Beef Heart Chili

by Darcy Menard of Stumbling Homestead is a blog and weekly podcast about family homesteading and the role of kids in raising cows and chickens, composting, gardening, and food production.

This post could have just as easily been called, “how to get your family to eat organ meat.” I eat organ meat regularly, because it is even more nutrient dense than the muscle meat. I’ve read that Native Americans and Eskimos instinctively knew this, and ate the organs from freshly killed prey, while tossing much of the muscle meat to their dogs. But this argument holds little weight with family members conditioned to have a gag reflex at the sight of organ meat sizzling in the pan.

The solution: mix organ meat into spicy or otherwise flavorful dishes. Do so in a reasonable ratio to other traditional meats, and your eaters will be none the wiser.

An added benefit of this is cost: for families trying to stretch their protein budget, organ meats can often be obtained at a fraction of the price. I recently got twelve packages of liver and three beef hearts for free, because no one else wanted them! And as you’ll see by the following pictures, that’s an awful lot of free, nutritionally-dense protein.

Preparation Steps:

1) Thaw the heart in the refrigerator. Bring it to room temperature for a couple of hours prior to cooking. Rinse off any blood. Yep, looks just like a heart, doesn’t it?

Notice the innards, and ventricle structures. I let my toddler help me cut it up (holding the knife with him) and it becomes like a mini science class combined with a food preparation lesson. Instead of wrinkled noses, turn it into fun participation.

2) Cut it into small cubed chunks. With the exception of a little bit of tougher ventricle structures inside, most of the meat cuts very easily. I leave most of the fat on, because I’m a believer that we need all the good fat we can get in our diets.

3) Here’s how much meat you get from a single heart. I told you it was a lot of protein. Again, for free.

Meat on plate

4) I pan fry (med-high) the meat in butter, with sea salt, pepper, and paprika. Even though I drained the blood at several times during the cutting, I think that the heart tissue holds more blood than other tissue. Notice the good amount of liquid in the pan. This is not a bad thing, because you end up with a rich tasty sauce to add to the chili. But for those looking for a seared effect, you probably want to grill the meat.

Pan cooking

5) The final step is to put the cooked meat into the food processor, on low pulse, to grind it up a little before adding it to the chili. This will help disguise it, and let it absorb the spicy flavor of the chili, so that your family won’t even know. I added about a third of the meat, to the two pounds of ground turkey that was already in the chili. Use your favorite recipe for chili, and I suggest substituting about 1/3 of the meat with the ground heart.

You could probably grind the raw meat and throw it directly in the chili, but we don’t have a meat grinder, so this method works just fine. I freeze the remaining cooked chunks for addition to future dishes. Note: this sneaking in of organ meat doesn’t work so well for burger patties. Try it and you’ll most likely get busted!

An additional point: I put aside a small plate of the cooked heart chunks and sauce for myself to eat, outside of the chili. Very tasty. There’s a little bit of that wild organ taste going, but the texture is remarkably like a cut of steak. My toddler wanted to try a piece, and he liked it, and asked for more. I couldn’t convince my wife though–too reminiscent of science class for her, no matter what the taste or texture. Has to be hidden in the chili for her to eat it.

This is an important point for parents: if you want your kids to eat trickier foods like this, you’ve got to genuinely enjoy it yourself. If my wife had tried to feed it to him, I’m pretty sure he would have turned his nose up at it. But he sees me enjoying it, and opens his mind up to experience as well. So if you want your kids to eat better, you’ve got to eat better yourself first and mean it.

Author: Darcy Menard

Darcy Menard hosts a weekly homesteading podcast, Stumbling Homestead. He also has a family homesteading blog of the same name. His family recently moved from an urban to a rural location to get more connected with their food supply. If you are interested in the role of kids and family in raising cows and chickens, composting, gardening, and food production, check out the blog and listen to the podcast on iTunes.