Food & Drink

Why We Should All Be Eating More Cheeks

It's time to get cheeky.
06/24/2014 07:00am ET | Updated June 24, 2014

You may have found yourself at a restaurant where the waiter tries selling you on the cheek of the whole roasted fish he has just brought to your table, or at a butcher shop where the butcher tries convincing you of the merits of the beef cheek. Next time this happens, don't be alarmed, be thankful. The cheek meat really is some of the best meat on the animal -- be it halibut or a pig. An often overlooked cut, cheeks are where it's at.

Cheek meat, the small cut of meat in the hollow of an animal's cheek (if that wasn't already obvious enough) is uniquely lean and tender. While most cuts can often be one or the other -- lean but dry or tender but fatty -- those little cuts of cheek are both. As fans of "nose-to-tail" eating here, we at HuffPost Taste are strong proponents of the cheek.

If you're hesitant, chef, photographer and food personality Marc Matsumoto breaks down the merits of cheek meat in a recipe for Japanese Chashu, a slow-cooked pork that often appears over ramen:

Pork cheek is porcine perfection, taking the best qualities of a tasty cut like shoulder and marbling in a lattice of fat between the pink strands meat. When braised, the pieces of meat are almost imperceptibly suspended in a mesh of fat, that instantly liquefies when it enters your warm mouth.

Or you can explore cheeks for yourself in a variety of other ways, from beef cheek poutine to pork cheek ragù and Sichuan braised pork cheeks. You could try halibut cheeks with ginger-orange sauce or cod cheeks with mussels, chorizo and chickpeas. Guanciale, pork jowl or cheek, is a staple in Italian cooking, appearing in dishes like spaghetti carbonara.

If you need any more inspiration, here are 15 recipes that will convince you that it's time to start eating more cheeks.

1
Beef Cheek Ragù
Just Cook IT
Get the Beef Cheek Ragù recipe from Alex Rushmer of The Hole In The Wall
2
Roberta's Pizza with Guanciale and Egg
Food52
Get the Roberta's Pizza with Guanciale and Egg recipe by fiveandspice from Food52
3
Barbacoa Beef Cheek Tacos
Food52
Get the Barbacoa Beef Cheek Tacos by aargersi from Food52
4
Pigs' Cheeks With Apple And Cider
Nigel Slater
Get the Pigs' Cheeks With Apple And Cider recipe by Nigel Slater from The Guardian
5
Peppered Monkfish Cheek With A Chorizo & Garlic Sauce
The Curry Guy
Get the Peppered Monkfish Cheek With A Chorizo & Garlic Sauce recipe by Dan Toombs from The Curry Guy
6
Bucatini all'Amatriciana
Food52
Get the Bucatini all'Amatriciana recipe by pierieno from Food52
7
Ox Cheeks With Prunes and Anise
Jonathan Lovekin for the Observer
Get the Ox Cheeks With Prunes and Anise by Nigel Slater from The Guardian
8
Asparagus on Egg Noodles and Guanciale
Food52
Get the Asparagus on Egg Noodles and Guanciale recipe by thirschfeld from Food52
9
Slow Cooked Ox Cheeks in Wine
Great British Chefs
Get the Slow Cooked Ox Cheeks in Wine recipe from Great British Chefs
10
Ox Cheek Goulash
Frugal Feeding
Get the Ox Cheek Goulash from Frugal Feeding
11
Linguine with Cockles and Guanciale "in Bianco"
Food52
Get the Linguine with Cockles and Guanciale "in Bianco" recipe by sumradagnoth from Food52
12
Ale Braised Ox Cheeks
Frugal Feeding
Get the Ale Braised Ox Cheeks recipe from Frugal Feeding
13
Japanese Chashu
No Recipes
Get the Japanese Chashu recipe from No Recipes
14
Sweet and Sour Pork Cheeks
Love Food
Get Sweet and Sour Pork Cheeks recipe from Love Food
15
Braised Iberian Pork Cheek with Port Wine and Honey
Spanish Sabores
Get the Braised Iberian Pork Cheek with Port Wine and Honey recipe from Spanish Sabores

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