The tongue is a fleshy muscular organ that can be pinkish or greyish in colour. It is covered with a rough, thick mucous membrane that can be easily removed once the tongue is cooked. Beef (ox) tongue, which is the thickest and largest variety, can weigh almost 2.3 kilograms and is covered with numerous large taste buds, most of which are on the top surface. Calves tongue is the most tender and flavourful variety, and also requires the least amount of cooking. Pork (pig's) tongue feels relatively soft.

Bird tongues are also edible, as are those of certain fish, such as cod. The skin on the tongues of land animals cannot be eaten.

Nutritional Value

Tongue is rich in vitamin B12 and in zinc. Pork and beef tongue are rich in iron.


Choose tongue that is free of spots. Buy 170 - 200 grams of raw whole tongue for each 110-gram portion of cooked tongue required.


Tongue can be refrigerated for 1 - 2 days, but it should be cooked as soon as possible because it deteriorates rapidly, especially if left at room temperature for a long period of time in the liquid in which it was cooked. Tongue can be frozen for 3 - 4 months.


Tongue has a firm but tender texture and a distinctive, hearty taste. It is simple to prepare, but does need to be skinned. This is most easily done when the tongue has been cooked and is still hot. Brush the tongue under cold running water; then soak it in cold water for at least 4 hours, or preferably for 12 hours (or overnight), changing the water two or three times. Pickled tongue should be soaked for three to four hours before cook and should be cooked in fresh rather than salted water.


Tongue is often poached, and then braised. Beef tongue is poached for 2 hours, and then braised for 4 hours; calves', lambs', and pigs' tongues are poached for 45 minutes, then braised for 2 hours or until tender.

Tongue can also be breaded and fried (once it is cooked), smoked, or marinated. Sometimes eaten cold, it is delicious when served with mustard, vinaigrette, or in brine. It can be used to make salads and sandwiches.


Ox tongue is a very versatile meat. Pickled or fresh, hot or cold, it offers endless possibilities for the cook. Fresh ox tongue combines with rabbit to make a wonderful hot sausage for a main course, and sliced tongue with a glaze or sauce is a simple but impressively flavoursome dish. Pickled tongue can be served hot, is an interesting addition to a cold meat platter and, julienned, goes very well with pasta. Pressed ox tongue is another old-fashioned favourite. Lambs' tongues, which of course are considerably smaller than ox tongues, are most often served sliced in salads, or in a jellied mould. They are also very good when pressed.

Like us on Facebook Join our Google+ Page Follow Victoria on Twitter Subscribe to our YouTube Channel