What is Offal and Where Does it Rank on the Health Scale?

by Evan DeMarco on Nov 15, 2022

What is Offal and Where Does it Rank on the Health Scale?

If you’re not eating offal, you’re missing out on richly flavored, nutrient dense and less expensive source of meat. Offal is organ meat, including heart, liver, tongue, kidney and sweetbreads. These cuts are high in iron and other key nutrients, helping you get more bang for your buck.

While some people don’t care for the strong flavor or unusual texture, it’s worth putting aside your preconceptions and giving it a try. You don’t have to love liver and onions to make offal a bigger part of your diet—read on to learn about the health benefits, and ideas for preparing offal.

Why is offal so good for you?

Animal organ meat is typically very high in iron and other nutrients. It’s also a good, environmentally friendly food source: consuming offal ensures that the animal protein doesn’t go to waste.

Internal organs like hearts, liver, kidney, brains, sweetbreads, tongue and tripe are often readily available at your local grocery store—although if you can get regeneratively farmed offal, you’re likely to get even more nutritious and flavorful cuts.

While the nutritional content varies, depending on what kind of animal and organ you choose, offal is typically more nutrient dense than muscle meat. For example, they’re loaded with B vitamins, especially B12 and folate. They also contain lots of vitamins A, D, E and K, as well as iron and magnesium. They’re a great protein source, and provide all nine essential amino acids.

Liver tends to be the most nutritious type of offal: just one 3.5 ounce serving contains 27 grams of protein, and more than the recommended daily intake of vitamin B12, copper, Vitamin A and riboflavin. It’s also just 175 calories, making it a perfect choice for anyone who wants to enjoy plenty of protein while keeping their calories low. The

In short, offal is one of the best animal proteins you can get. Some people are concerned about whether organ meats will raise their cholesterol: this is something of a myth. Most people will not see any significant changes in their cholesterol levels as a result of eating more offal.

However, pregnant people should be cautious of their offal intake, specifically as it relates to vitamin A. Offal provides a significant source of vitamin A, which, in excess, can cause pregnancy complications and birth defects. Be sure to talk to your doctor about how much vitamin A you’re consuming.

Cooking with offal

If you’ve never tried offal, let alone cooked it, it can seem a little odd: eating hearts and other organs is something usually reserved for fairy tale villains. Still, different types of offal lend themselves better to certain cooking methods.

Here are some general recommendations:

  • Beef or lamb heart: Try slow roasting beef hearts, and stuffing and roasting lamb heart.
  • Beef, lamb or pork kidney: Fry the kidneys, or stick them in a classic steak and kidney pie.
  • Beef cheeks: Braise these in wine or stock to get a tender texture.
  • Tripe: A classic tripe preparation has them boiled in milk and pepper.
  • Tongues: Tongue is traditionally salted and boiled.
  • Sweetbreads: Try dredging sweetbreads in flour and pan-frying carefully.
  • Liver: Chicken and duck livers are excellent in pate, while beef liver can be pan-fried and served as a main meat course.

Additional offal recipes are available here, including a stuffed liver and bacon recipe that promises to make an offal-lover out of everyone.

An excellent choice for your health and the environment

If you can find offal from a regenerative farm, you’re helping the environment even more—but if all that’s available is offal from major meat suppliers, it’s still a solid environmental choice. Because offal isn’t considered as desirable as muscle meat, it is more likely to go to waste.

Although offal is polarizing, due to its intense flavor, the recipes and cooking methods above promise to help make it a bigger part of your diet. Some people find that the right recipe makes all the difference, while others can’t get past the taste or texture. Because it’s relatively inexpensive, however, it’s worth trying several different types to see if any of them are appealing.

Ultimately, offal is an excellent choice for your health and the environment: it’s nutritious, inexpensive, flavorful and ensures that the meat doesn’t go to waste. Why not embrace your inner fairy tale villain, and serve up some hearts on a platter?