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Apr 2, 2007 03:12 PM

Questions about beef tongue

Hi all,

I've always LOVED beef tongue but I haven't had it in close to 8 years, not since I switched my diet to organic. But now my pregnancy hormones are making me crave it from the jewish delis.

I have a few questions and please bear with me if they seem stupid as I know very little about jewish cooking:

If I were to order it from a jewish deli, would the tongue be Kosher? Isn't Kosher similar to organic in regard to no hormones, natural diet, no antibiotics?

Is the tongue processed or simply baked/boiled? How is your average deli tongue prepared? In other words, before it is sliced and put on my bread, what has already happened to the meat?

Does it count as a cold cut which is a no-no during pregnancy?

I would love to eat some tongue but only if it's a healthy option.


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  1. Wow! Awesome to find somebody else that loves beef tongue! Unfortunately, I don't know anything about Jewish deli's.... and I haven't made it in years because it is so labour intensive. I'm not sure if Kosher = organic..... perhaps there is another CH out there who might be able to answer your question accurately. My understanding of Kosher is how it is butchered/treated. Not necessarily how it is raised (?).
    As for the cold cut question.... I'm guessing that it counts as a cold cut. But my understanding of the reason that you are not supposed to eat cold cuts during pregnancy is the increased risk of ingesting Listeria. Maybe just to be on the safe side, you could make it at home and eat it as a hot sandwich?
    The way that I had made my tongue is that I parboiled it, then spent a LONG time getting the outer skin off, then braising it in herbs (i.e. star anise, ginger, etc.....) for a couple of hours in the oven.... then heaven!
    Man, I'm thinking I might have to put in the effort to make some tongue soon. Too bad my family would kill me if I served it up as the main for Easter dinner.
    You might be able to get tongue from specialty butchers.... if you order a head of time? I'm sure that you can pick it up in a Chinatown butcher, but you're pretty much guaranteed that it is NOT organic.
    Good luck!

    1 Reply
    1. re: mightycheesehead

      You're correct that Kosher does not equal organic. We'd like to think that Kosher foods are somehow "cleaner" than others, but kosher really hs to do with how the cattle are slaughtered (should be fast and humane), and then how the meat is treated, not with how it's raised.

      Jewish deli tongue is pickled - that means it's cured, much like corned beef. I'm not sure how that fits with pregnancy, but there are probably some nitrites involved in order to give it that nice pink color. You can always go to your local taqueria and order lengua - that's roast tongue. It'll be very well cooked, and makes a delicious taco or burrito.

    2. Whether or not it is processed depends upon what type of tongue. Most tongue is either plain boiled or cured with a salt/nitrate solution and then smoked and then boiled. You can buy organic tongue and boil it yourself. Then chill it and treat it like a cold cut. Or roast/braise it.

      To find organic sources google organic beef tongue or even better veal tongue (and buffalo too)

      1. Kosher tongue doesn't mean that it is organic. If you want organic tongue buy it at an organic supermarket or online and cook it yourself.

        1 Reply
        1. re: honkman

          And it's certainly not labor intensive if you have a pressure cooker.

        2. Basic tongue is easy. Soak in water 2-3 hours. Place in cold water and bring to and boil for 20 minutes. Remove skin and other bits (easy at this point). Let cool; cover with a large handfful of salt; let it macerate for 24 hours, turning from time to time after salt starts to dissolve, before cooking/braising.

          19 Replies
          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

            I'm definately going to try your method! In the past, I skipped your initial water soak and just did the parboiling. Taking the skin off with a paring knife, piece by piece..... Should I rub the whole tongue all over with salt? Do I rinse the salt off before braising?
            Thanks in advance.

            1. re: mightycheesehead

              The skin will come off with less effort. Distribute the salt all over the tongue, packing it in with your hands; and turn it a few times as the salt goes into solution. Yes, rinse before braising.

              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                Question: How has the tongue been when its braised and for how long?

                  1. re: Karl S

                    My goodness, I am sorry to hear that. Thank you for the update.

            2. re: Sam Fujisaka

              Hi Sam Fujisaka,

              Since you are so knowledgeable, I am wondering if you know how to prepare beef tongue for Japanese styled BBQ. If I buy a whole tongue, how do I clean / prepare it beforehand? Do I need to boil it first to remove the skin like you mentioned?


              1. re: kobetobiko

                Biko san, my sincerest apologies. I am not and I did not mean to sound so knowledgeable. For nihon style, do just as I suggested; then marinate in your sauce and BBQ. What I suggested is the first step for using beef tongue in any cuisine or style.

                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                  ah, but whenever i have tongue at a japanese or korean bbq place, it is always raw and sliced.

                  1. re: justagthing

                    Raw? Really? Never had it. How is it?

                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                      once you put it on the bbq, korean or japanese, it cooks fairly quickly depending on the thickness. I love it, my favorite meat at these type of places
                      the link below is a japanese chain, yummy

                      1. re: justagthing

                        I'll second the tummy-yummy from grilled tongue.

                        I'd never had until in Japan, where they call it "gyutan". The "gyu" is from Japanese for "beef", and the "tan" is a loan word from the English "tongue", truncated to "tan" in typical neo-Yamato style.

                        It's real common at the tabehodai (all you can eat) restaurants where you have a brazier at each table, and choose from the cold bar for all you can eat of meat and veggies, etc. Gyutan is also morphed to "tanshio" when salt is the primary seasoning.

                        As I recall, the tongue meat was not premarinated. Instead, it was frozen to facilitate the machine slicing at maybe one millimeter. I don't know whether the primal tongue had been scalded and scraped of the outer membrane prior to slicing; perhaps at that thinness the intact membrane is okay.

                        The central brazier at the table is topped with a hemispheric slotted steel dome, 12-18 inches diameter. Each diner cooks their own by draping it onto the grill, using chopsticks. Several dipping sauces were provided.

                        This was prior to Japan opening to free-market US beef imports, so beef was about 5X the cost as in America. At my local tabehodai, tongue was the only beef available, but this was a cheap neighborhood dive equivalent to a greasy spoon... but given the the low airflow on the fume hoods, that should read "greasy ceiling".

                        Bottom line: I'm betting that the super-thin slicing is what makes it grillable without being too chewy. Since my local latin market sells tongue frozen, and has a slicer, I'm gonna try to have them cut some thin slices from the middle portion, reserving the tip and tonsil areas for other uses.

                        1. re: FoodFuser

                          Actually that is exactly what I was referring to: Gyutan. I am also thinking about doing it at home, but I just don't know if I need to prepare it (like do I need to remove the skin and soak it). So you think I can just slice it?

                          1. re: kobetobiko


                            Three important caveats:

                            1) I've never done the meat prep on this dish; I've only cooked it once the slices were presented.

                            2) Thus, I can't say for sure about peel or no-peel, but I'm willing to give it a go without peeling just to see what happens. I'm pretty content with chewing all sorts of diverse collagen tissues, but most folks peel the tongue for braised-and-THEN-sliced preps. I am just speculating here.

                            3) For thin slicing at home, given the 3" diameter of the cross-section, one would be extremely lucky to get uniform 1mm slices without a rotary slicer and the meat in frozen condition. That's why I'm going to look over the shoulder of the meat-counter person doing the requested cutting on the electric rotary slicer. (It's frustrating when they Bogart that Hobart).

                            Thuse caveats applied... heck, just go for it!

                            1. re: FoodFuser

                              I just did a re-read of Sam's prep, prior to nippon-shiki branch.

                              Sam, whaddya think? boil, skinning, 24 hr maceration necessary if one is grilling?

                              1. re: FoodFuser

                                FF, I really don't know. justagthing's Japanese menu attachment showed apparently raw tongue being grilled. I think it would be good. Just never thought of it. Oddly, my experience with tongue is more French (Now, now, now, we're talking about food!) than Japanese.

                    2. re: justagthing

                      I would have to agree with justagthing... As near as I can tell, given the look of the toungue as it is sold in the Japanese markets, that it is raw. I've also seen it hand-sliced (vs. a rotary slicer) while frozen from the whole tongue, so I do know that it is possible to cut it by hand into the thin slices that is used in Japanese cuisine. (But then again it was my sushi chef who did the slicing, so your results may, and probably will, vary...)

                      I just had some at home for dinner the other day, thinly-sliced raw tongue grilled teppan-yaki style with a simple Aji-pon dip. Delicious! (It's also great with just a dash of sea salt and lemon...)

                      BTW the prized portion of the tongue is the rear portion, which can be identified in the sliced version by it's more extensive marbling...

                      1. re: cgfan

                        I love it with just the salt and lemon.. Now I want some...!

                2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                  Hi. I had tongue once when I was little (5-8 or so). I'm in Miami and back then (40+ years ago) we had Jewish neighbors. *s* The mother's name was Sema. I got to taste quite a few Jewish things over a few years. I particularly remember liking the tongue, although it really didn't look that great. I haven't had it since, but am looking forward to trying to make it myself. Is it really stinky when it cooks? I read a comment somewhere about it smelling bad. I am looking forward to trying your method. Sounds good. How would you cook it after your preparation? How do you think a crock pot would be?

                  Cathy Ahern Pozdol
                  Miami, Florida

                3. My feeling is Grandma Jfood made it growing up so it could not be lablr intensive. From what I remember, and please give me some leaway because it is over 40 years since I ate her tongue.

                  She bought it at the butcher down he street and yes it went from the tip of the tongue to the area around the tonsils. She had this wonderful oblong Club Aluminum dutch oven, I would guess about 8 quarts. She thre the tongue in, added some spices and water. Boiled it until done. Then Grandpa Jfood sliced it with his favorite item in the kitchen, the electric knife. There was a huge argument over who received the tip side and who received the "throat" side. If I rememer as well that the portion further down the throat was way fattier than the tip which was leaner than the leanest corned beef.

                  A little mustard was all we used.