Delicious cooking tips, techniques and recipes for preparing and cooking liver. Make lovely tender Italian liver and onions, or a delicious duck liver salad.
Q: In Italian restaurants, the liver is always tender but mine is always tough. What am I doing wrong?
For a start, they always use calf's liver, which is the most tender liver. But it also needs to be cooked correctly and quickly toughens if it is overcooked.
For best results, slice the liver thinly and cook briefly over quite a high heat. When the blood bubbles through on one side, turn it over and cook until it bubbles through on the other side, then serve it straightaway.
Try the recipe below for a truly tender dish:
Recipe: Italian liver and onions
Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 45 minutes
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 675 g (1 lb 8 oz)
- Salt and black pepper
- 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) calf's liver, prepared and very thinly sliced
- Heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large frying pan. Add the onions and a little salt and black pepper. Cover the pan with a lid or a sheet of foil and cook gently, stirring from time to time, for 25-30 minutes until the onions are very soft.
- Put a bowl and a plate to warm. When the onions are soft, remove the cover from the pan, increase the heat to moderate and cook, stirring, until the onions are golden brown and caramelised, but be careful not to let them stick to the bottom of the pan. Transfer the onions to the warmed bowl, using a slotted spoon, and leave the excess oil in the pan.
- Add the remaining oil to the pan and heat over high heat. Add half the liver in a single layer and cook for 45 seconds-1 minute until it is just browned. Turn the slices over using a fish slice and brown the other side for 45 seconds-1 minute; the liver should still be pink in the centre. Using the fish slice, transfer the slices to the warmed plate.
- Fry the remaining liver in the same way. Return the onions and the first batch of the liver to the pan alongside it and stir both over high heat for 30-45 seconds to warm through.
Q: Is there any way to cook liver so that my children will eat it?
Most children dislike the strong flavour of liver and will find it even less appetising if it is tough and overcooked. To lessen both these problems, it is best to braise it very slowly in a casserole with vegetables and flavourings so it is very tender and the flavour is mellowed. Or disguise it by combining the liver with other meats and flavourings.
Liver can be buried in meatloaves, patties, burgers, shepherd's pie or with pasta in a tomato sauce. In any case, children should not eat liver too often; it is such a rich source of vitamin A that just 100 g (3½ oz) supplies more than ten times the daily adult requirement, which is too much for children.
Very strongly flavoured liver, such as ox liver, can be soaked overnight in milk to make the flavour more mellow before it is to be cooked.
- Carefully snip and peel away the fine membrane covering the liver.
- With a sharp knife, cut the liver diagonally into even, thin slices.
- Snip out any tough internal tubes with some sharp scissors.
Q: Why should you not include the liver of a bird in giblet stock? What can you do with it?
Poultry livers make stocks cloudy, though this is not a problem if you are using the stock for gravy, and the liver can be mashed up after cooking in the stock to add richness.
There are many other ways to use poultry livers; they can be added to stuffing, used to make pots, or quickly fried with mushrooms and onions for serving on toast.
They can also be used to make an unusual warm salad, as in the recipe below.
Read more: How to make incredible gravy
Recipe: Chicken or duck liver and grape salad
- Preparation Time: 5 minutes
- Cooking Time: 5 minutes
- Serves: 4 as a starter
- 4 large handfuls of mixed salad leaves, such as curly endive, rocket, ruby chard and spinach
- 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) chicken or duck livers
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- A sprig of thyme
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons walnut oil
- 115 g (4 oz) seedless grapes, halved
- Salt and black pepper
- To garnish: fresh herbs or flowers
- Divide the salad leaves between four individual salad bowls or plates.
- Remove any membranes from the chicken livers and slice them into pieces of roughly equal size.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a frying pan, add the livers and thyme and cook briskly, shaking the pan occasionally, for about 2 minutes on each side so the livers are slightly caramelised on the outside but still pink inside. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the livers to the salads.
- Stir the vinegars and oils into the pan, dislodging the sediment. Add the grapes and gently heat the sauce through. Then pour a little warm dressing over each of the salads and garnish with fresh herbs or flowers.
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