The gizzards of game birds like pheasants, ducks, and turkey are under-appreciated little nuggets of meat. Perhaps it’s because they look strange and are difficult to trim without proper instruction. Well, we’re taking the mystery out of preparing them by showing you how to clean a gizzard and how to cook a gizzard.
The gizzard is a muscular stomach that holds the grit and stones which allow birds to grind and digest food. It’s oval shaped with two chunks of meat on either end with a yellow sack of grit in between. To prepare the gizzards for cooking, you’ll need to trim off the chunks of meat. Below are two ways of going about it.
How to Clean a Gizzard: Option 1
The most common way to clean a gizzard is to make a shallow cut right down the middle to expose the yellow sack and its contents. Try and cut just the outer membrane without digging your knife blade deeply; no sense in dulling your knife on rocks.
Next, dip the open gizzard into a bowl of water to clean it out or use a hose outside. You don’t want this stuff going down your kitchen sink drain.
The yellow membrane is very tough and will need to be separated from the two chunks of meat on either side. Opening up the gizzard allows you to see where the membrane connects to the meat so you’ll know exactly where to cut to remove it. Keep the two chunks of meat and discard the yellow tissue.
How to Clean a Gizzard: Option 2
The second method is to avoid opening up the yellow sack of grit and simply slice the meat off the sides.. This is a much easier and cleaner option, although if you’ve never trimmed a gizzard before I recommend doing it the first way at least once to familiarize yourself with the anatomy. The only downside is that you won’t know exactly where to cut and you might waste a little meat.
After the meat has been cut away from the rest of the gizzard, you can trim off the silverskin. This step is optional, depending on the bird. The silverskin can be thick and tough on bigger fowl like geese and turkeys. You can leave it on smaller gizzards; it will tenderize when cooked for a long time.
To remove, slide the tip of a sharp knife between the meat and silverskin to get it started. Then you can peel the rest away with your fingers. You’ll be left with two clean pieces of meat that are ready to cook.
How to Cook Gizzards
We like to collect a bunch of gizzards and cook them all at once for a special treat. They freeze well whole, and you don’t even need to clean them until you’re ready to cook.
Once they’re trimmed, you’ll notice that the gizzards of wild game birds are very dense and dark colored. They can be sliced thinly and flash-seared or fried, although I don’t think it’s the best way to prepare them. Gizzards are excellent table fare when cooked slowly and gently to soften the texture.
One of MeatEater’s favorite preparations is Steve’s pickled gizzard recipe that requires simmering until tender and then covering with a vinegar brine. I’m partial to doing a confit the same way you would goose legs and then serving them inside tacos. Another tried-and true-method is to add gizzards to giblet gravy for your next Thanksgiving feast.
Whichever route you choose, try saving the gizzards of your game birds. You’ll be surprised by how flavorful and delicious these odd bits can be.