When it comes to meat, certain parts of the animal are not as appetizing and most people would never even think of eating them. But for some, they are a delicacy and a refreshing change from the regular cuts of meat. Beef chitterlings are one of those things.
So, what are beef chitterlings? Beef chitterlings are the large intestine of cows and calves that can be slow-cooked or fried. They require an extensive cleaning process and are usually reserved for special occasions.
Read on to find out more about beef chitterlings, what they taste like, how they are cleaned, and the best ways to cook them:
What Are Beef Chitterlings?
Chitterlings, also called chitlins, are the large intestine of pigs. They can also be sourced from cows and calves and are called beef chitterlings.
Often categorized as soul food, they are a classic Southern recipe that is common during the holidays.
Because of their origin, beef chitterlings need to be thoroughly cleaned before cooking in order to avoid cross-contamination and illness.
You can also find clean and pre-cooked chitterlings to enjoy this unusual food item without going through the hassle of cleaning and preparing it.
History of Chitterlings
Chitterlings originated in the Southern US during the time of American slavery where the hog would be slaughtered and the meat would be reserved for the slave owners.
The scraps and rejected animal parts such as the intestines, neck bones, snouts, and feet would be left for the slaves.
The slaves used the intestines to make a dish called chitterlings, which then became a staple in soul food cooking. Beef chitterlings are made in the same way as pork chitterlings.
The only difference is the animal that the meat is sourced from.
By the mid-century, chitterlings became more popular with several chitterlings-eating clubs opening up. In the late 1950s and 1960s, there was a string of music venues in the South known as the “Chitlin Circuit” that sold chitterlings.
Although the popularity of chitterlings has declined over the years due to their labor-intensive preparation method, they are still enjoyed on special occasions and holidays.
What Do Beef Chitterlings Taste Like?
Beef chitterlings consist of cow intestines that are either boiled or fried. They have a mild flavor and can take on the flavor of whatever spices and seasonings are added to them.
They have a distinct, meaty taste that is difficult to describe. Some compare the flavor and texture of chitterlings to octopus as well as other types of seafood.
It is safe to say that beef chitterlings are an acquired taste that not everyone can get on board with.
For several people, the thick and rubbery texture of chitterlings is more of an issue rather than the taste. Whatever the case, you can’t deny that they offer a unique culinary experience.
Chitterlings can give off a foul smell while cooking, which is why it is advised to cook them in a ventilated area unless you want your house to smell like intestines.
How To Clean Beef Chitterlings?
Beef chitterlings are safe to eat as long as they are handled and cleaned properly. The inability to do so can turn them into a serious health risk.
If possible, it is best to purchase cleaned and cooked beef chitterlings from the butcher as it helps prevent contamination in your kitchen.
If that is not an option and you must purchase raw beef chitterlings, there are a few precautions you need to take in terms of handling, cleaning, and preparing the dish.
Here is how you can clean beef chitterlings:
- Prepare everything beforehand. You need to take out everything you’ll need during and after the cleaning process before taking the beef chitterlings out of their packaging. This may include knives, scissors, cutting boards, pots, pans, colanders, seasonings, bleach, measuring cups, and paper towels.
- Once everything is ready, take the beef chitterlings out of their packaging and boil them for 5 minutes to kill off germs and harmful bacteria, as recommended by the CDC.
- Drain the beef chitterlings and allow them to cool.
- Put them in the kitchen sink with some cool water along with 2 tablespoons of baking soda or vinegar.
- Let the beef chitterlings soak in the baking soda/vinegar water for a few minutes.
- Use your hands to scrub the insides of the beef chitterlings, removing any fat and cow waste.
- Dunk them up and down in the water for a few minutes, drain the excess water from the beef chitterlings, and take them out in a clean bowl.
- Drain the dirty water from the sink and rinse it to clean.
- Fill the sink again with cool water, this time without the baking soda or vinegar, and soak the beef chitterlings for a second time.
- Repeat the rinsing process three to four times until the water in the sink is clear.
Tips For Cleaning Beef Chitterlings
Although the process mentioned above is pretty extensive and will ensure that the beef chitterlings are clean and safe to cook, there are a few tips and tricks that you can follow to make the clean-up more efficient:
- You can use salt to scrub the beef chitterlings clean since its abrasive nature will help remove the fatty lining inside with ease.
- To clean the insides of the beef chitterlings more properly, you can turn them inside out. Alternatively, you can cut them open using a knife or scissors so that both sides are easily accessible.
- You can add some chopped onions to the water when you boil the beef chitterlings at the start as it helps reduce the bad smell of the intestines.
Other Cleaning Methods For Beef Chitterlings
Boiling the beef chitterlings and washing them under running water is a great way to eliminate any bacteria that might cause illness. It is not the only way though.
One thing that remains common in all the cleaning techniques is the boiling part. You can boil the beef chitterlings as the first step or after you’re done rinsing them. It’s totally your call, but the point is to always boil them.
Here are two alternative methods for cleaning beef chitterlings:
- After rinsing the beef chitterlings thoroughly under cold running water several times over, place them in a bowl and cover them with water. Squeeze about 4 to 6 lemons in the water and add the squeezed lemon in it as well. Cover the bowl and place it in the refrigerator for about 4 hours. Rinse thoroughly before cooking.
- As a third option, you can follow the same process, but instead of squeezing 4 to 6 lemons, add 2 cups of lime juice or 4 tablespoons of white vinegar to the water.
How To Prepare Beef Chitterlings?
Once the beef chitterlings are properly cleaned, you can move on to preparing them. You can cut them into smaller pieces so that they are easier to eat.
There are two ways to prepare beef chitterlings: boiling and deep-frying.
Boiled Beef Chitterlings
To make boiled beef chitterlings, you need to:
- Sauté some onion, celery, and pepper in butter in a large pot.
- Add the cleaned beef chitterlings to the pot and submerge them in cold water.
- Bring the water to a rolling boil.
- Season with salt, garlic, red pepper flakes, and apple cider/white vinegar.
- Cover the pot and let them cook for about 3 hours or until the chitterlings are tender.
- Drain the boiled beef chitterlings in a clean colander and season according to your taste.
- Serve them with vinegar and hot sauce next to collard greens, fried chicken, and cornbread. You can also serve them with pasta or rice.
Fried Beef Chitterlings
To make fried beef chitterlings, you need to:
- Follow steps 1 to 6 mentioned above.
- In a small bowl, lightly beat one large egg.
- Spread some breadcrumbs or cracker crumbs on a piece of waxed paper and set aside.
- Heat some oil in a deep fryer to 370°F.
- Dip each piece of beef chitterling into the egg mixture and roll it in the crumbs.
- Do the same with all the chitterling pieces.
- Once all the beef chitterlings have been properly coated, add them to the hot oil until they are golden brown.
- Fry in batches making sure to not overcrowd the pan.
- Drain the fried beef chitterlings on some paper towels.
- Serve hot with your favorite dip or sauce and enjoy!
Safety Guidelines While Preparing Beef Chitterlings
Here are a few safety guidelines to follow when cleaning and preparing beef chitterlings:
- Wash your hands properly with soap and warm water before and after preparing chitterlings.
- Make sure to wash all the used utensils and the working space with hot soapy water to avoid cross-contamination.
- Sanitize the kitchen sink and countertops with a solution of liquid chlorine bleach and water.
- Keep children away from the area where the beef chitterlings are being cleaned and prepared.