Butchering 101: Beef Heart

The beef heart is a part of a group of cuts called "offal". Offal is essentially the odds-and-ends of the animal that consists mainly of organs. Beef Heart is the perfect gateway to other organs, because it is a muscle and has a consistency and flavor of beef. Since the heart is constantly working the entire life of the cow, it has dense muscle fibers and needs to be prepared correctly so it's not too chewy. When cleaned, you can see the dark red color of the muscle, a clear indication of the lean, dense, muscle fibers that make up the organ. It's flavor is very concentrated too, so only about 4-oz will be plenty to keep you satisfied. There's a video below of how we butcher the whole beef heart, and a link to a recipe for Balsamic Beef Heart Stir-Fry.

Nutrition The organ meats are the most nutritional cuts from the whole animal, yet the majority of people are turned off from the thought of them. Beef Heart is the perfect gateway to other organ meats, because its flavor and consistency is similar to beef. Not only is beef heart packed with lean protein and essential amino acids, it's also rich in vitamins, enzymes, and minerals including: thiamin, folate, zinc, iron, phosphorus, B vitamins, collagen, elastin, antioxidants, selenium, lycopene, and much more!

How to Butcher

The heart is removed from the whole animal during the dressing process, which is done at the USDA inspected slaughter facility. What the butchers do there is split the whole beef down the belly, removing all the organs including the heart. The USDA inspector will look at the organs and do any necessary step to make sure the animal is healthy enough for consumption. If you see a blue smudge on Beef Heart, that is the the USDA inspection stamp that approves it for sale to the public (it's edible by the way).

After the heart passes inspection (as well as the rest of the whole beef), we receive it and prepare it to order. Sometimes we slice it in strips or stir fry or skewers. Sometimes we grind it with Ground Beef for Heart Burgers. Most times we sell it whole and cleaned. Here's a video of how we clean a Whole Beef Heart. What we are essentially doing is trimming off any of the arteries, tendons, excessive fat, and connective tissues. The heart is constantly beating and works a lot, which means there is a build up of a ton of tendons and connective tissue that line the entire inside! The fat is also very dry and crumbly, so if you are grilling or using it as stir fry you'll want to trim any excessive fat on the outside. Check out this short video to see it done in action:

Cooking & Preparation There are only a few ways to prepare heart or else it will be tough and chewy. The best way to get into eating Beef Heart is to grind it with regular beef to make burgers, chili, meatloaf, etc. Grinding it will make it tender, and mixing it with the beef will tone down the stronger irony flavor. Another way of preparing it is to dice it up then stew or braise for a few hours. I like to do this with Beef Broth and a little red wine. The final way I would suggest preparing Beef Heart is to cut it in thin slices, marinade for overnight, then pan sear or grill to medium rare. It's perfectly safe to eat heart rare and medium rare, and not overcooking the heart will make it tender. Here's a link to our recipe for Balsamic Beef Heart Stir-Fry, but feel free to ask us for other recipes using Beef Heart.

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