I don't like liver, but now I have to start eating pork liver because of its high iron content.

There are some ingredients which I have disliked for years, then suddenly started liking when I discovered how tasty they can be when prepared properly. An example is an aubergine: throw it into a stew as it is, or deep fry it so it soaks up three times its way in oil, and I don't want to see it. Blanch it to reduce the bitterness, dry it before it touches fat, combine it with rosemary, and it becomes one of the best veggies ever.

I was wondering whether there is some cooking technique which transforms liver into a lovely treat. My biggest issues with liver are

  • the texture, which is too crumbly, almost sandy, and a bit dry
  • the intensity of its earthy, fatty, almost rancid flavor.
  • At least, it tastes that way when my mother or grandmother prepare it, I have never eaten it in a restaurant.

    Do you know a way to mitigate these problems? Advice on good combinations, be it side dishes or herbs/spices, is also appreciated. Also, what is the optimal pH range? I'd tend to use some acidic components because of the fatty flavor (e.g. make a sauce by deglazing the pan with lemon juice), but is this really a good combination, and how does it affect the texture if the acid is added while preparing?

    • Maybe you can add the way you (or your (grand)mother) prepare it?
      – Mien
      Mar 7, 2011 at 19:49
    • 1
      @Mien Grandma sometimes serves diced chicken liver and heart, baked with rice, as a side dish with the chicken. Based on how oily they are, I think that she shallow fries them before baking. I have tried frying just liver slices in a pan, like chicken breast pieces. Once I made Leberknödel (dumplings from bread and liver), but they were extremely soggy and didn't cook through to the middle. I don't remember anything specific mother has made with liver, only that I didn't like it at the time.
      – rumtscho
      Mar 7, 2011 at 21:55
    • 6
      How to transform liver into a lovely treat: Poor yourself a nice glass of wine, toss the liver in the bin, drink the wine, order take away. Yummy! Mar 8, 2011 at 4:17

    6 Answers 6


    Liver (like any offal) needs to be as fresh as possible. Liver naturally has a dense texture, so over-cooking it results in the dry shoe leather effect that causes most people to hate it.

    Soaking it in milk is a common technique, but I grew up with venison liver cooked quickly in a pan with spice mixes (usually a slightly spicy "cajun" or lemon-pepper).

    I would suggest looking up some more modern recipes to see if you can find one that appeals to your tastes. Chefs like Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, who are keen on re-introducing people to these less popular cuts, tend to have recipes that will appeal to a modern palate.


    General Tips from Joy of Cooking (with liver):

    • Soak for several hours in milk or a spicy marinade
    • Never toughen liver by cooking it too long or over excessive heat
    • Never cook beyond the point of tenderness
    • Good ingredients that pair with liver are Maderia, white wine, sour cream, nutmeg, or thyme
    • Good sauces that pair with liver are Bearnaise, Barbecue, Lyonnaise, and butter sauces like Lemon Butter or Brown Butter
    • Liver from younger animals is preferred, the paler the color the better

    You may consider blanching the liver if it still has the tough outer membrane intact. Ice water on the side, boil water to cover the liver, dip for a moment or two, then plunge into ice bath to stop cooking. Loosen and peel membrane, slice, soak in milk for as long as you can, a few minutes to a few hours. Dry the slices and let them rest while you grill some onions and shiitake or oyster mushrooms, remove to platter. Coat them with spice or whole grain flour, fry in same hot pan as onion for a minute or so, turn do the same and return onion/mushroom mixture until hot. Remove to hot platter. Deglaze pan with vodka, vermouth, or broth and boil down to a slurry to drizzle over platter. OR for gravy, add some fat, the leftover flour and seasoning, cook until brown, add liquid or milk and stir like mad to keep lumps at bay. Yummy!

    Re: salt: I've never had trouble with salt toughening liver; I have however, if I over cooked it.


    slice it, put a bit of flour on the slices, fry it with onions (and bacon if you like). Have it with chips(french fries) and brown sauce or gravy.

    Its a staple of english cafes.


    Don't salt the liver until it has started cooking in the pan. If you salt it before you cook it, it will loose some of it's moisture, and the result will be leathery.

    • Are you sure? I have read many sources debunking this quite pervasive myth for steak, so I am inclined to assume that it isn't true for liver either.
      – rumtscho
      Mar 8, 2011 at 18:21

    My ex-wife became quite anemic at certain times of the year. Liver (specifically, chicken liver—it was easy to get at the farmer's market) was among the things we tried to maintain her iron levels (including iron supplements, the Lucky Fish, and large quantities of spinach). Frankly, I cannot stand liver—the smell, the taste, nor the mental image of a liver as a processor of toxins that I probably don't want to eat. However, I did find that pâté was a pretty tolerable way of preparing liver.

    My understanding is that the general theory of pâté is that you caramelize a good quantity of shallots (or other onions) in a lot of butter, throw in the liver (making sure to keep enough space so that everything browns nicely, but keeping the temperature moderate), then deglaze the pan with some brandy or madeira or sherry or some such. The whole mess is then liquified in a blender or food processor, and allowed to cool. As it cools, the fats (from the butter and liver) solidify and you end up with something spreadable.

    A few things which seemed to help (and, honestly, I got to liking various versions of pâté after exposure):

    1. Soak the liver overnight. Most of the internet tells you to soak livers in milk. I just used water (or, on a few occasions, coffee, because... why not?). I'm not sure what magic the soaking does (though this has been addressed before), but an overnight soak seems to ameliorate some of the strong flavors.

    2. Add strong flavors. When the onions are nearly done, add a ton of garlic. Or herbs and spices. This is probably not terribly French, but a teaspoon of cayenne is real nice in the preparation. I've also enjoyed pâté made with a lot of capers and anchovies (which give the whole concoction a salty, marine feeling). My guess is that things like tarragon, oregano, marjoram, etc are more traditional, but the goal is to add flavors that you like. You are cooking for yourself, so find the flavors you like.

    3. Don't overcook it, but it doesn't really matter. Overcooking liver (or any meat, really) makes it tough. However, you are going to throw all of this into a blender and pulverize it. Sharp blades hide a lot of sins.

    4. Trim the gristle (or don't). For chicken livers, this is honestly kind of a pain, but for larger animals, it is probably not so bad. Livers are surrounded by a lot of connective tissue and fat, and you likely want to make most of that go away. On the other hand, everything is going into the blender, so if you miss a bit of connective tissue, it isn't such a big deal (and you probably want to keep the fat... mmm... fat).

    Being a secular Jew, I find that this is best spread on a matzoh, though any toasty or crunchy base will do (Ritz crackers if you are feeling a bit trashy, or some solid rye toast for a little eastern European flair—the crunch is important). A dollop of sour cream is also a nice touch.

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