Beef Heart with Herbed Vinaigrette and Arugula/photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman

Heart is an excellent muscle to eat: it’s lean and flavorful (meaty but not organy—it’s a hard working muscle, not squishy spleen), it’s got a good bite, and it’s inexpensive (I bought the three-pound grass-fed beef heart for six bucks last Saturday). And one more thing: it puts to use a cut that is often thrown away; it’s important that we do our best to make use of all parts of the animals we kill for our food.

I use a beef heart here, but you can use a veal heart which is a little more tender and mild.  I first had beef heart a couple summers ago when Pardus visited. He stuck it on skewers, a good strategy because you invariably end up with different sized chunks after trimming.  Last year, during Pardus’s visit, we ate at Lola, where then chef Derek Clayton did an appetizer pairing veal heart with fingerlings, a celery root puree, mushrooms and a salsa verde (he tried grinding heart scraps for family meal meatloaf; he recalls a very unhappy family that day). You could do a beef heart tartare (here’s a general tartare post or see the link below for Chris Cosentino’s beef heart tartare puttenesca), a beef heart stir-fry, add it to meat you’re grinding for burgers, cure it like corned beef, cover it with coriander and pepper and smoke it for beef heart pastrami. You name it.

To prepare the beef heart for cooking, cut away all the fat, any obviously squishy tissue, connective tissue, valves, papillary muscles and tendineae attached to the valve flaps; it should be obvious by sight what’s good to eat and what’s not.  You want clean dense muscle only; you’ll have a lot of trim—don’t make yourself too crazy trying to get every last bit. Here’s a short video of how to prepare and grill beef heart. (Thank you for the video work, James; one day maybe you’ll have actual talent to work with.)

In her splendid new book coming, Odd Bits: How To Cook the Rest of the Animal, Jennifer McLagan notes that you can also braise the heart (the book’s out next month, highly recommend it).  If you do, she rightly recommends leaving the exterior fat on. I don’t think I’ll ever braise the heart, though. It would turn the distinctive bite and flavor into run of the mill brisket-like beef. Stick to preparations that will feature it’s unique texture and flavor.

Grilled Beef Heart with Herbed Vinaigrette

Serves 6

  • 1 beef heart, trimmed and cut into slices or chunks
  • salt as needed
  • 1/2 large shallot, roughly chopped (save the other half for the vinaigrette)
  • pepper to taste
  • olive oil as needed
  • arugula as needed (a handful per serving)

For the vinaigrette:

  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 large shallot, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 chopped tablespoon each: oregano, parsley, chives
  1. Liberally salt the beef, add the shallot and oil, toss and refrigerate till youre ready to cook it (an hour is optimal, but for as long as 24 hours).
  2. For the vinaigrette, combine the vinegar, shallot and salt and allow to sit for 5 or 10 minutes.  Stir in the remaining herbs.
  3. Grill the beef over hot direct coals. Depending on your grill and how you’ve cut your meat, you may want to grill the pieces in a basket or put them onto water-soaked skewers.  Grill to medium rare, 2 to 3 minutes per side.
  4. Arrange arugula on plates, top each with beef heart, and spoon the vinaigrette over the meat.

If you liked this post on grilled beef heart, check out these other links:

© 2011 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2011 Donna Turner-Ruhlman. All rights reserved.

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39 Wonderful responses to “How To Prepare and Cook Beef Heart”

  • Kim Adams

    I used to make a Syrian-style beef heart dish back in the 70′s. It’s typically cut into a small dice and sauteed in olive oil and diced onions – salt and pepper. It is served with a Arab-style soft flat bread (pita will do) along with fresh tomatoes and onions. The idea is to tear a small piece of bread and use it to scoop up some of the heart with additional pieces of tomato and onion nestled inside. It was very good. I really should try it again. I like the vinaigrette addition.

  • Tamar Amidon

    the best chili I’ve ever made was with the beef heart that came with my side of grass fed a few years ago. I now get beef heart really cheap to make it. not gamy, it just tastes intensely beefy

    • David B

      I love making chili with different cuts! Must give this a try. I have found that grilled skirt steak, rough chopped, then into the chili pot is excellent & also an inexpensive cut.

  • corey

    i’ve been getting lamb hearts from my farmer’s market – brine it for a day, then just salt, pepper, and grill it real quick. simple and delicious. did lamb heart tacos not too long ago with red onion and mint, fantastic stuff. love heart meat!

  • Anne @ Modern Mrs Darcy

    No!!!!! I JUST this week threw away the half of a beef heart that’s been in our freezer for 10 months. It was a little freezer-burned but this post has me wishing I’d kept it to try and salvage some.

    I need recipes like this because we get, uh, stuck with heart and tongue and liver when we buy our side of beef from the local cattle farmer. The steaks and roasts and ground beef are easy, but I’m always at a loss for what to do with “the rest of the animal.”

    I did make some beef heart jerky (used your recipe, actually) and it turned out great.

  • Jason Sandeman

    I have to disagree with you there, Michael. My great-grandmother used to prepare a beef heart dish that was braised, and it was to die for! I was only 9 years old, but I still remember how the heart tasted after a long, slow braise, then we ate it thinly sliced with a touch of freshly grated horseradish straight from my Grandfather’s garden.
    Granny used to let the remains cool in it’s own juices, and then we would welcome sandwiches of thinly sliced cold meat with hot mustard on crusty bread.
    Those were the days!

  • Matt

    Looks delicious. The last time (also the first time) I prepared beef heart I brined it as per corned beef, braised it, sliced it and sandwiched it. A tasty albeit unadventurous intro to the magnificence of heart.

  • Stephen Grimmer

    Thanks for the post on beef heart. I don;t know if my family would go for offal, though…

    Say, there seems to be something funny about the color in the lower-left hand quadrant of the plate the heart is on. Photoshop gone bad, perhaps?

  • Teresa

    How funny you posted this! I was trying to make my grandmother’s Anticucho recipe this weekend, but realized too late it’s not something you can just pick up at the grocery store

  • Rhonda

    Great lesson, Ruhlman.

    A few years ago, I acquired a beef heart and even though I am a Chef, I didn’t know exactly how to clean it.

    I contacted Chef Cosentino who was lovely and patient (I know!) and a great teacher. Okay, maybe not that patient — but lovely and a great teacher, nevertheless.

    He truly is the king of Offal.

    I have not tried his Beef Heart Tartare Puttanesca but I am sure it will be fabulous, as will your recipe.

    One last thing: “where then Chef Derek Clayton”… Where is Powder, the man who taught us how to deep fry bone marrow????

    • ruhlman

      he and powder are one and the same. though he’s not CDC of lola, a position former pastry chef Cory Barrett took over last spring.

  • David

    Grew up in PA Dutch Country…pickled beef heart was a favorite, commonly found at the farmers markets.

  • Evilb

    Didn’t you do this recipe on the no reservations technique episode?
    ps. Looks awesome.

  • Judith of Umbria

    It’s hard to know where even to find heart nowadays, but it is very good. food. My old fashioned mother made it according to a recipe of my French paternal grandmother. It was cleaned, stuffed and then braised. We all loved it.
    In Italy where I live I only see it in slices, so the only experience I had had of it was useless. Thanks for a new road.

  • Epicuranoid

    I find heart a great ingredient in rice and whole grain dishes. I don’t cook it in though. I’ll cook something like wheat berries and brown rice with onions, thyme & stock; as the grains finish up, I saute diced heart in butter and toss them in so they don’t boil too long and get tough.

    I do this as a take on a traditional New England meal, ‘Beef Hearts & Chicken Livers’ in which hearts were diced and sauteed with onion butter and chicken lives, then a little flour was mixed in and some stock to make a gravy. The dish was traditionally served on white rice. Quite good but hard to sell these days, or even gain the interest of my family members :(

    Anyhow, nice post, we should eat more heart for sure, the taste of an average heart is better than many cuts sold at much higher prices, and I’ve never had tough heart unless it was overcooked in liquid. It’s sad to think that most are wasted and used in by-products.

  • E. Nassar

    I figure you’ll appreciate the latest beef heart dish I cooked Michael. Afterall it is pretty much from one of your collaborations with Keller: http://ovendriedtomatoes.com/2011/07/06/under-pressure-calfs-heart-confit-toasted-pecans-cherries-baby-beets/

    As for a braise of beef heart, I think you might be mistaken about the final texture. It will still be distinctive because heart has another type of connective tissue other than collagen that does not completely dissolve into gelatin and remains “tough”. so it might be worth checking out.

  • John Kelly

    My mother used to pickle both sliced heart and tongue. Pickling spices and a vinegar brine with a bit of sugar to cut the sharpness. Poach the sliced heart and then store in the fridge covered with the brine. Great snack food but I can never get my friends to try it because they eat with their minds rather than their taste buds.

  • GretchenJoanna

    Beef heart was one of my favorite dishes when I was young – I even requested it for my birthday. My mother used to bake a heart in the oven in canned beef broth for three hours. I expanded the recipe to include a lot of tomatoes and diced celery, and served this to my own family for years. Now I’d like to try some of the ideas I’m finding here. Thanks to all!

  • Jan

    Waiting for a similar post on beef tongue. My mom made it infrequently when we were kids and now she says she does not remember how she prepared it. I remember enjoying the beefy flavor, but a more pleasing texture than the chewiness of some cuts.

  • Sherry Bellamy

    Michael, I appreciate the concept of “Head to Tail” eating, (love Fergus Henderson), but I think that you’re being a bit disingenuous when you say that these cuts are often “thrown away”. In the world of factory farming, virtually all of the animal is processed; the hearts are certainly going into (best case scenario) pet food, but more likely into processed meats….bologna, wieners, “lunch meat”, and so forth. The heart would be one of the most useful bits for those of us who like to feed our pets protein-rich foods.

    Do those who raise artisanal “grass-fed beef” routinely throw out the beef hearts? I think not. Why on earth would they? And although I respect those who eat organ meats, I don’t go there for reasons of taste. To subtly ‘guilt’ people into eating these bits that will never be wasted is a bit tacky, methinks. Is it yummy? Eat it. Is it virtuous? No. Is it going to be thrown out, thus lessening the sacrifice of the critter? Of course not.

  • Clarissa

    Hi Michael, thanks for showing how to clean the heart. I’m a little uncertain about whether or not to trim off the thin shiny covering on the outside of the heart? Can you clarify this for me? Thank you!

  • Christina

    I’m going to make this for a party this weekend. Sneak in some beef heart muscle for a taco party! I’ve never cooked it before…I wonder if people will notice?? I’m still going to dress it in the vinegarette too…seems like a nice addition for make your own tacos. Do you think Fosters will have beef hearts on Weds? Sometimes they only bring out these cuts on Saturdays at the market.

  • Cali

    We used to use coarsely ground beef heart in the “diet taco salad” when I worked at a little deli. It was cooked and seasoned exactly the same way as our regular taco salad, the only other differences were that it had no tortilla chips, half as much cheese and no sour cream. It was dressed with a pureed pico de gallo that had a bit of vinegar and olive oil added. It was finished with a dollop of guacamole, as I recall.

  • Clarissa

    So sorry if this question is a repeat….looks like my original posting might have got deleted?

    Anyway, just asking the question to Michael or to anyone else who might know the answer. Is the thin shiny covering on the outside of the heart also removed? This covering is difficult to remove without taking a lot of meat along with it, but I don’t know if it would make the grilled heart tough. Any input would be appreciated. Thank you, Clarissa

  • fritzg

    So, you finally got a Big Green Egg, huh? How do you like it? Cooked low and slow on it yet? Bread? Pizza?

  • Andy

    Lamb hearts are amazing too! Please write more offal posts. Not enough information on how to prepare these great cuts!

  • Christina

    I picked up a beef heart and lamb heart at WSM this morning for my taco party tonight. Michael if you’re anywhere near Westlake can you come over and clean this thing?? :)

  • BShaddock

    My father-in-law just got back from an elk hunt in Colorado and I put in a request for the heart if he was lucky enough to take one… and he did. It’s packaged in two pieces so for the first one I’m thinking tacos… Seasoned and grilled elk heart, diced onion, cilantro and queso fresco. I’ll let you know how it goes. Thanks for the video!

  • Hrock

    Thanks for the video! It was very informative.

    Quick question-
    If I’m grilling (or really any type of cooking), what temp should the heart reach so I know its safe to eat?
    Would this temp be the same for chicken hearts as well?
    I’m always looking for new, cheap ways to eat (especially protein packed).

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