealing with any type of offal, keep in mind that it will have an extremely short shelf life. Before buying offal’s at meat stores, always check for a ‘Use-By’ or ‘Best-Before’ date on any packaging. Typically, you can expect offal’s to be in their best condition for 1-2 days, and try your luck by pushing it for 3-5 days. Consuming offal’s beyond this time limit isn’t recommended.
However, when dealing with non-vegetarian food products, the quality of the produce can be affected due to many reasons. Maybe the storage of offal’s bought from the store wasn’t correct, or the quality of the produce wasn’t in the best state altogether. To find whether the liver meat you purchased has gone bad, look out for the following factors.
When dealing with raw chicken liver, an even deep red color signifies a healthy state of the liver. Sometimes, you can also find a yellow or green hue on your chicken liver that indicates its fat content. But other than that, if you find some discoloration or mold on the liver surface, it is a clear sign of spoilage.
The texture of the chicken liver is another sign to tell its freshness. Ideally, in their fresh and raw state, chicken livers have a tender texture and bright looks. However, if it begins to have a slimy texture and a dull look, it means your chicken liver has started to turn bad and is no longer safe to consume.
The most common and obvious spoilage indicator is the smell of any food item. If you sense any bad smell from your chicken or any other liver that is sour or sulfur-like, it is a sure sign of chicken liver gone bad.
How To Preserve Liver?
How long does raw beef, chicken, or any other liver last? The exact answer to that question depends to a large extent on storage conditions – keep the liver meat refrigerated at all times. For hygiene purposes and to avoid contamination, liver meats should only be handled after washing hands or by wearing gloves. There are two ways to preserve or store liver meat. Find out the methods below.
- The ideal way to consume liver meat is within 24-36 hours. While storing liver meats in the refrigerator, released liquids from the meat should be removed.
- Wash the liver with fresh water, pat dries it, and place it in an airtight container.
- Place the box in the coldest area of the refrigerator.
- Follow the first two directions as mentioned above. Then place the liver in a plastic food-safe bag and seal it without holding any air inside.
- Place it in the freezer or deep freezer.
- When defrosting frozen liver meat, don’t take the bag out of the refrigerator as bacteria begin to grow rapidly at temperatures between 40 °F and 140 °F. Liver meats should be thawed at all times in the refrigerator.
- Liver meat should be discarded if left out for more than 2 hours at room temperature.
What Are The Best Ways Of Cooking Liver?
Let’s just address the elephant in the room- how can you cook the liver for a pleasant taste? Firstly, you don’t have to be a professional chef to make a meal out of the liver. Dealing with liver meat is a fairly simple process, but it’s the flavors that you need to play with. Take a look at the different cooking methods to turn liver meat into a delicious one.
One of the most common and the best ways of cooking liver is to make it with onions. It has a strong flavor and aroma. You can mellow its flavor and aroma by cutting it into thin slices and soaking the liver in milk for a few hours.
Once soaked, you can sauté sliced onions and set them aside. You can then take beef liver and fry it in the same pan. Take note that beef liver, when prepared correctly, should be brown on the outside and slightly pink on the inside.
Another option to try out is fried chicken livers. To try this recipe, chicken liver is coated in flour and seasoned with salt and pepper. It is then pan-fried. This method gives the chicken liver a browned and crispy exterior. Once done, you can top it with some sauteed onions.
If you like to avoid frying, then another popular method to deal with chicken liver is to braise it and serve it with vegetables. You can coat chicken liver with some seasoned flour and then braise it in a heavy skillet with chopped onions and celery.
Once done, you can add sauteed or raw vegetables with a side of mashed potatoes.
Are you still confused about trying a liver recipe? Well, let’s take a look at the easiest option- grilling.
Before you begin to grill, pat your liver dry with paper towels and make sure the grill is hot. Prepare the liver seasoning by mixing some oil and vinegar with a dash of mustard and salt and pepper. Dress it on the liver and grill on both sides.
You can then serve the liver with some onions and vegetables of your liking. As compared to the other two methods, grilling helps to retain a juicy texture of the liver.
In addition to the above-mentioned cooking methods, pâté’s are one of the most preferred and delicious food items containing the liver. And it is not a dish that you will have to go out looking for.
Making your own pâté is easy. All you need to do is cook raw beef liver combined with cooked pork, bacon, ham, boiled eggs, minced garlic, butter, and chopped onions. Add some seasonings like salt, pepper, thyme, and allspice.
Make sure the temperature of your pâté should be 160F on your meat thermometer. Once ready, chill the pâté prior to serving. However, keep in mind that pâté offers its best flavors at room temperature.
Health Benefits Of Liver
Let’s begin this section by saying, “never- say- never.” Why do we say so? After reading so many details about liver meat, one thing that stands out is the strong taste profile it offers. While the taste and smell of liver meat may not be as appealing as other meats, you might want to cut it out completely.
Firstly, let’s not forget it can be made palatable. Furthermore, the liver has impressive health-boosting properties that no other meat can offer you. So, let’s discuss all the health benefits that liver meat offers.
The liver is one of the most nutrient-dense foods available, rich in protein, packed with essential vitamins and minerals, and low in calories. All these nutrients are easily accessible by the body as compared to those found in other foods.
In comparison to muscle meat, liver and liver products are rich sources of vitamin A and D. There are only a limited number of food sources of vitamin D, with the liver being one. It is also an impressive source of B vitamins such as folate, choline, and vitamin B12 which are needed for several functions in the body.
Another vital nutrient for the body remains iron, and consumption of the liver provides just that.
2. Eye Health
The above-mentioned vitamins and minerals help decrease the risk of age-related macular degeneration. This, in turn, supports eye health.
3. Reduced Risk of Other Diseases
Copper plays an important role in maintaining a healthy nervous system and immune system. Thus, the copper in the beef liver may help you avoid conditions like cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
4. Supports and promotes energy
If you struggle with lethargy, then consuming liver meats can be beneficial for you with the number of micronutrients that it provides. These micronutrients will help your body to turn the food you eat into usable energy.
5. Skin and Bone Health
With a high dose of vitamin, A, C, E, and zinc, the liver can help you look younger with glowing skin. Additionally, vitamin D, magnesium, and calcium will take care of your bone health.
Nutritional Content Of Liver
Liver meats are a powerhouse of micronutrients. They provide more health benefits than muscle meats. Due to this quality, many cuisines embrace dishes that showcase the liver. However, it should be consumed in moderation as excessive quantities of some vitamins can lead to health problems.
Come, let’s take a look at the nutritional content of the beef liver.
|Nutrients||A 100g serving of beef liver (stewed) provides:|
Now that you know what a liver tastes like and ways to cook it to achieve an appealing flavor profile, I’m sure you would want to try it. Furthermore, let’s not forget the nutritional benefits that come along with it.
However, if you are not a big fan of offal, chicken and duck livers can turn out to be a great start. You can also incorporate some tricks explained above to balance out its taste profile. And last but not least, you can pair them up with vegetables for an enriched taste and texture.
If you are one of those readers who is not new to liver meats, then come say hi in the comments section. Also, let me know more ways for a delectable liver meat experience.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is liver meat healthy?
Liver is one of the most nutritionally dense foods on the planet. It contains significant amounts of vitamins and minerals such as folate, iron, vitamin B, vitamin A, and copper that can provide many health benefits.
How to get rid of the strong taste in beef liver?
Wash and rinse your beef liver and soak it in milk before cooking. You can additionally use some vinegar to remove any bad odor.
What are the pros and cons of eating liver meat?
Liver meats are a nutrient-dense food that provides a number of potential health benefits, such as support to the immune and nervous systems. However, with such a rich vitamin content, people may experience toxicity if they eat too much of it.
Which liver meat tastes the best?
Chicken and goose liver is the mildest tasting liver meat.
Is it OK to eat raw liver?
Most official health agencies do not recommend eating raw liver due to the presence of bacteria. It can lead to food poisoning.
How long should the liver be cooked?
When cooked at a high temperature, liver meat can taste bad. It should ideally be cooked over medium-high heat by flipping it once for 3 minutes per side. Overcooked liver meats tend to give a bitter taste.
How long can the liver be kept in the fridge?
Raw liver of any kind should only be kept in the refrigerator for a maximum of two days. However, it must be stored properly in its packaging or in an airtight container at below 40 °F (4.44 °C).
Can liver meat be frozen?
Liver meat can be safely frozen at 0°F for about 3 to 4 months.
How do you know if your liver is spoiled?
Liver meats should be bright in color and have a moist texture. A change in color, detection of molds, and a sour smell are common indicators of the spoiled liver.