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How to Cook an Ox or Beef Tongue and Serving Recipes

Gordon loves cooking and experimenting with food. He loves making new dishes, particularly with unusual or underused ingredients.

Whole cooked ox tongue

Whole cooked ox tongue

Whether you call it beef tongue, ox tongue, or even a cow's tongue, it can not be disputed that many people find the idea of cooking and eating it extremely distasteful. Like many other types of offal, however, tongue is exceptionally tender and delicious when it is cooked properly. This page will firstly look at how to prepare a tongue for cooking, how to cook it and then go on to explore a number of different delicious recipes and ways to serve it. When you are buying a tongue, try to buy one on the small side - about two or three pounds - and it is likely to prove most tender.

Tips for Buying an Ox Tongue - Make Friends with your Butcher!

Fully cleaned and prepared ox tongue

Fully cleaned and prepared ox tongue

Whatever type of meat you are buying, it always pays in the long term to get to know a local, quality butcher and to be able to trust their advice as well as their service. Be loyal to these small business owners and you will reap the benefits ten times over and more in the long term.

Buying an ox tongue with no prior knowledge can see you buying a piece of meat with bone remnants in it, as well as tough outer skin that will take a lot of time and effort to remove. In this instance, the ox tongue was bought ready to be steeped and easily cooked. No totally unnecessary procedures - so often referred to in complex, online recipes - were required. This saves you a lot of wholly avoidable work.

Wash the tongue under running cold water. Put it in to a large bowl and add enough cold water to ensure it is completely covered. Put the lid on the bowl and refrigerate overnight.

Weighing the Tongue

Recipes in the UK and in Europe are quoted by weight, either metric or British imperial. This means that most homes have a set of kitchen weighing scales. As North American recipes are more commonly quoted by volume, it may be the case that you don't have such an item in your kitchen and have managed quite well without them. When you are cooking meat, however, the weight above all else determines the cooking time and when you know the weight of a chicken, a leg of lamb or in this case a tongue, it is much easier to calculate how long it will take to cook to perfection, meaning you need to spend considerably less time checking on its progress. If you don't have a set of scales, consider making a small investment and help make so many kitchen tasks that little bit easier.

Ox tongue should be cooked for one hour per pound of weight, so weighing it allows you to see the cooking time at a glance. This means you can get it cooking and go away and leave it to its own devices for the prescribed period of time

Ox tongue should be cooked for one hour per pound of weight, so weighing it allows you to see the cooking time at a glance. This means you can get it cooking and go away and leave it to its own devices for the prescribed period of time

How to Cook an Ox Tongue

Whole tongue cooked by poaching

Whole tongue cooked by poaching

Cook Time

Prep time: Overnight

Cook time: 1 hour per pound in weight

Ready in: Calculated by weight of tongue

Yields: 4 to 8 generous meal portions, depending upon size

Ingredients

  • 1 whole cleaned and steeped beef/ox tongue
  • 1 large carrot, washed and roughly chopped
  • 1 large white onion, peeled and quartered
  • 2 sticks of celery, washed and roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp whole black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • Cold water as required

NB - You will perhaps note the absence of salt in the above list of ingredients. This is not an oversight. Tongue is unfortunately a type of meat which can go tough if it is cooked at too high a temperature. As salt draws the moisture from meat with a similar effect, no chances should be taken.


  1. Take the ox tongue from the fridge and remove the lid from the poaching vessel. You will see that blood has leaked from the tongue. Lift the tongue from the water and rinse briefly under running cold water. Weigh the tongue to calculate the cooking time before laying it in the base of a large soup or stock pot for poaching. This tongue weighed just under 2¾ pounds, so at one hour's cooking time per pound, needed just under 2¾ hours to cook.
  2. Put the vegetables and seasonings in to the pot with the tongue. Pour in enough cold water to comfortably cover the tongue.
  3. Put the pot on to a high heat until the water just starts to simmer. Cover the pot and set the heat to maintain a very gentle simmer for the prescribed cooking time. You should check every so often that the water is not simmering too rapidly or the tongue will become tough. Equally, ensure it does not go off the simmer altogether.
  4. At the end of the cooking time, take a metal skewer and pierce the tongue at its thickest part. The skewer should slide in easily with only very minimal resistance. If not, a little longer is required but the hour per pound guideline really does work very well.
  5. Lift the tongue from the pot with a carving fork and a large spatula to a large, deep dish. Leave it for half an hour to an hour (depending on size) to rest and become cool enough that you can comfortably handle it.
  1. Peel the skin off the tongue and discard. There is a thin, dimpled membrane under the skin which is perfectly edible but difficult to remove without damaging the meat. It's down to personal preference but in this instance it was simply left in place.
  2. Lay the tongue on a chopping board and use a carving knife to slice across the way to a thickness of anywhere between a quarter and half an inch. The tongue should be beautifully tender and carve easily.
  3. Any of the tongue which is not to be used immediately can be stored in a large plastic dish in the fridge for up to a couple of days.

Strain and Reserve the Cooled Tongue Stock

Cooled stock is strained through a colander or sieve

Cooled stock is strained through a colander or sieve

The stock formed by cooking the tongue should not simply be discarded. Instead, strain it through a colander and either store in the fridge for a day or so or the deep freeze for up to three months. You can use it to make soup (see further down this page) or virtually in any way you would use conventional beef stock.

Ox Tongue, Roast Potatoes, Peas and Sweetcorn Recipe

Still warm slices of ox tongue are served with pan roasted baby potatoes and a combination of peas and sweetcorn

Still warm slices of ox tongue are served with pan roasted baby potatoes and a combination of peas and sweetcorn

Cook Time

Prep timeCook timeReady inYields

40 min

40 min

1 hour 20 min

One serving

Ingredients

  • 6 or 7 baby new potatoes
  • 4 slices ox tongue
  • 1 tbsp frozen peas
  • 1 tbsp canned sweetcorn
  1. Put the potatoes unpeeled in to a pot of cold salted water. Bring to a simmer for half an hour. Drain and return to the empty pot to cool.
  2. When the potatoes are cool, peel the skin off with your fingers. Deep fry them for about five minutes until nicely crisped and golden.
  3. Put the peas in to a pot of boiling water for three minutes, adding the sweetcorn for the final minute, just to heat through.
  4. Lift the potatoes to a plate laid with kitchen paper to drain. The peas and sweetcorn should be drained through a colander at the sink.
  5. Lay the beef tongue slices on a plate. Add the potatoes and the peas and sweetcorn, along with any pickles or condiments of choice.

Cold Ox Tongue and Dijon Mustard Sandwich

A simple sandwich incorporating leftover ox tongue and Dijon mustard

A simple sandwich incorporating leftover ox tongue and Dijon mustard

Elaborate sandwich recipes and creations are all good and well but there are equally times when a sandwich's inherent simplicity allows the flavours of the principal component(s) to be enjoyed at their very best. That is the case in this basic but delicious tongue sandwich.

Cook Time

Prep time: 5 min

Cook time: n/a

Ready in: 5 min

Yields: One sandwich

Ingredients

  • 2 slices of very fresh bread
  • Butter for bread (optional)
  • 2 or 3 slices of cooled ox tongue or as required
  • Dijon mustard
  1. Lay the bread slices on a chopping board and lightly butter.
  2. If necessary, cut the slices of tongue to size and arrange in a single layer on one slice of the bread.
  3. Spread on the Dijon mustard before placing the second slice of bread on top and halving diagonally.

Ox Tongue and Green Lentils Soup Recipe

Ox tongue, green lentil and red onion soup

Ox tongue, green lentil and red onion soup

When the stock from cooking the tongue has cooled - particularly in the fridge overnight - you will find that solid, fat impurities have formed on the surface, as seen in the image below. These can easily be skimmed off with a large spoon or ladle and discarded.

Fat and many other impurities have solidified on top of the chilled stock

Fat and many other impurities have solidified on top of the chilled stock

Before you proceed to make the soup, however, it is still important to strain the stock to get a clear broth. If you are in any doubt about the need to do this, look at the photo immediately below and the impurities trapped in the kitchen paper. In order to strain the stock, line a sieve with a few sheets of kitchen paper and suspend it over a clean bowl. Pour in the cooled stock in stages and let it drain.

Remaining impurities are strained from ox tongue stock to leave a clear broth for making soup

Remaining impurities are strained from ox tongue stock to leave a clear broth for making soup

Cook Time

Prep time: 20 min

Cook time: 40 min

Ready in: 1 hour

Yields: 8 to 10 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 pints tongue broth
  • ½ pound green lentils, rinsed in a sieve under running cold water
  • 1 large red onion, peeled and sliced
  • ½ pound cooked ox tongue, roughly chopped/diced
  • Salt and pepper
  • Chopped parsley to garnish
  1. Pour the broth in to a large soup pot and bring to a simmer. Add the lentils and the sliced red onion. Season well - remember, there was no salt added to the original cooking of the ox tongue.
  2. Bring back to a gentle simmer, cover and cook for half an hour.
  3. Add the chopped tongue for a couple of minutes, simply to heat through.
  4. Taste and adjust seasoning if required.
  5. Ladle in to serving bowls and garnish with the chopped parsley.

Jellied Ox Tongue Tureen Recipe (Day One)

Chopped ox tongue and seasonings are added to a tureen before stock with gelatine is poured over the top

Chopped ox tongue and seasonings are added to a tureen before stock with gelatine is poured over the top

A tureen of any type is usually a much grander affair than this little mini option but it proved a tasty adaptation of an ox tongue recipe, served the following day with a simple salad. One point to watch out for when making a tureen like this is the quantity of gelatine the pack advises you to use. Many packs give instructions for using the gelatine to thicken sauces or desserts. This is insufficient for making a meat tureen so use one and a half times the strength of mix or even double to ensure your tureen sets properly. The quantities in this recipe are also difficult to define as they depend on the size of your dish, so they should be taken as guidelines only and you should simply use what is required to fill your tureen.

Cook Time

Prep time: 20 min plus overnight in the fridge to set

Cook time: 5 min

Ready in: Overnight

Yields: 2 to 4 servings

  • ¼ pint strained tongue stock (see further up page)
  • 1 or 2 gelatine leaves
  • 4 or 5 slices of ox tongue roughly chopped - enough to fill tureen to within half an inch of the top
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Put the strained stock on to a gentle heat until it reaches a simmer.
  2. Steep the gelatine in cold water for five minutes.
  3. Turn the heat off under the stock. Lift the gelatine from the water and squeeze out the excess moisture. Add it to the hot stock and leave for two minutes. Stir with a wooden spoon and leave to partially cool for about ten minutes.
  4. Line the base of your tureen with clingfilm and add the chopped ox tongue (seasoned with salt and pepper) to within half an inch of the top. Press down lightly but not too much as the stock has to be able to penetrate all the way down and set the tureen.
  5. Pour the stock in to the tureen to completely cover the tongue. Put the lid on the dish and transfer to the fridge for an overnight.

Jellied Ox Tongue with Salad and Pickles

A thick slice of jellied ox tongue is served with a simple salad and pickles

A thick slice of jellied ox tongue is served with a simple salad and pickles

Cook Time

Prep time: 10 min

Cook time: 10 min

Ready in: 20 min

Yields: One serving

Ingredients

  • 1 thick slice of jellied ox tongue, or as required
  • 1 egg
  • 6 thin slices of cucumber
  • 3 baby plum tomatoes, halved
  • 2 tsp Branston Pickle or equivalent
  • 3 pickled onions
  • Salt and pepper
  • Shredded basil leaves to garnish
  1. Put the egg in to a pot of cold water and bring to a simmer for about eight or nine minutes.
  2. Remove the jellied ox tongue tureen from the fridge. It should be perfectly set.
  3. Lay a chopping board on top of the tureen base and invert. Lift away the base and peel off the clingfilm.
  4. Slice the jellied tongue, fairly thickly to eliminate the risk of it breaking.
  5. Take the pot containing the egg to the sink and run cold water in to it for a minute or so.
  6. Crack the eggshell on a hard surface and carefully peel. Cut the egg in half, down through the centre.
  7. Plate the assembled ingredients and season the salad with salt and pepper before scattering over the chopped basil.

© 2013 Gordon Hamilton

Comments

Gordon Hamilton (author) from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom on May 21, 2013:

I love it, too, Sam. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

SAM ELDER from Home on May 21, 2013:

Tongue is great , I love it :) Great hub

Gordon Hamilton (author) from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom on May 21, 2013:

Hi, Natasha and thank you. At least you have tried tongue - I know a lot of people who flat out refuse to even try it, the idea alone being enough to put them off! :)

Natasha from Hawaii on May 21, 2013:

I have to say tongue isn't my favorite. It's okay in a pie, but sliced...it just feels like tongue to me! It has such a different texture. Great instructions, though.