If you hang out in your family’s kitchen on Thanksgiving, you’re probably familiar with poultry gizzards. These strange organs are part of the stomach of a bird and they’re used to help literally grind up the tough plant matter that the chicken (or turkey) eats.
With a bit of practice, you can quickly take this odd piece of meat and turn it into a savory bite that you can serve on its own or use to add flavor to other dishes.
Cleaning A Gizzard
Some of us are lucky and can get our gizzards pre-cleaned from the local butcher. If you’re opening up a chicken yourself (or a turkey, the preparation is the same), here’s a quick guide to transforming your gizzard into something edible.
First, find the diagonal seam on the gizzard and cut the gizzard in half lengthwise along it. Rinse both halves under cold water. While you do this be sure to use your fingers to rub off any grit. There are usually a few pieces of plant matter stuck in the gizzard.
Cut off the hard lip that’s located near where you sliced the gizzard in half. This will expose the grinder plate. This is the part of the gizzard that does the hard, dirty work. You’ll want to cut it out entirely.
Now that the grinder plate is gone, you need to remove the silverskin that enfolds both halves of the gizzard. This is a fancy name for connective tissue (because of its silvery hue).
The best way to remove it is to pretend it’s clingfilm. Use a knife to work your way under it and start lifting it off of the gizzard, then use your fingers to do the rest of the work.
Finally, trim off any knobby parts or parts you don’t want to eat. When you’ve got something that looks reasonably smooth, rinse it again under cool water and dry it with paper towels. Slice it into small chunks.
Marinating a Gizzard
Gizzards taste a bit gamey and tend to be tough. In order to tenderize them and remove the gamey flavor, some cooks marinate them in yogurt or cultured buttermilk. The live cultures in these marinades help break down both the toughness and the taste.
Alternately, you can simply use a more normal marinade or even a dry brine. In any case, gizzards really benefit from extra time with their marinade. 12 hours is fine. Some chefs will even leave them in buttermilk for two full days.
Baking a Gizzard
Gizzards can be cooked in the oven one of two ways: low and slow, or hot and fast. In either case, you’ll want to rinse off any marinade and liberally season the gizzards with salt and pepper before you start.
Hot and Fast Brush the gizzards with oil (or butter) and place them in a baking dish. Cook at 350 F for about 30 minutes, turning them over about halfway through. You want to hit an internal temperature of 165 F. They’ll be fairly chewy and very flavorful.
Slow and Low To slow cook the gizzards, first, brush them with oil and roast them at 450 F in a shallow baking dish for about ten minutes. You’ll want to flip them over about halfway through this process. Next, add hot water or stock to the bottom of your pan.
You don’t necessarily need to cover the gizzards, but you want a decent amount of liquid. Half an inch is usually right. Reduce your oven to about 300 F and cook for 2 hours or until the gizzards are extremely tender. As a bonus, you’ll get lots of pan drippings you can use for seasoning.
Gizzards go great with barbecue sauce, pan sauce, and root vegetables. My personal favorite presentation is a plateful of simple gizzards with salt, pepper, and a little bit of lemon juice.
The simplicity of the dish really brings out the deep, unique flavor of the gizzards. Alternately, try them with potatoes, carrots, onions, and garlic.
An Overlooked Option
Chicken gizzards aren’t the most popular type of meat, but they’re full of flavor. If you’re willing to take a bit of time to clean and prepare them properly, they’ll serve as an excellent addition to your cooking repertoire.
With plenty of options when it comes to preparation and presentation, you can match them to any meal.