Mother's Beef Tongue

There's an old joke: 

A guy went into a restaurant and asked 'What's the special of the day?'
'Beef tongue,' the waiter replied.
'Ugh!', the guy said, 'That's disgusting!  I won't eat anything that comes out of a cow's mouth.  Fry me up a couple of eggs!'

Believe me, I understand it's rather daunting if you've never cooked beef tongue or seen one being made. It's certainly not the most enticing thing before cooking. Or even after cooking. But when it's done, sliced and served? Fantastic. So tender you don't need a knife. 

Keep this in mind: it's only another cut of beef like beef ribs, shank, loin or brisket. My mother made it for us all the time.....we were served a lot of unusual things. She and her mother really knew what they were doing in the kitchen! They were wonderful, innovative, fearless cooks. I made it for my children as well; they loved beef tongue. But I'm willing to bet not one of them has made it since they left home. They have the recipe too. This post will tweak their memories and they'll remember how good it was, how frugal this cut of meat is and what fabulous sandwiches it makes for leftovers.

The tongue muscle is quite lean and tough and requires a long braising or boiling. Then, things change. The tip of the tongue is made up of long muscle strand like brisket, only it's softer and more tender than any brisket ever could be.  The back of the tongue is denser and more solid, but still has a melt-in-your-mouth texture that is difficult to describe.

And there are so many ways to serve it. I am showcasing how my mother made it; sliced and served with a sauce...in her case, usually some homemade chili sauce, but in my case, a lovely mustard horseradish sauce I found online. Just about every cuisine in the world serves tongue, but I have tasted only a few: the British love it sliced thinly in a tea sandwich (I saw The Two Fat Ladies-do you remember that show?-- layer it with chicken salad in one episode!); in France they serve it with mushrooms and a Madeira sauce; in Mexico, they call it lengua and shred it for tacos and burritos (However, you have to cook it longer than my recipe, but it's so much better than ground beef.); I've had it fried and I've even had it pickled.

So brace yourselves everyone. I'm going to show you the entire process from beginning to glorious end.  I don't have any problems finding beef tongue in South Florida, but you may have to ask your butcher to order one for you. The tongue will probably be bigger than you expect, it's likely to weigh more than 2 pounds and mine came rolled up. It's a rather fatty piece of meat and is covered in a thin layer of skin; the fat cooks off and the skin easily slides off with the help of a knife after the meat has cooked.

Do you trust me? Then give this a chance....Mother knew best.

Beef Tongue

1 whole beef tongue
1 lg. onion, quartered
2 carrots cut in half
2 stalks celery halved
1 bay leaf
6 whole allspice
10 whole black peppercorn
1 teaspoon salt
a few fresh herbs you might have handy


Scrub tongue well.

Put in large pot and cover with water. Add all other ingredients and cover and bring to a boil. Boil on lowered heat for 2- 2 1/2 hours. Remove from pot.....

and peel the outer layer of skin away.  It comes off easily. I also trim any unwanted fat at this point as well.

Slice and serve hot with chili sauce, a homemade tomato sauce or my horseradish sauce. You can find the recipe HERE.  


  1. Barbara, you are bringing back my childhood. We ate tongue all the time and loved it!! I must do some research. My grandmother made the best cooked horseradish sauce to go with it. Raw, grated horseradish, dried breadcrumbs to thicken and beef broth to lighten. Oh it was good. I'd sit down with you right now to this meal!!

  2. Barbara: This is one of the first dishes I ever attempted! My Polish boyfriend told me how much he liked beef tongue. Wanting to please him, I sought it out, finally finding it at International Safeway in D.C.. This was before the internet so my next stop was the library. I found a recipe. It was very difficult for me to handle the tongue but I thought he was worth it. I had to borrow a pot large enough to hold it. Somehow, I made a meal for him. Was it good? We've been married for 30 years now. I've made it several times since and varied the recipe. I'm going to surprise him by making yours. Now, to find a tongue.


  3. Whew! That was close. The Knight was walking through the office, and I THINK I scrolled past the title fast enough that he only saw that glorious, plated photo. Stunning. We're big fans of fork-tender beef.

    Can I get the butcher to get me an unfreckled tongue? I think I can give this a whirl if I don't have to see freckles...

  4. PS - Just saw Bonnie's comment. Heart-warming!

  5. Hilarious! I love beef tongue and that recipe looks fantastic! At home we always ate it with caper sauce... I love your version.



  6. Whoa (smile). Well, this is interesting, and I'm sure it is very delicious, Barbara.
    When I was a teenager, I worked in a very authentic Jewish deli. I remember some of the much older Jewish people in our community would sometimes ask me to cut some very thin beef tongue for them. I also remember while doing it watching the waiting crowd shriek and make faces while my 17 year old self was doing the same thing while slicing;) One older lady burst out one day saying 'what do you bunch of schmucks know about anything?' We all got really quiet, b/c we didn't really know anything...!

  7. wow I've never seen this before -so fun to learn about!

  8. My mom used to make tongue too (but no sauce)! I love it actually :) its one of the few things i can say to shock people, everyone is like "eeeewww" :D LOL.
    *kisses* HH

  9. Hi Barbara,

    My Mother used to cook up tongue from time to time.
    We used to like it and I think some of the cheaper cuts of meat have so much more taste and flavour and need to be cooked long and slow.
    In fact my husband and I were just talking about tongue and brawn the other night when we were watching Hugh Fernley Wittingstall cooking up the same sort of cuts.

    Happy weekend

  10. I'm at a loss for words on this one! Yes, tongue-tied. You knew someone would say that, didn't you?

    I've never had tongue in my life but knowing what a good cook you are, Barbara, I shouldn't be afraid to try it. I love horseradish sauce with beef.

  11. Barbara...as you've known from me in the past...I'm rarely ever speechless...well today you've got me. Although this was quite educational...I just can't see myself ever having the desire for tongue. I do however appreciate others having a taste for this type of different food ;o)

    Ciao for now,

  12. No surprises! So many people liking this beef tongue but frankly, not me! haha.... But the way you present it looks so proffesional and yummy. ^_^ Thanks for sharing the recipe, Barbara. Hope you're having a great day.
    Cheers, Kristy

  13. This is something I've never had, but I do like to venture out and try new things. I would definitely like to try it Barbara! It looks so pretty arranged on the plate with the sauce.

  14. I trust you, it looks delicious! I've had it at the deli with pastrami and tongue on rye, I've never had it any other way, not thick like that. I would try.

  15. I will try this recipe out for sure! Thanks for sharing.

  16. I've only had tongue a couple of times but I liked it. It's just not something I seek out in order to cook. (And I would have to seek one because my local grocery doesn't sell them.)I'm sure I'd love your recipe!

  17. Oh Barbara - I don't know, it scares me a little bit. I've never had it and I'm afraid I'm not brave enough to try it. But I do trust you, so I'm sure your is delicious.

  18. My mother used to make it for us in a very similar preparation and a mayo-based sauce, we always loved it!

  19. Oh my gosh Barbara, I don't remember it looking so ugly. I have never cooked tongue before, but I sure ate a lot of it growing up. It was wise of my mother to prepare this cut of beef while we were still at school I think. She always made it so tasty. And yes, we ate a lot of tongue sandwiches.
    I never had anyone want to swap lunch with me on those days.LOL!
    hugs to you,

  20. I have never tried it myself but I remember my Irish grandfather telling me how wonderful it was and how it was his favorite. You make it look delicious.

  21. I ate beef tongue before, but it was at least 10years back, can't exactly remember the taste. Luckily you learn this recipe from your mom, she must be a good cook, wish I can try this out again. Have a nice weekend ahead.

  22. Barbara,
    You almost have me convinced! Your words, ingredients, wonderful family stories and pictures have me thinking that one day I may give this a try. My Italian Grandmother Carmella use to make it, but I never tried it. I am a pretty fearless eater, even if I don't think I will like it I will try it. (usually)
    This was the most interesting food post I have read since I have been blogging. You are a wonderful writer!
    PS, I just read your post below, now that looks incredible!

  23. I'm with the other dude--fry me up some eggs! But you made me laugh!

  24. Barbara, this dish was a fixture on my mother's table, so I am no stranger to it. Your recipe is lovely and brought back some great memories. I hope you are having a great day. Blessings...Mary

  25. I've never tried this either but I'd be happy to visit when you have it next!! Not sure if I would prepare it though. :-)

  26. I have never tried beef tongue in my entire life. I don't know it looks good as you have cooked it but I am still a little bit hesitant.

  27. My dad used to make this one sometimes I am sure I have had it but don't remember. I may do this though not when the kids are around :~)

  28. I'm almost speechless, it reminds me of Dad frying calve brains or my MIL making blood sausage or head cheese. I'll take a Big Mac! ;)

  29. I cant do it. I just can't do it.

  30. I remember the one and only time my Mum served us tongue. :-) We saw it sitting on the counter and were both transfixed and horrified. :-) When she served meatloaf a short time later, none of us were fooled. :-)

  31. you make my mouth watery...

  32. As a kid, the sight of beef tongue was a bit scary. But as an adult, I now love the stuff.

  33. I don't know what happened to the beef tongue that used to be a frequent dish during my childhood - I haven't had it or seen it even in ages. I don't miss it, though. Now that I'm older, I really couldn't separate the idea of a tongue from what the food I'm eating.

  34. there are certain foods i'll never eat, and i'm afraid tongue is among them. sure, it's purely a mental thing, but what can i say--my brain is a powerful piece of equipment! :)

  35. That's a good one. haha. but i'd rather have the eggs... hee.

  36. It's funny...My mother used to make it too...so far from your mother..in Buenos Aires...I din't like it as a child...now....at what time can I drop by "chez toi"?

    By the way, YOU ARE THE WINNER of my U$D 75 giveaway...Contact me by mail....I'll send you the details !!!


  37. I know there is no reason why I should be so squeamish about tongue considering that I am not a vegetarian in any way shape or form, but I just couldn't eat tongue even if you cooked it for me.
    My loss I'm sure.....

  38. Barbara, thank you so much for your kind comment you made earlier. You're being so supportive & encouraging. I'm really appreaciate it. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I tried my best!

  39. Barbara, I'm speechless...think the cat got my tongue. I just don't think I can do it! I'm adventurous, but just don't think I can cook me up some tongue. :-)

  40. Well done Barbara! I do love the taste of beef tongue but a whole one can be quite confronting, especially with the taste buds. I love the taste though!

  41. I love the Two Fat Ladies, and I love that you cook beef tongue. I've been curious about beef tongue for the longest time--especially lengua tacos. I don't actually eat red meat, but I completely support the use of the whole animal for those who do!

  42. Well! I must say, I'm intrigued! I'm all for tender, melt in your mouth cuts of beef. I don't recall seeing tongue in my local market. I may just have to seek it out. And thank you for showing all the prep work. I don't know if I would have figured out about peeling the skin.


  43. you are brave I could eat it but maybe not cook it he he hope your well, sorry I havent visited so much lately


  44. Oh I love Tongue, and tripe and ox tails.....and this reminds me that I haven't had it in ages. Thank you B.

  45. I promise to try your horseradish mustard sauce - it sounds delicious. I am not sure about the tongue... the fresh from the market photo kind of scares me! :)

  46. This is so intriguing! Although I have to say it looks a little bit too much like a human tongue for me. At least from an anatomical point of view. The sauce sounds fantastic though!

  47. I really enjoyed reading this post, Barbara! I've never seen beef tongue at the grocer, nor had my Mom ever prepared it. It's so much fun to learn about different things like this. Otherwise, I would never know how to prepare it. I would be willing to give this a go, especially if someone prepared it for me!

  48. Barbara, this reminds me of every time I see beef tongue on a bistro menu here in Paris. I sigh, think for a minute, and decide that someday, someday I'll give it a try. I haven't yet, but you've brought me one step closer to it! This looks GOOD!

  49. now I have never had beef tongue, or any tongue for that matter.....it does sound interesting and I do trust that it is probably delicious and super tender....its just I might want the eggs too!! Thanks so much for thinking outside the box though and sharing this recipe!

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  52. I didn't know anything about cooking beef tongue before now Barbara! You've enlightened me, but I have to admit I'm squeamish about it.

  53. I have never cooked with tongue!! Thanks for this recipe, I can try it soon!!

  54. This was not something my mother made for us, surprising since she grew up on a cattle ranch. They do sell beef tongue at my local Costco. My daughter always looks at it with interest. Maybe now that you've shown how to cook it I'll give it a try.



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