Liver is among the most polarizing meat options -- most people either love it or hate it. If you are among the haters, you may never have eaten liver that was properly prepared. Although calf liver tends to be more tender with a milder flavor, beef liver can be equally delicious, as long as you know how to work with it. In addition to pairing liver with strong flavors such as onions, bacon, garlic or brandy, how you prepare the meat directly affects the flavor in your finished dish.
Buying and Preparing Beef Liver
Like any other meat, you want to buy the freshest beef liver possible. Beef liver typically has a dark brownish-red color and it should be smooth, without any dry or slimy patches. Although soaking isn’t required to cook beef liver, it improves the flavor. So does using the liver when it’s fresh -- within 24 hours of buying it is best. Before you soak it, remove the membrane, if your butcher hasn't already done so. Also, remove any connective tissue, ducts or veins since they can be tough after cooking. Slice the beef liver on a diagonal, making it 1/4 to 1 inch thick, depending on your preferences.
Soaking Beef Liver
Place sliced liver in a resealable bag or a bowl, and pour in your soaking liquid. Using salted water, milk, buttermilk or a marinade helps remove the funky, somewhat metallic flavor of the liver. A marinade made with white wine, oil, shallots, fresh herbs, salt and white pepper is particularly well suited to flavoring the liver. Refrigerate the liver and let it soak for roughly 8 hours if you're using brine or milk. When using an acidic marinade such as tomato juice or a white wine mixture, let it soak for 1 to 2 hours.
Cooking Beef Liver
Whether you soak it or not, the way you cook beef liver can make or break its flavor. Overcooked liver tends to become tough, with a stronger and more pronounced flavor that can be quite off-putting. Toss sliced liver with a little flour and pan-fry it until it just becomes firm. Alternatively, marinate the liver and place it on a grill that's been preheated to medium-high. Grill it roughly 3 minutes per side, until the exterior is browned. Because beef liver tends to be tougher than more delicate calf's liver, consider braising it, a method which also helps mellow the liver's flavor. Sear the liver in a hot pan until it's browned on both sides, removing it and browning some aromatic vegetables such as onions and carrots, and then returning the liver to the pan. Add wine, broth or another cooking liquid and slowly simmer the mixture for about 20 to 30 minutes, until the beef liver is tender.
Determining When Liver is Done
No matter which method of cooking you choose to use for your beef liver, be sure it’s fully cooked before you eat it. To be sure that the liver is done, insert an instant-read meat thermometer into the thickest part of the meat. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, organ meat such as liver should be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
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- Fire in My Belly: Real Cooking; Kevin Gillespie, et al.
- The Illustrated Cook's Book of Ingredients; DK Publishing
- The Wizard of Food's Encyclopedia of Kitchen & Cooking Secrets; Myles H. Bader
- Bear River Valley Beef: Braised Liver Recipe
- Food 52: Grilled Calf's or Beef Liver Served With A Famous Romanian Sauce Mujdei
- U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety Information: Beef from Farm to Table
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