Monday, February 3, 2014
I have posted here before about the nutrition value of beef liver, nature’s “super-multivitamin”. I have even speculated that grain-fed beef liver could be particularly nutritious (). What I should have done also was to post about beef liver’s equal in terms of nutrition value – beef heart. In this post I am correcting the omission.
Contrary to popular belief, not all organ meats are inherently fatty. The fat that is attached to an animal’s heart after slaughter, even if from grain-fed cattle, can be easily removed. The resulting cut will have a very low fat-to-protein ratio; often significantly less than fat-trimmed non-organ muscle cuts.
I don't say this because I consider fat to be unhealthy. In fact, dietary fat is necessary for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, and can thus be uniquely healthy. However, fat also is the most calorie-dense macronutrient. Even though the caloric values of macronutrients vary based on a number of factors, excess calories tend to be stored as excess body fat.
A 100 g portion of cooked beef heart, as in the photos below, will have 28 g of protein and only 5 g of fat (see this link, you may have to reset the serving size field: ). The photos below show two different beef heart dishes I have prepared. In the first the beef heart was barbecued. In the second it was simmered in a pan with vegetables for about 8 h.
Below is a simple recipe for the barbecued beef heart, which I recommend cutting into steaks. For the simmered beef heart I suggest cutting it into chunks that resemble cubes; then you can just add the dry seasoning powder mentioned below to the water, some vegetables, enough water to last about 8 h, and leave it simmering.
- Prepare some dry seasoning powder by mixing salt, garlic power, chili powder, and a small amount of cayenne pepper.
- Season the beef heart steaks at least 2 hours prior to placing them on the grill.
- Grill with the lid on, checking the meat every 10 minutes or so. (I use charcoal, one layer only to avoid burning the surface of the meat.) Turn it frequently, always putting the lid back on.
- If you like it rare, 20 minutes (or a bit less) may be enough.
Beef heart is a very good source of vitamins and minerals, and is one of the least expensive cuts of meat (in meat sections of grocery stores, not in paleo restaurants). Many people prefer beef heart over beef liver because of beef heart’s texture.
While I have restricted my comments in this post to “beef” heart, the hearts of most animals that are eaten by humans (e.g., chicken, duck, deer, turkey) are fairly nutritious, and they seem to have that uniformly meaty texture that many people like.
Here is an interesting factoid. The largest known carnivorous marsupial of modern times was the now extinct Tasmanian tiger. It was an elusive and solitary animal, and the subject of the beautiful film "The Hunter (2001)" (). The Tasmanian tiger was known to frequently eat only the hearts of prey. I hope this is not why it became extinct!