Tripe, bone marrow and veal's tongue may have been unusual sights on upscale restaurant menus in 1993. But they aren't in 2013.
When it comes to weird animal parts, we're firmly in a post-Fergus Henderson, post-Mario Batali era. Nose-to-tail enthusiasts like April Bloomfield of The Spotted Pig, Chris Cosentino of Incanto and Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo of Animal now set the agenda. Our taste buds should thank them! Organ meats and strange muscles often taste much stronger and more distinctive than tenderloins and shoulders. They're often significantly cheaper, too.
I love eating offal as much as the next guy. But a bad dish of offal has a way of reminding me how gross and savage it can be to eat innards. Likewise, looking at pictures of offal -- just seeing how it looks, without the benefit of smell or taste to make it palatable -- tends to turn my stomach. With that in mind, here's a list of 21 commonly-eaten types of offal, ranked from the least disgusting-looking to the most disgusting-looking. In making this list, I tried to suspend all judgment about taste. This was all about the visuals -- so feast your eyes. (And, as ever, let us know if you disagree with the rankings, or have other random thoughts about offal, in the comments!)
21. Beef Cheek: This is kiddie offal. It barely makes it into the club. But it tastes so, so good. Like short ribs, but more tender!
20. Chicken Liver: The peanut butter of offal.
19. Pig Skin: We vote to ban football, so that there are more pig skins available for frying into chicharrones.
18. Sweetbreads AKA Thymus & Pancreas: You like chicken nuggets? You'll like sweetbreads.
17. Oxtail: It gets a little dicey from here on out. This one has bones.
16. Beef Tongue: Tastes tough, looks like well-done steak.
15. Calf Liver: Looks like really rare steak!
14. Pig's Tail: OK this one looks gross raw, but I promise they turn into long chicken wings when you fry them. Or roast them. Or stew them.
13. Bone Marrow: Marrow is yummiest offal of them all. Unfortunately, it comes in a creepy packaging.
12. Veal Kidney: They basically look like sweetbreads, I admit. But kidneys? Ew.
11. Pork Trotter: That's a lot of bone.
10. Cow Heart: Pretty gruesome when it's whole, like in this picture. But when you eat it, you usually cut it into slices, so you can't really tell that it's a heart.
9. Pig Ear: Delicious crunchy when deep-fried. (Like meat potato chips.) Not so scary-looking when julienned, as they usually are at dim sum restaurants or taco trucks. But when they're cooked and served whole? Those are for hearing. Very obviously.
8. Duck Tongue: These are actually even worse than they look. There are bones inside.
7. Pig Lungs: Even the word "lungs" sounds yucky. And then they look like this.
6. Tripe: So close, yet so far, from the kind of honeycombs that bees make.
5. Pig's Snout: Pigs use these to root around in the mud.
4. Duck Heart: These actually look super delicious in this photo. But think about what you're looking at for a moment. An aquatic bird used each round dollop of meat in that bowl to pump blood through its body.
3. Calf's Brain: It's impossible to eat brain without feeling a little like a zombie.
2. Lamb Face: Lamb face really loses us at rectangular-irised eyeballs.
1. Raw Horse Heart, a la Vaes Dothrak: This offal is so gross that, if you can stomach it, you become a queen. You go, khaleesi!