Once a month, my entire childhood, mom would serve us liver and onions for dinner.
I think it was the only dish in which whining was even remotely tolerated. "Liver and onions, OH NOOOOO!" was the hue and cry from the assembled kids.
Mom and dad never really forced us to eat anything. But, if you didn't like what was on the table, there was no alternative. And complaining really wasn't an option; one look from dad was enough to keep any of us quiet. My parents worked hard enough to put food on the table, and we knew it.
It was for these quiet moments of culinary desperation that God invented ketchup. Ketchup was the only thing that could save us from the overwhelming taste of liver. And we poured it on. The onions helped too.
Recently mom and dad admitted to me that they don't like liver that much; they made it as often as they did because (back then, before hormone-fed beef) it was good for us kids. I have been begging them for two years to make it again and they finally did tonight. "I'm sure this will be a popular one for the website," laughed my dad.
And you know what? It was good. Really good. Much better than I remember it being as a kid, and without all that ketchup.
Tips to Make the Best Fried Liver
Two important points to remember when making liver. First, use the most organic, free-range, antibiotic, hormone-free calf liver you can. As full of vitamins and nutrients that liver is, it also collects the bad stuff. So, get beef that is as free of chemicals as possible.
Second, use calf liver, veal liver, or baby beef liver, not regular beef liver, which is just too strong in flavor.
Tips for Buying Calves Liver
These days, calf livers are sold already sliced. However, if you have to buy them whole, remove the outer membrane, freeze them for a while to firm them up, and then slice them horizontally. They are rather flimsy and delicate and would be really hard to slice yourself without partially freezing them first.
Note that calves liver may be hard to find. You may have to special order it from your butcher.
How Long Should I Cook Liver and Onions for the Best Flavor?
As tempting as it is to overcook liver slices, it's best to cook them just about 3 to 4 minutes on each side. That should be enough to brown them but not overcook the liver, which makes it rubbery.
How to Remove the Metallic Taste of Liver
Worried about your liver having a strong taste? Soak in milk or buttermilk! Place the liver slices in a shallow pan and pour in enough milk to cover. Refrigerate at least and hour or two. Drain and pat dry before dredging in the flour.
Alternately, you can soak soak your liver slices in lemon or lime juice, or even vinegar. The acid counterbalances the flavor of the liver.
Even if you don't have any milk or citrus juice, just soaking in water overnight will help mellow that strong liver flavor.
What Other Types of Liver Can I Use for This Recipe?
If you hunt or raise livestock, you're in luck! Readers have commented about making this recipe with lamb, venison, and elk liver and having great results.
As noted above, don't think you can swap in beef liver and have this recipe turn out the same. Beef liver has a much stronger taste and a very liver-y aroma. You can use beef liver in this recipe if you like, but it's for hardcore liver lovers only.
Great Side Dishes for Liver and Onions
- Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes
- Green Beans with Shallots and Pancetta
- Broccoli Rabe with White Beans
- Rice Pilaf with Mushroom and Pine Nuts
- Dinosaur Kale with Baby Potatoes
Liver and Onions
1/2 to 1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon paprika, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon ground dry mustard powder, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste
1 1/4 pound calves liver (4 slices) (be sure to use calf or veal liver, not mature beef liver)
1 tablespoon bacon fat (or butter), divided
2 yellow onions, thinly sliced
Make the seasoned flour:
Combine the flour, paprika, mustard powder, salt, and black pepper, and spread out on a shallow plate.
Dredge the calf liver in seasoned flour:
Dredge the liver slices in the seasoned flour until completely covered on both sides. Set aside.
Sauté the onions:
Heat a large cast iron skillet on medium high heat. Add a teaspoon of the bacon fat (or butter). Sauté the onions until translucent, a couple of minutes. Remove onions from pan with a slotted spoon. Set aside onto a serving dish.
Fry the liver slices:
Add the remaining 2 teaspoons of bacon fat (or butter) to the skillet. Working in batches, if necessary, add the liver slices. Fry until browned on both sides, no more than 3 to 4 minutes on each side.
Serve hot with sautéed onions (and ketchup on the side!).
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 11g||14%|
|Saturated Fat 6g||28%|
|Total Carbohydrate 36g||13%|
|Dietary Fiber 2g||6%|
|Total Sugars 2g|
|Vitamin C 5mg||26%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|