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Cured and Smoked Beef Tongue


This is a cook that has to be planned in advance and has a number of steps such as the curing process that take a number of days.   However, the result is worth the time invested if you are tongue connoisseur.


The Final Product



A Nice Toasted Tongue Sandwich on Lepinje Pita Bread (toasted on the Kamado)



Since there are not that many detailed and picture laden posts on the web for how to do this cook (and many places that offer what seems to be just wrong advice) in particular on the trim out part of the process, I wound up doing a quite a lot of musing  and  wondering  as I was prepping these tongue on exactly what to trim and what to leave .  


So I have documented the preparation process a bit better here that what is found elsewhere and in more graphic detail than usual.   For that reason, I placed the trimming step at the end of the post.   If not interested in that level of info, just skip that portion.   


Washing Step

Started with two beef tongues each around 4 lbs.  They were from RUMBA meat packers and were in a cyro pack.   I understand tongue 3 lbs and under are supposed to be more tender, although these larger ones were fine. 


Clean and scrub tongue well under running water.  If necessary, you can soak in cold water in fridge for a couple of hours changing water occasionally and then scrub. 


Wet Cure Step (5 full days in the cure)

This is the wet cure brine that I worked up from a flavor and proper brining and curing perspective.  Bring to low boil, then simmer for about 10 -15 minutes to dissolve the salt and but to also get the brine fully flavored.  Cool the brine well before adding the the tongue.  


  • 3 Qts Water   (this is what it took to fully submerge these two tongue in my brining container.)
  • 100 grams kosher salt  (~ 3.5% Salt Solution)
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ large onion (cubed)
  • 2 stalks celery (coarse chop)
  • 1 large carrot ( sliced)
  • 5 bay leaves
  • 8 toes garlic (mashed)
  • 1 tsp fresh coarse grind black pepper
  • 1 tsp dried red pepper
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 2 Tbs Lea & Perrins  Worcestershire Sauce
  • 46 grams Cure #1  - Pink Curing Salt  ( ~100 ppm nitrite in meat)   >>> see NOTE below


NOTE:  Add pink salt after stock has boiled and it is still warm and you have adjusted flavors according to your taste in advance of the pink salt addition.    There are health safety cautions regarding pink salt concentrations. 


The 3.5% salt solution is sufficient to brine but will not leave the meat too salty.  It is my go to brine percentage for many purposes. A brine % calculator is here http://www.pickl-it.com/blog/737/brine-calculator/


The 100 ppm nitrite level  is ½ the maximum safe limit for final sodium nitrite levels in an immersion cure assuming a 10% pickup from the solution into the meat.    USDA safety info on curing is here http://www.fsis.usda.gov/OPPDE/rdad/FSISDirectives/7620-3.pdf    


The brine and cure flavorings



Speed note on cooking and chilling:  You can cook this with 2 Qts of the water then strain (reserve the veggies and seasonings for putting back in the brine).  Chill by adding ice cubes to hot broth until total melted volume is at the 3 Qt point exclusive of the veggies. 


Tongue in the Wet Cure



And weighted with a plate to keep them submerged



Cure at least 5 full days - 6 is even better.  A day or two longer within reason is OK.   If cold smoking, ensure a full and thorough cure.  If hot smoking the cure is mainly for appearance and taste elements.



Boiling Step

After curing for 5 full days, turning in the brine at least every two days (known as"overhauling"), I removed the tongue and rinsed it.  Discard the brine/cure solution.  


Cover the tongue in suitable pot with fresh water.  Add anew, the following for flavoring: onion, celery, carrot garlic, black pepper, dried red pepper, mustard seeds, and Worcestershire Sauce.    As you can see this is a replication of the flavoring used for the cure. I did not go as heavy on the amounts of the flavor ingredients in this broth since the meat had already been in the flavored cure. Your discretion of whether to boil in seasoned or plain water. 


Slowly bring up to a low boil.  Boil gently for 1 ½ to 2 hours.   Remove from water.   While still warm peel the skin.  It will not peel if they get cold. At this point, these particular tongues were at 180 degrees internal and rather tender already.  When I took them out sooner after only an hour, the skin would not peel easily so I cooked longer.


After peeling, refrigerate the tongue overnight. They could be eaten at this point if fully tender or returned to pot and cooked longer in lieu of a smoking step.


After the Final Boil (they tasted really good  at this point and I considered just stopping here)



Smoking Step

To hot smoke, set Kamado for indirect at 200 degrees or even as low as 170.  Lightly oil the tongue (or lightly coat with yellow mustard) and add a light seasoning.  I used black pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder.  The meat already has salt from the brine/cure step. We are really smoking for flavor not for cooking.  A longer boil and a cold smoke would also work.


I used pecan wood for the smoke component and smoked for about 2 hours at 180-200 degrees until internal temperature was around 140.   We use low temperature as this is mainly a flavor step and not a cooking step.  In retrospect this was probably too long under smoke - my guidance here was gleaned from may different web posts.   I offer my view of what I would change/consider for next time from what I actually did.


So, avoid over smoking the meat as it seems to readily and quickly take smoke. I think a light touch of smoke is preferred with the tongue - which differs from many approaches on the web.


If the meat feels tender after the boiling you can adjust smoking duration as the meat is already cooked to an edible point. Or remove from Kamado, cool somewhat and taste for smoke flavor - return to smoke if necessary.


Remove and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.  Slice and enjoy!


After Smoking



The Result



The Extra

If you make a stock with the trimmings and use some of the boiling water from the final boil that is done prior to the smoking step you can, with addition of non-flavored plain gelatin, arrange slices of the tongue and perhaps some additional soft cooked carrots, celery and onion in a mold and make a jellied or tongue aspic.   



Trimming Step

This is the most intensive part of the prep from a labor perspective.  But realistically, in hind sight, it is not that much different than a brisket trim out.   Like everything, the first time through is a learning curve for what to do and how best to accomplish it.  Perhaps this detailed info will help make the task easier.


The gristle, connective tissues, and hard bits as well as the fat and silver skin on the underside of the tongue, particularly on and around and under the raised somewhat separate center area should be trimmed away.  I did not remove the whole center part as it is meat.  I suppose you could but why. This trimming will take a bit of effort and a really sharp knife.   Work carefully as the skin and connective tissue is tough stuff.  The removed bits from both these tongues totaled about 2 lbs.  Clean up the base of the tongue also if needed.   The skin on the tongue can remain for now as it is easier to remove after the boiling step.    After trim out, the two beef tongues were each around 3 lbs.   


I suggest scoring just through the skin on the top for better brine penetration.


The Bottom Trim Out


Trimmmed & Untrimmed Comparison Bottom View (trimmed is on the left, untrimmed on the right)



Trimmed & Untrimmed Comparison Profile View (trimmed is on the left, untrimmed on the right)



Trimmed & Untrimmed Comparison View  of  Bottom Flap (trimmed is on the left, untrimmed on the right)



Trimmed Showing Bottom Flap



Bottom Trimmed



The Trimmings that were removed (I used it separately to make a de-fatten stock for other purposes )




Finally, the Trimmed & Cleaned Tongue


Top View - Trimmed & Scored



Bottom  View Final Trim Result


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