Boiled Beef Tongue




About: I've been posting Instructables since the site's inception, and now build other things at Autodesk. Follow me for food and more!

In which I learn how to deal with this cut of meat, and discover that it tastes like... beef.

Step 1: Acquire Tongue

For quite a while I've been having a stare-down with the tongue on display in the butcher's section of my grocery store. I'm a big proponent of the use all parts of the buffalo philosophy of meat-eating, and felt guilty that not only was I unsure how to cook tongue, I had no idea what it tasted like. Worse, due to my deficient cultural upbringing it looked, well, a bit icky. That prejudice clearly needed to be overcome to maintain a consistent 'ethical carnivore' philosophy.

This week I finally bit the bullet and purchased a 2.5lb beef tongue. After a read through the 70's and 90's editions of the Joy of Cooking and some web research, every recipe instructed me to boil the tongue for several hours before either serving it directly or in a strongly-flavored sauce. This seemed like a throwback to my grandmother's generation, but for lack of another plan I decided to try it for my first go. Thus, this Instructable was prepared in accordance with the Joy's recipe for boiling fresh beef tongue.

As you can probably tell, it came folded in half and wrapped with a piece of string. I untied it, gave it a quick rinse (you're supposed to give it a good scrubbing if it looks grimy), and dropped it in a large 8qt pot. It still doesn't look particularly attractive, does it?

Step 2: Add Veggies

Add vegetables to the pot:

2 onions, sectioned
1 large carrot, chunked
3 or more celery stalks with leaves
6 sprigs parsley
8 peppercorns

(Strangely exact, aren't they? Needless to say, I was not. Who knows how many peppercorns ended up in my pot.)

Cover the ingredients with water.

Step 3: Boil

Bring to a boil, and simmer ~3 hours (uncovered) until tongue is tender.

I let mine go for more like 3.5 hours, replenishing the water as necessary and periodically flipping the tongue, then turning the pot off and ignoring it until I was ready to deal with it an hour or so later. The tongue turned frighteningly white while boiling (like any skin when it's waterlogged, I guess) then the exposed bits went brownish as it sat cooling and dried out. It looked a bit too much like an anatomical cross-section, which wasn't encouraging.

Step 4: Peel Tongue

Next I removed the tongue and peeled off the skin. Since this is the discolored yucky-looking bit, things started looking up after its removal.

The tongue itself is a big chunk of almost solid mustle, with a bit of connective tissue in the middle that requires prolonged heat to melt. Without the skin it looks far more like a more traditional meat, albeit in a strange shape.

The skin came off quite neatly; I only had to use a knife to coax some thin bits underneath to come off without tearing too much. There are some ancillary bits (blood vessles, fatty glandular bits, etc) attached to the lower sides of the tongue's base that can easily be removed at this point; they'll feel different, squishy and decidedly non-meaty, and thus can be easily separated from the good parts.

The Joy talked about removing roots, small bones, and gristle; I found none of these things. Perhaps a differently-cut tongue would have small bones attached? They didn't give any pictures or diagrams.

Step 5: Chop

Now slice your tongue. I did cross-sections starting from the tip, just to get a better idea of what was going on.

It's about as expected: there's basically a tube of muscle around the exterior of the tongue, with a mix of muscle and soft connective tissue running along the inside in two parallel stripes. The slow cooking has softened the connective tissue such that these areas are just a bit wiggly and differently-textured than the more muscular external ring.

Let's look at some of those slices. Cross-sections from the thicker part of the tongue look like PacMan ghosts, don't they? The final pile of meat I've produced really looks for all the world like a rather boring pot roast. It's almost disappointing.

The Joy says: to carve tongue, cut nearly through at the hump parallel to the base. But toward the top, better-looking slices can be made if the cut is diagonal. Or just slice it up as you like.

Step 6: Serve

Now you've got a pile of meat. Though the Joy recommends a pile of strongly-flavored sauces you can douse it in, it also suggests serving it with a mustard sauce or with "horseradish, capers, or chopped pickle." These sounded much more likely.

I've got dijon mustard and capers in the fridge, so we put them on the table along with barbecue sauce for good measure and served the tongue at ambient temperature.

The capers and mustard both did quite well with the tongue, and were a good compliment to the flavor. It was pleasantly reminiscent of the traditional boiled corned beef and cabbage, which is accompanied by a horseradish sauce. Too bad we're out of that one.

The barbecue sauce was a bit sweet for this preparation, though not too far off. Another with more bite would have been a pleasant accompanyment.

Step 7: Future Studies

This was surprisingly good- everyone tried it, and agreed that it tasted like perfectly good boiled beef. Of course, there's not exactly a huge clamor for boiled beef these days. Tongue recipes are still stuck in the 50's or earlier, so we discussed some alternate cooking techniques.

First, any future boiling will be done in the pressure cooker to shorten the time. Nothing was gained by having to wander through the kitchen periodically to check on a boiling pot all afternoon.

Second, we'll follow up on the barbecue sauce idea and use a different slow-cooking method. Just like southern pulled pork (or Mexican carnitas) we could let the tongue cook slowly in the oven, then shred the meat and give it a tasty sauce. This should soften the connective tissues as necessary, while avoiding that unfortunatel boiled-meat texture. Dry cooking should also concentrate the beef flavor.

A slow grilling or smoking would probably work as well, and I'm curious about deep-frying a tongue in the turkey oil. That could be entirely too much fun.

Other suggestions?



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63 Discussions


Tip 5 months ago on Introduction

I often cook tongue (am going to do so today, in fact). I usually follow my Romanian mother-in-law's recipe: make a rich red-wine sauce with some of the tongue stock, a tin of tomatoes and Kalamata olives. Wonderful, especially when served with homemade spätzle.


1 year ago

Best cooked with salt, peppercorns, mustard seeds, and bay leaf, cooled, sliced thin. Serve with freshly grated horseradish.


2 years ago

I'm 68 & Scottish. This was one of my favourite foods growing up. But my mother served it cold & pressed then thinly sliced. I loved it in a sandwich with sliced pickled onions. It is much nicer than shop bought cold sliced tongue. I have made it myself but not for decades but am at my holiday home in France & going to give it another go. Boil in a large pan for about 3.5 hours after covering with water & adding a few root veg & peppercorns etc. (Use your common sense as I can't remember exactly). When cold enough to handle remove skin which comes off easily. Cut away any small bones & gristle at the root. Find a small pot or bowl preferable with round straight sides & curl the tongue into it. The smallest size you can get it into is best. Add a small amount of cooking liquid and place a saucer on top. Weight it down with heaviest thing you can find & leave overnight. Next day decant & slice. I have also seved it hot with a raisin sauce.


2 years ago

My family has enjoyed this since I was a kid...and I'm 60 years old and getting ready to make two today! We boil, as described , but the spices are different, starting with bay leaves! After cooked, we serve the tongue with a raising sauce that is simple to make: raisins, mustard, brown sugar and a bit of water... cook until the raisins are puffy and soft...and pour over the sliced tongue! It is delicious!


3 years ago

Tongue is a dish I've enjoyed since childhood. Lived on a working farm and so learned to enjoy parts that make people squeamish. Rocky mountain oysters are one of my favourites.

There are many ways to cook tongue.

I like the slow cooker. Add tongue, vegetables, water, salt, pepper, and any spice that you enjoy with beef. Give it 8 hours, let cool enough to handle. Strip outer layer and discard (My dogs like it) . Slice and then cook in a frying pan with a sauce/gravy and serve.


3 years ago on Step 6

That was a great write up with helpful photos. I found it because I, too, had long felt compelled to try tongue but like you, had avoided it until about two weeks ago. I did mine just slightly different, but very similar to yours. I put my 3 pound tongue in a crockpot. I cut up one large onion and added salt and peper and one finely chopped garlic bulb (small one, about 4 sections). I first cooked it on high for about an hour and a half. On high my pot actually boils the contents, so the tongue was safely cooked (but NOT finished) by then. I took the whole tongue out and cut a good sized slice off the end (about 2 x 3 inches). IT WAS TOUGH AS LEATHER!!!! Basically so tough it was inedible. I was very disappointed. I put in back in my crock pot, switched it to low, and cooked another 7 (SEVEN!) hours for a total of 8.5 hours. When I tried it this time....I WAS IN LOVE!!! It was a soft, unbelievably tender piece of what I can only call "meat butter"! I'm sure its quite unhealthy, but the extremely high fat content gave it incredible texture and taste. "meat butter" really is a good description! It tasted very much like roast beef (in terms of taste) but the texture was about 100 times more tender and juicy and just wonderful. In the end, I cut it up (actually, I mostly just tore it apart with my hands like you would do pulled pork) and put it in a container for refrigeration, with the intended purpose being tacos (which is what I bought it for). And sure enough....the "Tacos de Lengua" were hands down the best tacos I've ever tasted in my life. WOW! And my recipe called for VERY simple tacos--nothing but a soft corn tortilla, this tongue, fresh chopped onions, cilantro, and lime juice, topped with some medium salsa (optional) made the best tacos I'd EVER EVER tasted. Later I added some sour cream, tomatoes, and cheese, but this more Americanized version is just different, not necessarily BETTER than the simple aforementioned tacos. for the tongue, it blew my mind and taste buds so much that I not only gobbled it up in just a couple days of eating the tacos, but I went back to the store and bought and cooked a whole new tongue. Trust me, when something is so good that I make it twice in one week, its good! This time I made it closer to what you did. But I added even more veggies. I actually made pretty much a classic vegetable beef stew using tongue. Again, all the fat that cooks out probably clogged my veins up overnight and fattened me up too, but it also made the most incredible stew of all time. I put a 3 lb tongue, and chopped up almost everything in my garden- carrots, squash, okra, corn, green beans, tomato, and potatoes. HOLY COW. Desperately wish you could all have tasted my stew. After 8 hour (probably didn't need that much time), I let it all cool down. This did 2 things. One, it allowed me to gently reach in and pull the whole tongue out with the major fatty sections on the bottom (which the author of this thread mentioned) still in tact. That way I was able to trim off all the completely useless fat away, and was also able to just peel the "skin" off the whole tongue by just using my hands. Its amazing how after 8 hours the skin just slides off. The other adventage of letting this beef stew cool was that I was able to take a ladle and just dip a large amount of fat that had cooked out of the meat and floated to the top. But even after trimming the tongue and dipping out the liquid fat, there was still more than enough fat to give the stew great taste and body. Not real healthy, I suppose, but OMG it was good!!! I know this is a crazy long post, but I just discovered beef tongue and as you can tell, I'm more excited about it than I have been about almost any new food item I've tried in years. SO next time you see that rather gross and strange looking hung of meat at the butchers (my walmart even carries it, believe it or not!!!) do yourself a favor and pick it up. I promise you will not be sorry! Kevin

It's fairly expensive in the supermarket here in Minnesota, but is sometimes pretty cheap at the Farmers' market if you look at all the venders. Since lengua tacos are common at the authentic Mexican restaurants here, you might look at your Mexican market for it.

The sauce my mom used was mayonnaise, mustard, chopped chives mixed.


Mexicans call in lengua and chop it for tacos.


Famous in the Bakersfield Basque restaurants --Google Noriega's.

Slice it in 1/4 inch slices. Drop into a plastic bag. Pickle overnight by adding red wine vinegar, ex virg olive oil, chopped parsley, crushed garlic. Put the bag into the fridge and flop it from time to time.


There is a wonderful tongue stew in "Frugal Gourmet Our Immigrant Ancestors" in the Basque Section.


4 years ago on Introduction

I made this a few years ago and again today. It's amazing how the meat is so tender and no visible fat! It's great with kugel and a salad


4 years ago on Introduction

Just tossed my 3.5 pound beef tongue (from the local Asian supermarket) into the pressure cooker, covered it with water and added some peppercorns, herbs and garlic. The pressure cooker's instructions say 75-90 minutes for a 2-3 pound tongue, so I'll leave it in for a few minutes longer. I haven't had tongue in years, but I liked it in my twenties, so I'm sure I'll like it now. I'm not squeamish about organ meats. My favourites are chicken hearts (my Brazilian friends season them with garlic salt and grill them on skewers like kebabs... OMG delicious!) and lamb liver. I really like beef heart, too. I know the dog will devour the skin of the tongue and the gristly bits. She's not picky!


5 years ago on Introduction

Tongue is a cold appetizer in Russian cuisine. We boil it and serve chilled and sliced very thinly or you can use gelatine to create a clear liquid and pour over sliced tongue. It is delicious and expensive dish that you can find in Russian restaurants.


6 years ago on Introduction

I woke up to the sound of hissing this morning - Beef Tongue for dinner tonight! :-)

I have heard many times now hat it tastes like roast beef. I know a few people who will be found eating it from time to time and I think I might have to take them up on the offer to try it.


12 years ago on Introduction

how about... Barbuqeueqeuequeue it? Give it to Tim to turn into jerky? hey, you ever eaten eel sushi? As sushi goes, its not very adventurous, i'll admit, but it tastes great!

2 replies

Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

Unagi is pretty tasty! Especially with avocado. We just had some last night. I don't think barbeque is the way to go, unless it's very slow- you've got to break down LOTS of cartilage and tendony bits.


11 years ago on Step 6

i have been eating tongue for a long time as a kid in, not jewish either. i love the consistency of it and the flavor is like nothing else. it is hard to find in a grocery store setting tho. you're spread looks fantastic i am going to try it next time i do a tongue.i usually have to find a butcher to order it, but as the world gets smaller ethnicly it has been easier to find. thanks

1 reply

Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

I agree; the flavor is like nothing else. It's the most tender, delicious meat; I'm boiling one right now. My grandmother cooked this - nothing in the water, just boiled beef tongue salted at the table. I can't wait! Skinning it can be a pain, but so worth it!


7 years ago on Step 7

Awesome! We get tongue all the time from our local authentic mexican restaurant. But we just bought a cow and when we had it butchered I requested the tongue. My 10 year old is so excited to try it, my 4 year old I already know loves it. I will definitely do as you did in boiling the tongue this weekend. A show we were watching gave it a final sear before serving. Thanks for posting this! :)