What is Beef Tongue & How to Cook It

Acabonac Farms |

Here at Acabonac Farms, we embrace the snout-to-tail philosophy. By striving to use every part of the animal, we both honor our livestock and get to introduce our customers to some less conventional, yet incredibly delectable cuts like beef tongue. If you want to get in on the action, but are wondering: "What is Beef Tongue, and how in the heck do I cook it?" you’re in the right place.

Consider this post your comprehensive guide for all things ox tongue. From sourcing high-quality, grass-fed lengua to mastering the cooking techniques that best showcase its flavor, we’re here to guide you through it all. By the time we’re done, you’ll be cooking and eating beef tongue like a pro!

Key Takeaways

  • Beef tongue is a nutrient-dense food, rich in high-quality protein, essential vitamins such as B12, and important minerals like zinc and iron. These nutrients are vital for maintaining good health, supporting everything from muscle repair and growth to immune function and energy production.
  • Whether it’s braised, boiled, or grilled, beef tongue can be transformed into a variety of dishes across different cuisines. Its ability to absorb flavors makes it ideal for bold spices and aromatic herbs, enhancing any meal with its unique texture and taste.
  • Opting for beef tongue, especially from sources like Acabonac Farms, supports sustainable eating practices. Utilizing lesser-known cuts of meat helps reduce waste and promotes a more ethical approach to meat consumption, aligning with the principles of nose-to-tail eating.

What is Beef Tongue?

Briefly, this cut is just what it sounds like: a cow’s tongue. Depending on who you’re talking to, you may hear it called by many names — beef lengua (lengua means “tongue” in Spanish), lingua de bue in Italian, useol in Korean, or ox tongue, among others.

While it may be considered offal (a.k.a. organ meat), we think it’s the exact opposite of awful. 😉 Praised for its rich, buttery texture, this delicious cut is savored as a delicacy across global food traditions. 

Cow tongue meat can also be prepared in dozens of ways including braising, roasting, boiling, grilling, or pickling. Whether it’s thinly sliced for spicy-sweet Korean BBQ, piled high on a juicy grilled ox tongue sandwich, or wrapped up in corn tortillas for savory tacos de lengua in Mexico, tongue meat offers a wide range of kitchen applications that any true beef lover will appreciate.

What is beef tongue

What Does Cow Tongue Taste Like?

Lengua is renowned for its deep, beefy flavor that surpasses even the most prized cuts. It’s intensely savory, with a slight sweetness that emerges through slow cooking methods like braising or stewing. 

When cooked with care, ox tongue meat has a melt-in-your-mouth quality that is akin to the juiciest brisket you’ve ever tried. The surface of the tongue is slightly firmer, but gets peeled away after cooking, giving way to an incredibly tender, borderline creamy interior. 

The dense, almost spongy texture of the muscle absorbs spices and marinades beautifully, making it a versatile star in a variety of dishes. Whether it’s braised slowly in a rich broth, grilled to a smoky perfection, or simmered in a spicy sauce, beef tongue offers a complex interplay of textures and tastes that any cattle connoisseur is sure to love.

Is Beef Tongue Healthy?

As with most organ meat, beef tongue is a nutritious choice that is high in essential nutrients. It supports muscle repair and growth as a rich source of complete protein, and is packed with B vitamins like B12, which are crucial for neurological health and red blood cell production. It also offers a good supply of minerals such as zinc for immune function, iron for oxygen transport, and phosphorus for healthy bones and teeth.

While beef tongue does contain fat (that’s part of what makes it taste so good!), the method of preparation will determine its overall healthfulness. Opting for cooking techniques that harness the cut's natural flavors without adding excessive fats (e.g. braising) ensures you can enjoy all the yumminess with none of the guilt. 

Where you source your lengua will also determine how good it is for your diet. Acabonac Farms’ grass-fed beef contains less saturated fat and more beneficial omega-3 fatty acids compared to conventional beef. It's also higher in antioxidants like vitamin E, further enhancing its nutritional profile.

Additionally, supporting farms like ours that prioritize ethical practices and animal welfare ensures that the food on your plate is not only good for you and your family, but is actually regenerative for the land. Good tasting, good for you, and good for the planet? What’s not to love?!?

Where Can I Buy Beef Tongue? 

Cattle tongue can be found at locations where quality meats are prioritized. Local butchers and farmers' markets are excellent sources, as they often offer fresh cuts from responsibly-raised animals. International markets and Latin-American supermercados are also reliable sources for this cut.

For those who prefer the convenience of shopping from home, Acabonac Farms stands out as a trusted source for deliciously high-quality, grass-fed beef tongue. We sell only premium meat from animals raised on open pastures without the use of hormones or antibiotics. Plus, we offer the convenience of nationwide shipping, making it easy to enjoy our products from anywhere in the U.S.

The cost of beef tongue can vary depending on the source and quality, but it typically ranges from about $10 to $18 per pound. Here at Acabonac, we fall in the higher price range ($50 for approximately 3 pounds), but the exceptional taste of our grass-fed beef and our regenerative farming practices make those prices worth it.

raw beef tongue

How to Cook Tender Beef Tongue

Proper cleaning and patience are the keys to a tender and tasty beef tongue. Here’s how to get succulent results, every time:

Step 1: Clean & Trim. Begin by thoroughly cleaning the tongue. Rinse it under cold water and scrub off any residue. Trimming is next — remove any excess fat and the small glands found on the underside.  

Step 2: Boil/Braise. Beef tongue requires a lengthy cooking time to achieve its characteristic tenderness. Regardless of which method you choose, cover the cleaned and trimmed tongue with enough water or broth to cover it by a few inches, then add the aromatics of your choice (e.g. onions, garlic, bay leaves, star anise, and/or black peppercorns). Next, cook as follows:

  • Slow Cooker: Cook on low for about 8 hours in a crockpot.
  • Instant Pot: Cook on high pressure for about 45 minutes - 1 hour, the allow a natural release.
  • Stovetop: Simmer gently in a large pot for about 3-4 hours, or until tender.

Step 3: Peel. After cooking, the beef tongue should be tender enough that you can easily pierce it with a fork. At this point, remove the tongue from the cooking liquid and peel off the outer layer of skin, which should come away readily. 

Step 4: Finish. After peeling, you can slice it for sandwiches, chop it for tacos, or serve it in larger pieces as a main course. For a delightful contrast in texture between a crispy outside and a melt-in-your-mouth interior, consider grilling or roasting slices of cooked tongue until they reach your desired level of golden-brown goodness.

Easy Beef Tongue Recipes

Beef tongue tacos recipe / Tacos de lengua

Tuck cooked, chopped, and pan-fried lengua into warm corn tortillas with freshly chopped white onions, cilantro, and a glug of hot sauce for a homemade version of one of our favorite street tacos.

Lengua Tostadas

Top crispy fried corn tortillas with a swoosh of refried beans, then top with cooked, chopped, and pan-fried lengua, shredded lettuce, pico de gallo, and crumbled queso fresco.

Beef tongue barbacoa

Simmer cooked and chopped beef tongue in a spicy simmer sauce made from blending chipotles in adobo sauce, serrano chiles, yellow onions, garlic, and a smattering of warming spices like Mexican oregano and cumin until smooth. Use the saucy meat to top cilantro lime rice and garnish with fresh cilantro and a lime wedge for your very own DIY Chipotle bowl. 

Beef tongue sandwich

Pile thinly sliced cooked tongue meat on a crusty roll with a generous swipe of whole grain mustard, a handful of peppery arugula, and some roasted bell peppers for sweetness. Serve with a dill pickle and a side of salt & vinegar potato chips!

Tips and Secrets for Perfect Beef Tongue Every Time

The key to a perfect beef tongue lies in the quality of the meat and the care taken in each step of the preparation and cooking process. By following these expert tips, you'll be well on your way to creating a memorable meal:

  • Sourcing High-Quality Beef Tongue: Opt for grass-fed beef tongue from reputable sources like Acabonac Farms. Grass-fed beef not only tastes better but is also healthier.
  • Proper Peeling: After it’s cooked, peel the beef tongue when it's still warm. Use a knife to make a small cut at the tip of the tongue, then gently pull the skin away with your fingers. It should come off in large pieces if the tongue is adequately cooked. 
  • Cutting Techniques: Start with a sharp knife. Wait until the tongue has cooled slightly for firmer texture, which makes for cleaner cuts. Cut the tongue across the grain to ensure each piece is as tender as possible.
  • Selecting Seasonings: Beef tongue pairs well with a wide range of spices and herbs. For a classic flavor, use bay leaves, cloves, peppercorns, and garlic in your cooking liquid. For something more adventurous, consider marinating the tongue in a blend of chili powder, cumin, and lime juice before cooking, especially if you're aiming for a dish with a Mexican flair. Fresh herbs like parsley, cilantro, or dill can be added towards the end of cooking or sprinkled on top before serving to add a burst of freshness.
  • Cooking Methods: While boiling is the most common method for cooking beef tongue until tender, don't hesitate to finish it with a quick sear in a hot pan or on the grill. This extra step adds a delightful texture contrast and deepens the flavor profile. 

Buy Beef Tongue Online from Acabonac Farms

Grass-fed beef tongue from Acabonac Farms offers the best in both taste and nutrition. Our animals graze freely on lush pastures, resulting in meat that is leaner, richer in omega-3 fatty acids, and more packed with antioxidants than conventionally raised beef, and boasts a flavor that only nature can nurture.

So, what are you waiting for? Discover the rich, savory flavors and numerous health benefits of beef tongue today! And don’t forget to tag us in your social posts — we can’t wait to see what yumminess you cook up! 

Frequently Asked Questions about Cow Tongue

Is beef tongue the same as cow tongue? Is beef and ox tongue the same?

These are all different names for the same part.

Is the skin of beef tongue edible?

Technically, yes, but we don’t recommend it because it’s very tough and unappealing. Simply peel the skin away after cooking for the best results. 

Is beef tongue an organ meat?

Yep! This tasty cut is considered part of the “offal” family, alongside other delicious delicacies like sweetbread (thymus & pancreas).

Can you eat beef tongue rare?

We don’t recommend it, unless tough and chewy are adjectives you like associated with your meat. Lengua is a cut that is pure muscle, so it’s quite tough from the get-go. It only becomes tender and delicious after a long, slow cook.

Why is my beef tongue tough?

Oops! Sounds like you didn’t cook it for long enough. Tongue meat requires a long cooking time to break down all the muscle fibers enough to result in a tender cut.

How long does beef tongue last in the fridge?

Raw beef tongue should be used within 1-2 days if stored in the fridge, though you’re welcome to freeze it to extend the shelf life to about 3 months. Cooked tongue meat will last about 3-4 days in an airtight container in the fridge, or can be frozen for 2-3 months.

Is it weird to eat cow tongue?

No! Eating cow tongue is considered a delicacy in many parts of the world. Plus, by eating lesser-known parts of the cow, you’re making sure each life has the largest impact possible. So, while it might be unusual to eat it here in the US, you should consider yourself lucky if you get the opportunity!

Is barbacoa cow tongue?

Barbacoa refers to a Hispanic method of cooking meat that is slow-cooked over an open fire or steamed until very tender. In different regions, barbacoa can be made from various types of meat. In some areas, it is indeed made with cow tongue. However, barbacoa can also be made with other parts of the cow such as cheeks or head, or with different types of meat like goat or lamb.

Can dogs eat cow tongue? Can cats eat beef tongue?

Heck yeah, they can! Beef tongue is rich in protein and fat, which can be beneficial for your four-legged friends’ diet. However, it's important to cook the beef tongue without any added spices, seasonings, or onions, as these can be harmful to your pets. Also, make sure to cut it into small, manageable pieces to prevent choking. As with any treat, beef tongue should be used sparingly to ensure a balanced diet and prevent any digestive issues. We have 100% grass-fed beef tongue for dogs available for purchase.

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