What Are Chicken Gizzards?

They're surprisingly tasty.

raw chicken gizzards on a yellow styrofoam plate

Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox

You may have heard the name in a common expression ("to stick in one’s gizzard") or you may have found them wrapped tidily in a little package along with other poultry organs. But, what the heck are chicken gizzards?! 

What Are Chicken Gizzards

Essentially, chicken gizzards are the stomach of a chicken (or any other fowl—and surprisingly all reptiles!). Since birds don’t have teeth, they need a way to grind up food before it enters their digestive tract. This is where the gizzard comes in.

As birds peck at the ground in search of bugs, seeds, and other food, they also pick up tiny bits of grit, gravel, and pebbles. All of this food and debris moves through the esophagus, gets stored in the crop (a storage compartment), and eventually ends up in the gizzard. Along with salvia and enzymes, the gizzard’s powerful muscle contractions and the grit acts as little teeth to help pulverize the food so it can be digested. Without a gizzard, birds wouldn’t be able to process their food (much like our teeth mash our food before we can digest it). 

Many folks are not aware of gizzards because they are often mixed in with other organs that you find in those mysterious brown paper envelopes hidden in the carcass of your whole chicken or turkey. This grab-bag of organs often referred to as the "giblets" may also contain kidneys, livers, hearts, and necks (all equally edible and tasty in their own rights).  

What Do Chicken Gizzards Taste Like?

These small organs are actually quite delicious. With a distinctive flavor that's similar to dark chicken meat, gizzards have a chewy texture that is best cooked with slow, low heat. They can be used to add flavor to dishes (like gravy) or eaten on their own. Packed with protein and low in fat, they also have a ton of vitamins and minerals. 

Gizzards are commonly eaten throughout the world and are considered a delicacy in some areas. They can be boiled, braised, pickled, slow-cooked, barbecued, fried, and more.

You can find gizzards served as grilled street food throughout Southeast Asia and Haiti, fried in Japan, stewed in Portugal, broiled in Africa, and served deep-fried with a healthy dousing of hot sauce or tossed into gumbo in the Southern United States. 

chicken gizzards on white paper

Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

How To Prep Chicken Gizzards

Though each chicken only has one gizzard, they are relatively inexpensive to purchase in bulk.

Before you start cooking with gizzards, give them a good cleaning (you don’t want to accidentally add a little sand or grit to your meal). Prepackaged gizzards found at the supermarket are most likely pre-cleaned for your convenience. If you are buying fresh gizzards from your local butcher or farm, make sure to give them a thorough rinse before cooking.

If you do need to clean your gizzards, cut them in half, and rinse both the exterior and interior thoroughly with cool water, making sure to open up the folds. Don’t be surprised to find a bunch of dirt, sand, gravel, and other surprises in there!

Once they are really (and we mean really!) clean, remove the light yellow lining from the gizzards with your fingers or a pair of scissors. Store raw gizzards in the refrigerator in a tightly sealed container until you are ready to cook them. Use the gizzards within two days or freeze them for up to four months. 

How To Cook Chicken Gizzards

Because gizzards are powerful muscles, they tend to be tough and chewy. The best way to cook them is with low, slow, moist heat, like stewing, braising, or using your slow cooker.

If you prefer your gizzards broiled, grilled, or fried, very gently boil them in water first to help tenderize the muscle. Cooking them with direct high heat from the start can cause the connective tissue to toughen even more.

If you have a single gizzard from your whole chicken, you can mince it and add it to gravy (straining before serving) for extra flavor, or toss it into spaghetti or bolognese sauce, dirty rice, or gumbo. Gizzards are also great additions to stuffing, soups and chilis, fried rice, and even wrapped in bacon and deep-fried.

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