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Monday, December 28, 2015

My Gizzard Manifesto- The Everything Gizzard Post

Brazilian coconut milk chicken with gizzards, my all time favorite gizzard recipe



It  seems every time I tell someone about preparing gizzards, people want to know what they are, how you use them, etc... And one day, half jokingly, I said I'd write my gizzard manifesto, but the more I thought about it, the more I thought that it would actually be a good idea for me to write out a whole post about gizzards, what they are, why I like them, and the ways to make them.
And so, here it is.

What are gizzards?
They are part of what is considered giblets, aka offal, aka organ meats. Though we have teeth which we use to chew our foods, as the first step of breaking down our food and digesting it, birds don't, and so they have an extra organ, the gizzard, which is like an additional stomach whose job is to contract and break down the food that the bird eats. Many birds also swallow pebbles which then stay in the gizzard and assist in breaking up the food.
Because of the task that it does, gizzards are very muscular, and their texture and taste is quite different from other organ meats. (While other organ meats taste "bloody", iron rich, gizzards taste more muscular, more like dark meat.

Gizzards are probably my favorite frugal animal protein to prepare because they are just so cheap and versatile, and it doesn't hurt that, as with many organ meats, they are very nutritious- a terrific source of iron, the B vitamins (especially B2, B3, and B12), iron, selenium, phosphorous, zinc and a bunch of other things, including collagen.

Of course, not only are they cheap per pound (I can typically get them for $1.29 per pound at their regular price, and sometimes even cheaper at specialty stores or on sale), since there is no bones involved, they are just pure meat; they work out cheaper than all the bone-in chicken I can get, per pound.

The thing is, though, many people are scared of gizzards or grossed out by them or just plain have no idea what to do with them.


I think many people are turned off from the idea of preparing gizzards because they've heard bad things about them- and I understand why. Because when gizzards are not prepared properly, they are tough and very rubbery, and quite frankly, not that appealing to eat.
Gizzards, versatile as they are, need special handling to make them tasty.
Namely- they need to first be boiled to death... and only after that can they be made into a variety of dishes.

Ok- so there actually are traditional recipes that do not involve boiling gizzards, such as some varieties of fried chicken gizzards, but when made that way they are rubbery, and I'm not a picky eater (I mean, hello, I eat fish heads including their eyeballs, turkey tails, fish innards, beef lips, etc...), but I found those gross, texturally very unappealing. I personally feel this is why gizzards get a bad rap- because if the only way you have them is rubbery, you miss out on the deliciousness that is gizzards.

When you boil them for a long time- 6-8 hours in a crock pot, an hour in a pressure cooker, or 3-4 hours on the stovetop, gizzards go from rubbery to super soft, and end up having a texture very similar to soft beef, actually, with a taste that is somewhat like a cross between beef and chicken, with a very, very slight gamey taste, in my opinion. An hour on the stove isn't enough- it still is rubbery then. You want to boil it until it is very tender and not the slightest bit chewy, so that you can even pull it apart with your fingers.
Added bonus- you also get a very rich tasting, collagen rich chicken broth (that gels up in the fridge, for those bone broth fans) to use as the base for soup, for flavoring rice, in sauces, etc...
I sometimes boil down my broth until I have some super concentrated broth to be able to add "flavor bombs" to various dishes I'm making. I could just store the broth as is, but this takes up much less room in my fridge, and depending on how concentrated I want the chicken flavor to be, I can add more or less water to the flavor bombs.

But let me backtrack a second.

How to Prepare Gizzards
When you get gizzards, you shouldn't just dump them right into the pot to cook immediately.
Gizzards have a tough lining on them, often yellowish in color, to protect it from the juices within it, I assume. Most of the time when I buy gizzards, these linings are already removed, but sometimes I get gizzards with them still attached. Go through your gizzards, and if you see any with a lining, pull off the lining from the gizzard- they should separate easily enough- and discard.
Also wash your gizzards off to make sure that they are clean (sometimes I find little bits of who knows what attached to the gizzards).

Once cleaned, then boil them for the recommended hours. Because of this boiling step, which, I'll admit, gets a bit annoying if you have to do it very time, I typically cook up a few pounds of chicken gizzards in one go, in my 9 liter pressure cooker, so I only have to do the boiling once, and then I freeze the strained gizzards in meal sized portions for later use. Pressure cookers make it much less time consuming to cook gizzards, one of the many reasons I absolutely am in love with my pressure cookers and highly recommend that everyone get at least one for their kitchen (I have three).

Once you have your gizzards cooked up, now the fun starts.
If you were thinking of grinding up your gizzards with a grinder to use in place of ground beef in dishes- I have bad news for you. Grinding them plain gets grinders stuck, since they have a lot of tough parts when raw. But even if you remove the tough parts and manage to grind it, it won't work in place of ground beef or ground chicken- it doesn't stick together in meatballs or burgers like most ground beef.

Ground gizzard and rice filled stuffed peppers
However, you can use it in place of ground meat once cooked.

Grind it up in a grinder or a food processor (the texture will differ depending on which method you use) and then add it in place of ground beef to sauces, such as spaghetti bolognese, hamburger helper, sloppy joes, in chili, etc... Or you can add it to lasagna, put it in wontons, have it as the layer in shepherd's pie, in lachmagene, in enchiladas, in empanadas, as a filling in onigiri, in rice-a-roni, in stuffed peppers... Seriously, any place you'd put cooked crumbled ground beef, you can use ground cooked gizzards in its place.
If you want to use ground gizzard in place of ground meat in recipes that require the meat holding together, that's a little more tricky, and you can't use plain ground gizzards for this. However, you can mix ground gizzards with ground chicken or ground beef or ground turkey and then use that in your recipe. I haven't figured out the exact proportions you can use ground gizzards to ground meat to get it to still work and have it as cheaply as possible, but I have had success with doing it roughly half half gizzards and ground chicken as long as I added extra binder (I used ground flax seeds as my binder), and then it works beautifully in meatballs, kebabs, burgers, you name it.

You don't have to grind gizzards to use them though. My standard way to use gizzards is just in place of regular boneless chicken in recipes, whether it is in curries, or stir fries, or chicken pot pie, or egg rolls, or sesame chicken, or succotash, or stews, or soups, or bibimbap, or in Brazilian coconut milk chicken, or paella, or jumbalaya, or gumbo, or doro wot (ethiopian chicken stew) or dirty rice or japanese kare... or... or... or... you name it. If a recipe calls for chicken, 99% of the time it can just as easily be replaced with gizzards.

Gizzard and cactus paddle gumbo

I have even made gizzard shnitzel- my kids said it was the best shnitzel I ever made.

The one last thing that I have to share is that if you have a choice between turkey and chicken gizzards, go with the turkey ones. They are much bigger and therefore are easier to work with, especially when it comes to making things like shnitzels with them.
Depending on your taste and whether you are using chicken or turkey gizzards, you can either leave the gizzards whole or chop them up before using them in your recipes.

When you pull apart cooked gizzards with your fingers (or forks, if you want to be more sophisticated) you get a texture similar to pulled pork or pulled beef, so feel free to use your pulled gizzards in any recipe that calls for pulled pork or pulled beef. Because of their size, it is better to use turkey gizzards as a replacement for pulled beef/pork than chicken gizzards.

Cajun dirty rice with gizzards

When I was researching for this post, I came across this awesome post sharing even more ways to use gizzards- confits, rillettes (a shredded pounded meat spread), and Chinese red braise. I can't wait to try those out!

If you've never made gizzards before, I hope this post encouraged you to try them out. And if you are a gizzard fan already, like I am, hopefully you've gotten even more great ideas of things to do with this delectable and frugal treat.

Have you ever made or eaten gizzards before? What is your favorite use for them? If you haven't, what are the reasons you don't? How cheaply are you able to buy them in your area?
What is next on your list of gizzard recipes to try?

7 comments:

  1. thanks! loved the ideas....especially about theground gizzard meat. it is important to bring the water to a boil first, then add the gizzards, they will cook better and come out softer.

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  2. I made a delish chicken soup with gizzards and drumettes. Absolutely heavenly.

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  3. Thanks for this info, Penny! I grew up on a farm with lots of chicken, but we never ate the gizzards because, as you noted, they were always tough when we cooked them. Guess we were doing it all wrong!

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  4. I love gizzards but haven't had them since moving here. Time to cook them up again! Yes, I boil mine to death too. And thanks for linking to the salmon head recipe -- I'd forgotten about it. Must give it a try; if nothing else I'll enjoy the look on the fish guy's face. (Still not sure about the eyeballs though.) And when will you post your dad's fermentation recipes?? Especially the miso?

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  5. I love, love, LOVE gizzards. Although, I'll admit that I've only prepared them (boiled first) with egg wash/seasoned flour and then fried. I guess I also like to add turkey gizzards finely chopped to my thanksgiving turkey dressing. I need to expand my gizzard repertoire though for sure! Thanks for the great post, I'll pick up some gizzards tomorrow!

    Often when I buy packages of gizzards here in the states they are packaged with the chicken hearts as well and I always feel bad throwing them away :( I've tried to prepare them like I do for the gizzards but I just don't like them that way. I'd love to hear if you have any ideas for chicken hearts!

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  6. The only way I cook gizzards is by boiling them in my chicken soup. They are delicious that way. I wouldnt bother using gizzards as a replacement for anything though. They aren't cheap by us. Here, in the Midwestern USA, they sell kosher gizzards for approximately 3.49 per pound. I only add them to my soup once in a while, as a special treat.

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  7. Great article. I have never eaten gizzards. Never thought about it. I will definitely try it. I usually just throw all the organs away as they are so small.

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