Tongue, as a Cold Cut

Let’s face it, they’re not pretty. They look like huge, well, tongues. So just don’t think about it being a tongue. Think of it as a culinary delicacy. Tongue is soft, tender, and lean, with a unique texture.

With very little work, you can turn this piece of cow into a fabulous “cold cut” for hors d’oeuvres. All you need to do is poach the tongue, just like you were poaching a chicken.

Not intended to offend anyone, but this is a tongue!

Beef Tongue

1 beef tongue, about 3 1/2 pounds, at room temperature
1 onion, quartered
3-4 stalks celery, quartered
10 baby carrots
1 leek, cleaned, quartered
1 bunch parsley
5 bay leaves
1 head of cloves, sliced horizontally
Handful of whole black pepper corns
2 teaspoons salt

Place all of the ingredients in a large pot. Add enough water to cover everything. Bring it all to a boil on the stove, then simmer, covered, for about 2 – 2 1/2 hours.

You could heat the broth ingredients first, and then add the tongue, but this way works well, and you do end up with a great meat plus a good broth. After cooking, remove the lid and let the mixture cool a bit, then remove the tongue and set on a plate to cool completely.

Remove the fatty chunk at the base of the tongue, but don’t discard it. Peel the tongue – especially the top part of it where you can see the taste buds. It doesn’t all work with the pinch and pull method; a paring knife comes in handy.

Slice the peeled tongue crosswise into 1/4 to 3/8″ slices. Tongue is good at room temperature, or cold. I love it with Dijon mustard and good bread.

The slices are wonderful as part of an charcuterie platter, along with cheeses, olives, and cornichons.

If you don’t want the tongue as a cold cut, sear the slices instead in hot skillet with a teaspoon of olive oil. Add salt and pepper after turning. I sliced up that piece I cut off the tongue to make these non-uniform strips to sear.

I like to put these in flour tortillas and eat with onions and cilantro, and you can make a more involved filling like Rick Bayless’s creamy zucchini and corn. Or, serve the hot seared tongue with crispy potatoes and a couple over easy eggs.

Tongue is also good with pigs’ feet, but that’s another post!

Make sure to use this wonderful broth in another recipe! I added potatoes and leeks for a quicky soup!

59 thoughts on “Tongue, as a Cold Cut

  • They are my favourite. I eat tongue at least once a month…sometimes twice. Actually I just had some yesterday. Organ meat every day :-)) They are nutritious and so tasty! Pig’s feet are amazing too. My cat is a raw carnivore and he eats lots of chicken liver, heart and he is crazy for my beef tongue too. A very clever cat!

    • I can’t make it often because my husband doesn’t like any of it even in the house! And I have no one to share it with. I grew up on liver and pigs feet and tongue and brains… and i wish i could have them more often!

  • I grew up on this coming from a farming family. My Mom would put it in the pressure cooker. We’d eat it room temp and would dip it in vinegar to eat the slices. Thanks for the memory, Mimi!

    • Interesting! You have to eat all parts of the cow, of course! My mother used to mix chopped tongue with pigs’ feet and toss everything with a vinaigrette. It was wonderful.

      • I think many people could faint if they are offered some tongue (lol), but I’m a huge fan! I used to enjoy it quite often. It makes an excellent addition to some decadent and hearty salads (My favourite was with walnuts and prunes…well I know another ingredient that has a bad reputation!) Anyway, haven’t had it for years as it’s not so easy to find it here in Canada. But I definitely need to get my hands on some ASAP!

  • You’ve really made the best out of this cut, and I admire you for cooking this! I’m far from squeamish when it comes to cooking, but this is one cut I can’t bring myself to cook… Maybe it’s also because I’m not much into the flavor and texture of it. Oh well, more for you! :)

    • It’s definitely a texture thing I imagine. Like people who won’t eat liver. I get it, but so glad it doesn’t bother me!!!

      • We’re all choosy in our own ways. We all have the right to not like a food. Now, my mother never learned this lesson. She has always been mad that my husband didn’t like mayonnaise. Once when we visited, she shoved a slice of chocolate mayonnaise cake in front of him before we crossed the threshold. And was so happy when he said he liked it. 🙄

  • I loved reading this Mimi, my mother used to make it just the way you describe. Organ meat seems to have gone out of favor but I love most of it, just not brains. I have tried them several times In France and can’t get past the texture.

    • I’m not sure offal has been very popular in the US. It’s funny that you mention brains. It’s what I’d request for my birthday meal growing up! If can certainly see how texture is critical to people. Or, the lack thereof!

  • My parents, who grew up in Kansas, both ate tongue as young people. I’ve never tried it myself. About the only food I don’t really like is liver of any sort, so if it’s anything like that….I’d take a pass, but i’d love to try this sometime. I appreciate your detailed instructions for preparation. And, wow, that’s a big tongue!

    • It was probably a pretty big cow! Liver and tongue textures are very different, but if you don’t like liver texture, you are probably like my friend who can’t eat any with texture. Well there’s plenty of other foods to love!

  • I haven’t cooked a beef tongue but used to make sheep tongues in a raisin and mustard sauce – must find the recipe again. They were lovely. My mother used to cook the beef tongue when we were kids. We ate a lot of offal type meat then – cheap, times were tough!!
    We are better off these days and are more choosy. :))

  • I think many people could faint if they are offered some tongue (lol), but I’m a huge fan! I used to enjoy it quite often. It also makes an excellent addition to some decadent and hearty salads (My favourite was with walnuts and prunes…well I know another ingredient that has a bad reputation!) Anyway, haven’t had it for years as it’s not so easy to find it here in Canada. But I definitely need to get my hands on some ASAP!

  • I think many people could faint if they are offered some tongue (lol), but I’m a huge fan! I used to enjoy it quite often. It also makes an excellent addition to some decadent and hearty salads (My favourite was with walnuts and prunes…well I know another ingredient that has a bad reputation!) Anyway, haven’t had it for years as it’s not so easy to find it here in Canada. But I definitely need to get my hands on it ASAP!

    • Wow. You need to blog about that salad! That sounds so unique! Are you referring to liver? I always loved brains and sweetbreads, but have never made them myself. I would have to have them shipped to me! I can get liver (chicken and beef) where I live, and also tripe, which I’ve never tried. But i live in beef country, close to Texas, so tongues are pretty available!

  • I had toungue before in a dish called Lengua Estofado, they ar really delicious. What I havent tried yet is having them as a cold cut like your post above, maybe that will be in my to do list soon

    • Interesting! Cause I just realized I’ve never had it warm, just chilled or at room temperature. If you liked it at all, you’d love it as a cold cut!

  • I believe in the toe to tail philosophy but I just can’t get my arms around tongue. My mother made me tongue sandwiches for school as a child. I would look in envy at my classmate’s peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

    • Oh no! Gosh, I bet tongue would be great in a sandwich – I never thought of that! Toe to tail does include a lot of different parts. You gotta embrace what you love!

  • I have to admit that tongues are hard for me. I understand it’s just another part of an animal that I already eat, but I just can’t do it. It’s the same with lamb…I don’t eat that either, simply because I can’t get the image of a real lamb out of my head when I hear it. I wonder if that’s why we call cow meat “beef” rather than simply “cow?”

  • When I was a kid I always saw tongue in the meat case in the supermarket. Nowadays, I never see it. Well never at the supermarket — I still see it at a couple of butcher shops I go to. I’ve never prepared it — always one of those things I’ve bought sliced at a deli (when I lived in the NYC area). This looks great — thanks.

    • Ohhhh, delis in NYC. That would maybe be the only reason I’d live in NYC! And the great hole-in-the-wall restaurants! I think tongue is a Mexican specialty which is why it’s sold at the local grocery stores. I’m in Oklahoma.

  • I grew up eating tongue but haven’t had it since I was a kid. I’ve never thought of serving it this way!

  • Eeesh! I can’t do it, Mimi, I just can’t do it. I’m sure it’s delicious, but I can’t get past the fact that it looks like, well, a tongue! But more power to those of you who can. If we’re going to eat animals, I’m totally in favor of not wasting anything. Maybe someday…

    • No, not some day! You won’t change your dislike of serious texture, and tongues will never look different!

  • i used to love tiny little lambs’ tongues from a tin when i was a child. i can’t imagine eating them now! i’m afraid this looks just too too much for me in my advanced years :)

  • I had tongue once when a neighbor invited us over for a cocktail. I ate a piece or two to be polite but I didn’t care for the texture…the taste was just fine. We have a deli in our town and my husband often orders the tongue sandwich on rye.

  • I forgot to mention that when we were invited for cocktails at our neighbors, it was the husband that had prepared the tongue and he served It just like you did with pickled vegetables. I remember eating more of the little bread slices and pickled vegetables than I did the tongue but I ate it. If I was at your home, I’d do the same thing. 😊

    • Aww, well things like that don’t insult me, and I don’t usually try to freak people out either! My mother used to LOVE doing that. 🙄

  • Oh Chef Mimi!! 🙃 Your tongue “cold cuts” look amazing and my husband loves tongue meat. I’m not sure I could prepare it myself at home, however.😋 I definitely admire your culinary spirit of adventure and expertise in this post and the pictures are wonderful!! I’m sure the whole platter was delicious!!

    • OHh, thank you! It’s nothing that seems adventurous to me, just because I was raised eating all kinds of things. But thank you for the compliment!

    • I’m really surprised that you even commented !!!! And I can understand your horror. You’re not alone. Having a French mother, it really always was about nose to tail.

  • Tongue was always served in sandwiches in the Jewish delis near where I grew up. I loved it! I know it kind of freaks people out, but I just think it’s got such a great texture and flavor. This is making me want to check with the rancher at the farmers market to see if they have tongue…

    • Yes, good Jewish food! I love the texture as well. That’s what makes it so great! There has to be a tongue or two available… you’d think….

    • Since I live in Oklahoma, there is a significant Mexican population, so that’s why I see tongue on a pretty regular basis. I can imagine in northern states it’s not available.

  • It’s a shame that people don’t make the use of all parts of animals that we eat nowadays. I mean I love what you’ve done here Mimi. Creating a beautiful cold meat platter using tongue. Did you ever cook with an Ox’s tail before? My mum used to make wonderful Ox Tail soup. Now she can’t get the tail from her local butcher anymore unfortunately.

    • I’ve tried to get ox tail, but to no avail. I just wanted the experience. The US isn’t on the toe-to-tail bandwagon as much as European countries, sadly, but because of our Mexican population, I see tongue regularly.

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