How to Cook Sweetbreads


Sweetbreads are a perfect example of how you can't always tell a book by its title. Some would think of sweetbreads as dough balls, dipped in warm butter and cinnamon. However, they're actually organ meat, mostly the thymus and pancreas, of young calves, lambs and piglets. Sweetbreads have a lot of preparation time, but can be cooked in a variety of ways and used in different kinds of dishes.

  • Prepare the dish by soaking the organ in cold water for several hours to remove traces of blood. This also helps make the sweetbreads whiter and gives them a milder taste.

  • Blanch the sweetbreads after soaking by placing them in a pot and covering them with cold water, called the blanching water. Add some salt and lemon juice and bring the mix to a boil. If the organ used is a stomach, the mixture may need to simmer for a few minutes.

  • Remove the sweetbreads from the blanching water and put them into ice water. This helps remove impurities, makes the sweetbreads even whiter and helps firm up the tissue so the organ can be more easily trimmed.

  • Trim the sweetbreads to a desired shape after using your fingers to remove any visible veins or gristle. Press the sweetbreads by laying them on a towel on a tray, covering them with another towel and tray and placing something heavy on the top tray.

  • Refrigerate the sweetbreads for two to twenty-four hours. Slice them into medallions or other desired shapes, then sauté, fry or grill and prepare them for your recipe.

  • Use sweetbreads as desired, such as part of a white or brown sauce, sautéed in butter, a topping for a meat dish or an addition to many different dishes.

Tips & Warnings

  • The use of sweetbreads in recipes goes back to the Romans.

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