Cooking Liver

Cooking Liver: Offal Meat’s Nutrition Benefits

There was a once-upon-a-time when cooking liver was the done thing. But we’re not talking back in the days of St. Patrick here. Beef liver, lamb liver, pork liver, even goat liver were up until recently highly desirable foods. After all, how much offal meat does an animal have, and how much muscle meat? It was natural that scarcity produced demand. But this was only one reason organs such as liver, the most densely nutrient-rich kind of offal, were in such high demand.

The major reason being a very simple one: liver is good for you. Exceedingly good.

Offal Meat – lifeline of the poor

Rich in vitamins and minerals, up until the 20th century liver recipes were prized among the very poor, and up until the 19th century only figured regularly in the diet of the more affluent. In the West, at least. The poorest of Ireland and other parts relied on the potato and similar staples for the bulk of their nutrition. But for those who could afford it, cooking liver regularly was a serious asset to your health.

When an animal was slaughtered, the wealthy took the meat first, as well as whatever they wanted from the rest. This meant that offal meat was available to the masses. But look closely and you’ll see that the mass, ‘the great unwashed’, was made up by a huge number of people. With a huge number of very hungry mouths attached.

If it came your way, offal was a blessing. And this was also before the advent of industrial slaughterhouses and other ‘advances’, so you could eat your offal meat with peace of mind. Safe in the knowledge that you were boosting your health by doing so.

Muscle meat is in, cooking liver is out

Since delicacies such as lamb liver or beef tongue were traditionally in great demand, you’d think today’s common man would be counting his lucky stars. For, in Western societies at least, even the lowliest pauper now has access to fresh – and inexpensive – offal meat.

But do they care? Do many take advantage of their luck and consume these nutrition bombs?

You likely can’t hack the strong taste of what makes one strong, even if you could recognize how strong it makes one.

Peasant or aristocrat, the modern Westerner is more likely to cry “Yuck!!” than hail the nutritional value of offal meat. In fact, depending on which side of the age divide they were born on, they might even say something more like “Liver is extreme, yo!” . Or simply scoff, because they’re OMG just so beyond lamb liver.

And feel more upstandingly bipedal than humans of the past…on account of getting to sit all day long.

If you do happen to be a Westerner, and are one for sticking out your tongue at beef tongue and turning up your nose at pork snout, this writer suggests it is only because you are a product of your era. And that at this stage you likely can’t hack the strong taste of what makes one strong, even if you could recognize how strong it makes one.

Secret recipe for savvy consumption

Because in this age of muscle meat for the masses, we’re told we all should want nothing but prime. And it makes sense to keep it that way, there are seriously beefy figures at stake. Whilst in the meantime, offal has gone from being an sought-after part of the animal to being (un)sold at such low prices that many butchers don’t even bother stocking it.

Cooking liver
Holiday snap of beef liver in original packaging, they’ve just been told the bad news in this one.

But of course it’s not your local butcher who is to blame. What can they to do but keep consumer eyes on what costs the most?

Unfortunately, you, the customer, are at fault on this one.

But if you do care to be a savvy consumer, simply drop a steak every so often and make a liver recipe instead. Not only does this make great economic sense, it’s actually the more nourishing option, too. Alas, primed on prime as we have become, this may seem counter-intuitive to many.

Cheap can’t be good, right?

Just you do some research, the beef liver nutrition info speaks for itself. There’s a reason you’ve been feeding it to your pets!

Offal meat still popular in other parts

Anyone who has had the privilege of traveling to economically underdeveloped parts of our globe will find that offal meat is still used in all kind of dishes. Many of which are considered prized delicacies, unavailable to the poorest in society.

Should it be set before you, be sure not to turn your nose up at this kind of meat. Your gallant host may have gone out of their way to serve you, the guest of honor, only the very best. Shunning cheaper parts of the animal, like the rib or the loin, along the way.

Because you are constantly losing iron, through your skin and other tissues, this mineral so necessary for bodily health needs to be continually replenished.

But why all the fuss? What exactly made offal so central in the past? And what keeps kidney, tripe and liver recipes so highly esteemed in the developing world?

The reason for this is a particularly weighty one…

The nutrition facts of liver recipes

..Iron, my friend. That resource vital to both the external and internal world of the human.

Inside our bodies, this most precious of minerals is essential for a whole range of processes, from enabling proper functioning of your muscles to maintaining a healthy immune system. Maintaining an adequate level of iron is especially important when pregnant or nursing. The major reason you need iron being to help produce the red blood cells that transport oxygen around your body.

Because, simply put, without healthy red blood cells, your body can’t get enough oxygen.
And one tends to need oxygen

Plus because you are constantly losing iron, through your skin and other tissues, this mineral so necessary for bodily health needs to be continually replenished. The body won’t find a way to work around an iron deficiency or no longer require the mineral.

It is due to this dynamic that iron deficiency is the most common micronutrient deficiency worldwide. And women are particularly susceptible to it.

Cooking liver during convalescence

Consuming offal can also play a key role in recuperation after illness. Which is not surprising really, as it’s hard to imagine many sturdier foods than grass-fed beef liver. And nature’s wisdom seems to be in the show window when research confirms that eating animal organs can heal human organs.

Cooking liver
Photogenic pork liver is not, but at 23 mg of iron per serving, potent it most certainly is.

So whether you’ve overdone it on Irish mixed drinks or more organ-testing refreshments like green, white and orange layer shots, you know what’s to be done! This goes especially for any of you whom have been daring enough to make our recipe for moonshine – if you’re going to down something as potent as poitin by crikey and all the saints in heaven, try to offset it any way you can!

Pork liver highest in iron, beef liver twice muscle meat

Lamb liver is up there, too, but, pound for pound, pork liver contains the highest amount of irony. That being said, the iron content of any kind of liver will outweigh that of the corresponding muscle meat. For example, compared to pork liver, the beef liver nutrition info may not be so impressive – 6.5 milligrams per 100-gram (3.5-ounce) serving compared to a whopping 23 mg for pork liver.

But by eating just that one tiny 3.5-ounce serving of beef liver, an female has already nearly covered her Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) of iron, and a male has made significant inroads into his.

Beef liver contains more than twice as much iron as nearly any cut of cow

In fact, because the nutritional values are just so high, there’s a danger that the benefits of cooking liver get lost amid statistics. Yes, yes, of course – I know how good liver is for me, but do I really have to bother?

Muscle meat outmuscled

So, with that in mind, let’s break it down a bit further.

Put in terms of the Western world’s hunger for prime: beef liver contains more than twice as much iron as nearly any cut of cow. Including your top of the range steaks. And, foodie scoffing aside, the super cheap chicken liver contains nearly twice as much again!

Offal was a superfood long before the superfood fad, and cooking that beef liver instead of steak, even every now and again, can bring health benefits.

What’s more, the iron in liver also comes in an easily absorbed form, so you’re doing your body an even bigger favor by making that beef liver fry or a delightfully old-fashioned liver and onions recipe. The organ is also rich in all of the B Vitamins, selenium, and contains a balanced amount of Vitamin A, essential for nutrient assimilation, bone development and fertility.

There’s really no excuse for not indulging in the local offal offering!

Offal meat in traditional Irish food

Like the rest of the West, the people of fair old Erin’s Isle consume less offal meat than in times past. But there are still a couple of old-style offal dishes on the menu, with the Irish Buzz recipe for liver and onions with bacon being the most common example of how the organ is used today.

But, alas, the days are gone when this class of meat occupied a location at the heart of traditional Irish food. What’s rare is wonderful, and now that even the poorest Irish can afford to eat this premium item on a regular basis, it no longer seems to be of much interest. Cooking liver is undesirable, or unknown, in many of the island’s poorer communities, and has long been discarded by the more well-to-do.

And in the process, we lose a little strand of culinary knowledge.

“thick giblet soup, nutty gizzards, a stuffed roast heart, liverslices fried with crustcrumbs”

Those who historically could afford to regularly consume these rich foods, perhaps being a peck or two above the mob, now peck but prime pasture. And poorer Irish, once happy to get their hands on these nutrient bombs whenever possible, are herded into the very same pasture.

And so, with no natural habitat in which to roam, traditional beef liver recipes become extinct, tripe is tipped into the wayside, and goat liver fed to the dog.

James Joyce, staunch proponent of offal meat

“Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are” said the 18th century French gastronome Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin. But considering his nationality and the social class from which he stemmed, perhaps it’s more apt to give James Joyce the last word on modern Ireland’s upturned snout and lily-livered attitude towards offal

In Joyce’s masterpiece, Ulysses, we’re introduced to the petit bourgeoisie protagonist Leopold Bloom as he potters about his kitchen, kicking cats and getting busy with a delectable offal brekkie. In line with the times, we’re told he ate “with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls”, his preference being for “thick giblet soup, nutty gizzards, a stuffed roast heart, liverslices fried with crustcrumbs”.

Sensuous enough for you yet? Can you hear the organ grinder hum? The Irish soul tugging at your heartstrings? etc., etc., etc.

Final rebuke

Now Continue to envision that suburban Dublin kitchen, the trinkets on the sideboard, the feline purring at Bloom’s feet. The character’s little haven, where he’d cook his most favorite dish of all: “grilled mutton kidneys which gave to his palate a fine tang of faintly scented urine”.

Can you taste it now? Or are have you moved on to smelling the liver-eating middle class?

We’re back to “Yuck!!” again, aren’t we?

If the greatest of all Irish authors, the most insanely ingenious Irish ever to pick up an (almost) English-writing pen, can’t intrigue you into weighing up the worth of offal meat, you’ll excuse this writer for writing you off. You just appear to be too lacking in culinary depth and imagination. At least when it comes to cooking liver. Perhaps it’s even time to skip Patrick’s prayer and turn your focus to St. Jude, the patron saint of lost causes.