If you’re stuck deciding between beef liver vs. chicken liver, we’re here to provide the breakdown. While these livers do come from two entirely different animals, they share superfood health benefits. There are particular dishes that call for beef liver over chicken, and vice versa. If liver isn’t something you’re used to cooking or eating, it’s a great source of iron to know about.
Lots of people have an iron deficiency that can be boosted by eating iron-rich foods. Fish, spinach, tofu, and green peas are some of the foods that do contain healthy amounts of iron. According to Healthline, the liver is one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet, as well as being low in calories and high in protein.
In this post, we’ll discuss where liver comes from and why it’s so good for you. You’ll also earn some of the popular ways to cook with both beef and chicken liver. By the end of this, you’ll know if you’re looking for beef liver vs. chicken liver to add to your diet and try in your next meal. Let’s get into the meat of it!
Beef Liver vs. Chicken Liver: How Are They Different?
The primary difference between beef liver and chicken liver is their nutritional profile. Beef liver tends to have more vitamins, such as B12. Both foods are high in vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin A and iron.
Another important difference is their taste. Beef liver has a more intense flavor than chicken liver, which has a mild, even slightly sweet, taste. For many, the taste of beef liver is often too much (it's often described as bitter or metallic), so if you're a picky eater its advisable to start with chicken liver.
The texture of both livers differs with beef liver being tougher and granier whereas chicken liver is soft and sometimes even described as creamy. Because of the toughness of beef liver, it can be difficult to cook as overcooking it makes it tough and rubbery. Chicken liver is often used in mousses and pâtés as its creamy texture lends well to both foods.
With those comparisons out of the way, let's look at the qualities of beef and chicken liver individually.
What is Beef Liver?
Beef liver is the liver of a cow. As mentioned above, beef liver is considered a superfood because it is stocked with so many vitamins, minerals, and beneficial nutrients. It packs a punch of protein and doesn't have many calories to its name, therefore it can be a great source of iron when cooked right!
Where Does It Come From?
Beef livers are removed from cows older than a year by trained butchers before they are processed for cooking (via WebMD). Like other muscle meats we commonly see in grocery stores, the liver is packaged in the same way. Healthy beef liver is maroon to purple in color. An unhealthy liver has a dull color and a sour smell. For obvious reasons, you should never consume liver that has gone bad or is unhealthy.
How to Prepare Beef Liver
The most common way to prepare beef liver is to cut it up and sauté or fry it. Cooking small batches of the chopped liver will be best to ensure each piece is cooked properly. This process can take up to five minutes, as you want to ensure the center of the liver isn't bloody at all. A food thermometer can be used to ensure the right cooking temperature has been reached before they are suitable for eating.
Once your beef liver is properly cooked, there are a number of popular dishes that use cooked liver. Perhaps the most common is liver and onions which uses the frying method for the beef liver. One trick for cooking with beef liver is to soak the raw beef liver in milk, which helps to remove the bitterness. Next, take your milk-soaked liver and roll it in a flour mixture with salt and pepper for seasoning. While you're doing this you can start to fry up onions in lots of butter. Add in the floured beef liver and fry the liver pieces for about 3-4 minutes on each side.
Another popular use for all kinds of liver, including beef liver, is to make a paté. Take the cooked beef liver and add it to a food processor with chopped and cooked onions and garlic, or anything else you'd like included for flavoring. Blend those up until it forms a paste or a paté. You can add in extra olive oil, butter, or other fancy oils to get your desired consistency. A delicacy in parts of Europe, you can serve paté on bread or crackers as part of an appetizer or an entre dish (via Top Meal).
What Is Chicken Liver
Chicken liver comes from chickens. To some people, it can have a much lighter, creamier taste than beef liver. Like beef liver, it is high in iron and other vitamins and minerals that make it a great ingredient to cook with (via U.S. Wellness Meats).
Where Does It Come From?
Chicken liver is processed like the rest of the meat from a chicken and packaged to be sold with the same guidelines as other packaged meats and liver types. Poultry livers differ in color from beef livers. According to the USDA, healthy chicken livers come in shades of tan to yellow as well as a deep mahogany red. Yellow means the liver is fattier. Green livers will not be packaged and sold as they indicate unhealthy levels of something in the poultry.
How to Prepare Chicken Liver
Like beef liver, chicken liver is most often prepared either by sautéing or frying the organ meat. Buy the meat from your local grocer or a butcher if you know one. Cut it up into small, manageable pieces for cooking. Also like beef liver, you can also the pieces in milk before adding them to the pan. This will reduce the iron taste found in cooked chicken liver. Do not wash the raw meat in water as this can help to spread unwanted bacteria before the raw liver meat is cooked.
In terms of popular dishes, chicken liver (like beef!) prepared with onions is a fan favorite and can be seasoned with salt, pepper, and other spices. Toss in veggies or blend them up into a paste for paté.
What's Healthier: Beef Liver vs. Chicken Liver (Calories, Vitamins, and More)
According to Live Strong, when comparing beef liver vs. chicken liver, the chicken liver actually has a higher iron content. Raw chicken liver has about 9 milligrams of iron compared to raw beef, which has 5.8 milligrams of iron.
However, Healthline points out that despite this difference in iron content, beef liver is a superfood in terms of the variety of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals it naturally contains. Beef liver has higher levels of B12, B2, B9, and A vitamins as well as copper, and choline.
When comparing the two, chicken liver actually has more calories but the intake of calories is less important than vitamins and minerals such as iron, zinc, and Vitamin B12.
Overall, both beef and chicken liver are extremely healthy, but if you're looking for vitamins and minerals beef liver has more Zinc and Vitamin B12 while chicken liver is more dense in iron.
Are Beef Liver and Chicken Liver the Same Thing?
When considering beef liver vs. chicken liver, it's important to know they are not the same thing. However, they have very similar uses and can be substituted for one another in varying dishes that use liver. They have different tastes, the texture can vary and in terms of nutrients, beef liver wins this one.
Possible Alternatives To Beef Liver And/Or Chicken Liver
If beef or chicken liver is unappealing, you can try duck liver, pork liver, veal, goose, or cod liver. That last one is available in an oil-based supplement. Other sources of iron include spinach, tofu, and fish. Chickpeas, soybeans, navy beans, and canned, unsalted tomatoes, can also be good sources of iron. If you're looking to boost your iron levels without adding to or changing your diet, try out iron supplements, which can be taken in pill or powder form. Add it to smoothies perhaps? A good tip for iron retention is to include vitamin C-rich foods like citrus, along with your added iron options. Vitamin C can help your body absorb more iron, and in all forms, from orange juice to vitamin C tablets, it is delicious. Learn more about iron-rich foods here.
A Quick Comparison of Beef Liver vs. Chicken Liver
Getting into eating liver can feel daunting. Many dishes include liver as a central component. If you're looking to try either one of those dishes, being informed about the characteristics of beef and chicken liver is important. With this article at your side, you're armed with all the knowledge you need. Chicken liver's high iron content can make it a great choice for those who are iron deficient, but it is higher in calories and fat than beef. Whichever you choose, we hope you enjoy!
Try this beef liver recipe:Print
1 pound beef liver, 1/4 in thick, cut into thin strips
2 medium onions, sliced
3 tbs beef bouillon
Grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
1. Remove veins and outer skin of liver and wipe with damp paper towels before cutting into strips.
2. Coat a skillet with nonstick vegetable spray. Sauté onions in bouillon until transparent. Add liver strips, salt and pepper, and cook, stirring, until liver is browned (about 3 min).
3. Sprinkle with grated cheese before serving.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©iStock.com/ALLEKO.