Monday, February 3, 2014

Beef heart

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!


Anonymous said...

I took a college nutrition class about 30 years ago and the professor cooked for us on Fridays. His beef heart steak was really good. His point was that the you can eat very cheaply, yet nutrient dense.

He didn't oppose animal fats, but he didn't see anything wrong with the veg oils. He did eat some grains, mostly corn and oats, not so much wheat. He felt you could cover all your nutritional bases on 50 cents a day - remember this was 30 years ago!

johnnyv said...

You could always tenderize the heart with a little sodium bicarbonate. although you can lose some flavor from the washing off afterwards.
Or grind up some bromelain pills and tenderize with that, will not require rinsing off.

Galina L. said...

I cook heart in a pressure cooker and put it in a meat grinder with muscle meat, fat, onions, garlic to be made into meat patties. Usually such mixes include bread crumbs to absorb juices. Cooked meat works the same way.
I doubt it is a good option for a grill - too tough.

Beth@WeightMaven said...

Thanks Ned! I'm going to definitely put this on my list of things to try.

Galina L. said...

Just some clarifying - I mix cooked heart meat with a raw muscle meat in the proportion 1:3. Sometimes I add both raw and cooked heart meat to my patties. Heart meat is very easy to grind, and it doesn't feel like a strange ingredient when mixed with regular meat. I just try to use for my advantage low price for organ meats, this way I can afford to eat more grass-fed beef.

js290 said...

Fat from beef heart is probably the tastiest fat from the cow.

Storage of body fat is not a problem. That's what the body is suppose to do. The real problem is the inability to use fat as fuel.

The other aspect is dietary fat on satiety which tells the body to stop eating and metabolize. Storing excess is fine as long as one is able to tap into the stored excess later.

Anonymous said...

I have tasted it myself and it was really soft!!

Galina L. said...

How was it cooked?

Ned Kock said...

Anon ate it barbecued as described in the post. How to I know? Because Anon is my wife.

Anonymous said...

Marinate it for at least 1 hour, and cover the grill when cooking...the kids loved....I think because of the spices!!

Anonymous said...

Am I the only person who can't find this in any grocery store? I live in New York and the best I come across is chicken hearts, but no beef heart in sight--and i've tried ~5 different grocery store chains. Would you say chicken hearts or similar in nutritional quality as beef hearts, Ned?

Ned Kock said...

Based on nutrition data from public sites, chicken heart has a bit more fat overall than beef heart, some of which is n-6 (about double; for 100 g, around 1.6 g). Still, pretty high protein-to-fat ratio, with about 26 g of protein per 100 g, and only 8 g of fat for the same portion. Lower in some micronutrients and higher in others – e.g., chicken heart has significantly more zinc than beef heart.

Ned Kock said...

You should be able to get beef heart online - like anything else, it seems.

Zorica Vuletic said...

I love beef heart. :) It tastes way better than liver, and does not smell up the house like liver. If you're living w/ others, then this is a consideration I need to make. In the end though, heart does taste better. I do still like liver and onions though, and I will order that at a restaurant.


Galina L. said...

Zorica, how do you cook the heart? I prefer liver, since I cook it very quickly in a coconut oil, it doesn't have an opportunity to spread smell through the whole house. I also boil liver gently till still pink inside and pulverize it in a blender with sauteed onion and a butter for a pate.

Heart for me just a chip meat I don't actually like but use for practical reasons.Probably I am wrong and should learn from others here.

Sarah said...

I use beef heart to make jerky. It makes EXCELLENT jerky that people will eat, say "wow that's awesome jerky" and be totally surprised when you tell them it's beef heart. I slice it thinly while it's still partially frozen, marinate it for a few days in 1/3 maple syrup 2/3 tamari sauce, and throw it in my smoker until it's nicely dried out. It's a good jaw workout, too :-)

Zorica Vuletic said...

I just cook it in a skillet like a fast fry thin steak. Turns out well. Butter or oil is what I use.

I did not have such luck cooking liver quickly even in coconut oil. O well. ;)

Galina L. said...

I cook very liver quickly, put it on a plate and cover with the turned on 180 degrees skillet I used for the cooking. The residual heat and the resting complete the cooking.
I will try cooking heart shorter time when I buy it next time.

raphi said...


A few weeks ago I realized I hadn't had a "real steak" in ~6 months ---> instead I usually eat liver, hearts, ox tails, beef/lamb tongues &/or cheeks, fowl every couple of weeks.
Mind you, steak is great & unique, but it seems less complex (?) flavor -wise than the rest of the animal (to me at least).

The only 2 ways I'm found (so far) to cook heart well:

--- either slow-cook (which requires the skill of cutting it in 4, picking it up, putting in the slow-cooker and pressing "ON" or whatever...
---or slice the heart into very thin slices (no more than 2cm) or dicing it up finely & pan-frying it on medium heat with loads of herbs spices & healthy fats of choice...will probably work with coconut milk but might make it more chewy.

In the South of France:

-Beef heart €7/kg
-Veal heart €9/kg
-Beef Cheeks (lol) €5/kg
-Beaf/Pork/veal tongue ~€8/kg
-Beek/Pork/Veal brains between €5-8/kg

Paleo/whole foods is cheaper people, IF you do it RIGHT (granted, not always easy & depends of where u are)

Angelina Jo‬‏ said...


Anonymous said...

Wow, this looks yummy! The secret really is a good recipe. Has anyone tried the recipies at ? They have some good stuff there.

Anonymous said...

Wow, this looks yummy! The secret really is a good recipe. Has anyone tried the recipies at They have some good stuff there.

Ned Kock said...

Here in Texas beef heart sells for US$3 / lb, or about US$6.6 / kg. That is a lot less than the price listed by raphi, since 1 US$ = .73 € at the moment. The price of beef heart here is lower than, say, sirloin, because of low demand. If there demand were to go up, the price of beef heart would skyrocket. Supply is inherently limited – there is only one heart per animal.

mhikl said...

Ned, I am very keen on eating the fat (cholesterol I believe) that is around beef heart. I have great (superior Cholesterol & triglycerides, BP) specs, and weight is not an issue. I am sure it is nutritious. Appreciate your help in this quandary. Hard to find on the internet.
Namaste & cheers,

Zubair Gexton said...

I am not obese nor overweight, but I want to burn down my fat percentage.

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