Chicken Giblets

"Giblets" is a culinary term for certain internal parts of a bird that are desirable for use in recipes. For chickens, this usually means Heart, Gizzard and Liver. The neck, included with turkeys and geese, is usually not included. Today, it is not common for giblets to be included inside a market chicken, as they almost always are with Turkey, but they are generally sold separately. Some other edible innards, such as Rooster Testicles, are technically giblets but are not included within the North American definition.



Whole Gizzards, both sides Gizzards

In life the gizzard is a thick walled muscular sack full of rocks. The chicken uses it as a ball mill to grind up everything it eats. It is "extra dark" meat with a more intense flavor than any other muscle in the chicken except the heart. Chicken processors cut the gizzards open, clean them and pack them in trays. Generally they are shipped frozen, but may be thawed at the market. The photo shows typical gizzards, inside and outside views.

Gizzards are costly gourmet items in many countries but in the North America, few people know what to do with them and others just "don't eat innards" so there's plenty at attractive prices for ethnic markets and more adventurous eaters.

Buying:   Find them in ethnic markets, particularly those serving Mexican or Central and South American communities. In Southern California they're generally packed in foam plastic trays weighing about 1-1/4 pounds. Rarely, they are packed with hearts, not a problem because hearts are used similarly.

Yield:   About as close to 100% as you can get.

Prep:   Rinse gizzards, examine them and scrape off anything that's yellowish or stringy. Generally you'll cut them into bite size pieces cutting through the thin parts. Individual gizzards vary widely in size and shape.

Cooking:   Gizzards are usually simmered for about an hour, but can stand a little more if you're cooking along with hearts. They are often sliced after cooking for recipes.



Whole and cut hearts Hearts

This is the hardest working muscle in the chicken. It is "extra dark" meat with a more intense flavor than any other muscle and extremely lean. Since hearts are just about always cooked by simmering, those thin patches of fat you see in the photo will be long gone. Chicken processors trim off the external plumbing, rinse out any remaining blood, and pack them in trays. Generally they are shipped frozen, but may be thawed at the market. The photo shows typical hearts, with one cut in half to view the inside. The large one to the left was 1-1/2 inches long. On average, they weigh about 60 to the pound (0.27 ounces each).

Buying:   Find them in ethnic markets, particularly those serving Mexican or Central and South American communities. In Southern California they're generally packed in foam plastic trays weighing between 1 and 1-1/2 pounds. Rarely, they are packed with gizzards, not a problem because gizzards are used similarly. The photo specimens were priced at 2015 US $0.99 / pound, and can be even cheaper when on sale.

Yield:   About as close to 100% as you can get.

Prep:   Rinse them.

Cooking:   Simmer them. At 1/2 hour they're still rather chewy, 1 hour is about minimum, and 1-1/2 hours the maximum, because they really don't get any more tender with longer cooking, they just lose flavor. Because of their chewiness they are often cut crosswise into halves or thirds after cooking for recipes.



Whole Liver Livers

Chicken livers consist of two lobes as shown in the photo. Individual livers vary quite a bit in size, but the photo specimen was 3-1/4 inches long (longer lobe) and the whole liver weighted 2 ounces.

Buying:   Chicken Livers are easily found, often even in the big chain supermarkets, because chicken livers wrapped in bacon is such a popular party appetizer. As with other organ meats they should be very fresh (hopefully well before the marked expiration date) and used immediately.

Yield:   Very close to 100%.

Prep:   Rinse them. Cut off any stringy plumbing that may still be attached.

Cooking:   Fry, simmer or broil just until they aren't pink in the middle any more. Time varies with method but is usually well under 10 minutes for any method. Some recipes call for them to be combined with gizzards and hearts, added to the simmer for the last 10 minutes.

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