I Can Check Beef Tongue Off The Bucket List


Smoking a beef tongue is something I’ve wanted to smoke for a long time.  I’m not sure why I decided it was finally time to check it off the Bucket List but I did.  Nothing I have ever cooked and posted on Facebook or Twitter has created the response my beef tongue pictures did. It was a love/hate relationship.  Most people hated the thought of eating beef tongue, a few loved the idea.

Beef tongue is the tongue of a cow. The human consumption of beef tongue dates back to the days of Paleolithic hunters, who preferred the fatty portions of the carcass including tongues, as well as organs, brains, feet, and marrow. -Wikipedia

Tongue2When you buy a beef tongue, at least where I shop, it comes all wrapped up with lots of writing on the package.  This is probably so you can’t see exactly how hideous this piece of beef is.  When I got home and took it out of the package I was quite surprised to find it still had all the taste buds, at least I think they were taste buds…I’m hoping they were taste buds because it was either taste buds or some kind of crazy fur.

This cooking experience was one of the few times I’ve ever cooked a protein when I didn’t have a clear vision of the meal that was going to end up on the plate. Not knowing what something was going to taste like or the flavor I’d end up with meant going into the cook completely blind.

I decided the best way to go was to lightly season the tongue with salt pepper and a dash of Plowboys BBQ Bovine Bold.  After going through this whole process I realized I can treat the beef tongue just like any other piece of beef as far as seasoning go.  The flavor of the tongue can stand up against anything.  The flavor of tongue is very beef roast like, but with a flavor that is best described as gamey.

Beef tongue is very high in fat, at almost 75% of its calories derived– -Wikipedia


The picture on the right shows the beef tongue just before I put it on the smoker.  The tongue skin (I never thought I’d ever type those two words together) was as tough as leather so I scored it to allow the smoke to get into the meat.

After about four hours on the smoker the tongue looked like the picture on the left.  It was at this point I started to question my sanity for doing this.  Have you ever seen anything this ugly before on a smoker? Hope was all I had at this point, I was to far along to back out, hope that I was going to be able to eat this hunk of beef.

I always enjoyed learning a new tongue.-James Bond

The internal temperature of the beef tongue was 165 degrees after the four hours in the smoker.  As it is with other less popular cuts of meat the tongue was still very tough.  I had received a tip from a BBQ Facebook friend that I would need to steam the tongue to get it tender enough to be edible. Steaming would also make removing the skin easier.

At this point if I was cooking a “normal” but of beef I would wrap it up and toss it in the oven.  But I was worried about what this thing might smell like once it started to steam.  The last thing I wanted was a house that smelled like tongue.

Tongue5Tongue6Take a look at the right hand picture in the previous row of pictures you will see the roasting pan, rack and water I used to steam the tongue. The roasting pan was covered with foil and placed on the side burner on my gas grill to steam the tongue. Keeping the burner lit, in the wind, proved to be the most difficult part of the cook.

In the right hand photo you can see the skin being removed after three hours of steaming and then allowing the tongue to cool.


I’ve eaten beef tongue before and it’s always been in tacos so I figured the best way to introduce Mrs. Grail to beef tongue was with a simple street style taco.  A little tongue along with a little salsa, Mexican crema and avocado sauce is in my mind the best way to enjoy this fantastic cut of beef.  I reheated the chopped tongue on the stove with a little olive oil and cumin just to give it a little more of a smokey flavor.  The tacos were fantastic.  Cooking the tongue was a long process, but well worth the time.  I’ll do this again.  The recipe for the avocado sauce is below.

BBQ Grail Avocado Sauce
Recipe Type: Condiment
  • 2 ripe avocados, peeled and quartered
  • 2 tomatillos, blanched and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons Pastamore Jalapeno Olive Oil*
  • ¼ cup chopped cilanto
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  1. Heat a pan of water to boiling and blanch the tomatillos for a couple of minutes. Immediately place in an ice bath to stop the cooking.
  2. Place all the ingredients in a food processor or blender and process until smooth and creamy.
  3. Serve immediately or refrigerate, covered until you/re ready to serve
If you don't have Pastamore Jalapeno Olive Oil the chop up a jalapeno or serranto chili and process along with the other ingredients.


3 Comments on I Can Check Beef Tongue Off The Bucket List

  1. Chris Edmunds // March 28, 2013 at 12:32 pm //

    Now I’m happy to read in this write up that it went as well as it did, for the next one that you cook here’s my question:

    Were the areas that you did not slice the skin, get as good a smoke penetration as you needed, because when I saw the picture of the sliced tongue I really feared it was not going to work as well as you had hoped… I’ve never sliced them before smoking, and I imagined the skin being harder to pull compared with leaving it whole, until after you have tenderized it.

    Congratulations on having brave forks to try it with you, open minded enough to taste it and actually try it.


    • I would have liked to have gotten a little more smoke into the meat than I did but I’m not really should how I could have done it. Peeling the skin off the tongue uncooked is impossible. I was afraid if I par-cooked the tongue, so I could get the skin off, the meat wouldn’t have taken on any smoke. Next time I might just slice the skin a little more than I did.

  2. You can put it in a pressure cooker, submerged in water of course, for 20-30 min after it starts whistling and save yourself a lot of time. At that point it’s ready to eat, or send it to the smoker, etc. NIce post!

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