How to Cook Beef Heart

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Beef heart skewers, or anticuchos, are a signature Latin American dish.
Beef heart skewers, or anticuchos, are a signature Latin American dish. (Image: bonchan/iStock/Getty Images)

Variety meats, or offal, are not an especially high-demand item at American meat counters. Their unfamiliar flavors and textures, and especially their sometimes-challenging odors, can easily discourage all but the most ardent "foodies." Of these little-loved cuts, the heart stands as a prime candidate for reconsideration. Unlike the others it's pure, lean muscle, and tastes much like any other cut of beef. It's slightly chewy, like trendy bistro steaks, and lends itself to a number of easy-to-like preparations.

Grilled Beef Heart "Steaks"

Cut the beef heart into its major lobes, or sections, and trim away the blood vessels, gristle, connective tissue and anything else that is visibly not muscle.

Slice the trimmed pieces of heart into strips, 1 to 1 1/2 inches in thickness. Brush or spray them lightly with oil, and season them with salt and pepper, or your choice of spice rubs.

Preheat your grill to a medium-high temperature, approximately 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Grill the heart steaks for approximately 5 minutes, until well seared, then turn them and cook for another 5 minutes.

Insert an instant-read thermometer horizontally into the heart. It's best when cooked to no more than medium-rare, or 130 F. The actual cooking time required to reach this temperature will vary with the thickness of your cuts.

Remove the heart slices from your grill and let them rest for 3 to 5 minutes. Slice them thinly, and serve with your favorite sides.

Heart Kebabs

Cut the heart into halves or quarters, and use the tip of a sharp knife to trim away any blood vessels, gristle, connective tissue or fat.

Slice the trimmed pieces of heart into slabs 1/2 inch to 1 inch in thickness, as desired, then turn these on their sides and slice them again to make cubes. This step is easier if the original slices are placed in the freezer for 15 to 20 minutes to firm up slightly.

Thread the cubes of beef onto metal, wooden or bamboo skewers. If you're using wood or bamboo, soak them beforehand in cold water to prevent them from burning as the beef cooks.

Grill the skewers over medium-high heat for 2 to 3 minutes per side, until well charred but still medium-rare in the middle. Serve hot, with your favorite sides.

Braised Heart

Cut the heart into three or four large pieces, then use a sharp knife to remove any blood vessels, gristle and connective tissue from the pieces.

Heat a heavy skillet, and add a small quantity of oil. Sear the pieces of heart on all sides until they're well browned, working with one piece at a time and setting them aside as they're finished. This step is optional, but improves the flavor of the finished dish.

Place the pieces of heart in a slow cooker, Dutch oven or deep baking dish with a lid. Add onions, garlic, carrots, celery or other aromatic vegetables as desired, and season the heart with salt and pepper.

Pour in enough water, beef broth or vegetable broth to cover the heart pieces halfway. A splash of wine can also add to the flavor. Place the lid on the baking dish, Dutch oven or slow cooker.

Simmer the heart for 4 to 5 hours in your slow cooker on Low, or half that time on High. If you're braising the heart in a Dutch oven or baking dish, place it an an oven preheated to 325 F for 3 to 4 hours. The finished heart will still be slightly chewy, but not unpleasantly so.

Tips & Warnings

  • Grilled beef heart slices can also be sliced thinly, and served cold or slightly warmed as part of a salad.
  • If the weather is not suitable for outdoor grilling, heart steaks can be pan-seared in a heavy skillet in much the same way.
  • Many cooks like to marinate beef heart in a mildly acidic marinade, which does little to tenderize the beef but does add flavor. Pat the surface of the meat dry with clean paper towels before you cook it.
  • To stew the heart rather than braise it, cut it into cubes as you would for skewers. Add your vegetables during the last hour of cooking, then strain out the juices and thicken them separately to make your gravy.

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