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Offal -- you either love it or hate it - very few people are indifferent about it. Most English speakers are terrified of touching it, let alone cooking it, let along eating it.

The French, however, treat it as a great delicacy.

The French tradition even distinguishes between "noble" and "unnoble" offal:

    • brain;
    • heart;
    • liver;
    • tongue;
    • thyroid glands;
    • kidney (usually sold fresh.)

Note that in the above list, the heart is the only one that is a muscle.

    • head;
    • feet;
    • tripe;
    • tail (often sold cooked in France.)

The French also categorize in other ways:

White offal (abats blancs):
    • ears from pigs or calves;
    • feet and head of lamb, mutton, pig, beef and calf;
    • gras-double;
    • mesentery;
    • tripe from beef or mutton.

Red offal (abats rouges):
    • beef liver;
    • brain;
    • cheeks;
    • kidneys from lamb, mutton, ram or ox;
    • muzzle of beef or pork;
    • spinal marrow (Amourette);
    • tail (particularly beef);
    • testicals from lamb, mutton, ram or ox;
    • thyroid glands from lamb, calf;
    • tongue.

Fresh offal should have no smell to it, and be glossy and bright. If it's not fresh, it can have a surface that looks dry, mottled or dull, and can have a strong smell.

Offal should be cooked on the day it was purchased -- if it was purchased absolutely fresh, it can be stored in fridge overnight for use next day.

Cooking Tips

If Offal is overcooked, it can be tough and tasteless and have a texture that puts people off.


Offal should be avoided by those with gout. Brain should be avoided by those with cholesterol-restricted diets.

History Notes

In America and in the UK, offal was one form of meat that was not rationed during World War Two. You could have as much as you liked.

Many recipes consequently appeared for them, particularly government-sponsored recipes in the hopes of encouraging people to eat it.

Language Notes

The French word for offal, "abats", is related to their word for slaughterhouse, "abattoir".


Bateman, Michael. Parts that taste forgot. London: The Independent. 9 January 1994.

Irvine, Chris. Offal makes a comeback in British dining. London: The Daily Telegraph. 11 September 2008.

See also:


Amourette; Beef Marrow; Calves' Fry; Heart; Kidney; Lamb's Fry; Liver; Marrowbone; Mesentery; Muggety Pie; Offal; Ox Palate; Oxtails; Pluck; Pork Maw; Sweetbreads; Tongue; Tripe

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Also called:

Organ Meats; Variety Meats; Abats (French); Fleischabfall (German); Frattaglie (Italian); Achuras, Asaduras, Despojos (Spanish); Miudezas (Portuguese)


Oulton, Randal. "Offal." CooksInfo.com. Published 28 June 2004; revised 07 October 2010. Web. Accessed 05/25/2018. <http://www.cooksinfo.com/offal>.

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