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When trying your hand at cooking something new, you don’t have to think outside the box and cook the most exotic meal you can imagine. Sometimes, something as simplistic as liver and onions is all you need for a gorgeous homely meal.

Sliced onion

What Is Liver And Onions?

Liver and onions is a popular meal found mostly in the United Kingdom and Germany where both liver and slices of onions are fried together in the same pan and served alongside mashed potatoes or any other chosen side. The meal is simple and quick but feels so homely and tastes great. Despite being simple, the meal can be taken to a new level if you want to put in more work.

The liver used is typically either pork or beef liver, although in England lamb liver may be used instead. Bulb onions are used but they can be swapped out with a sweet onion or a red onion. The onions are used as an accompaniment to cut out the metallic taste that the liver risks spreading into the dish. The onions can be sliced or diced, but they are fried to the point of caramelization so that they are sweetened and pair well with the liver.

What Is Liver?

The liver is an organ found in a lot of animals and is commonly eaten and prepared similar to a lot of other meats. The liver from a cow, lamb, pig, and chicken is very commonly sold in any butchers and is not too expensive. Liver meat is quite lean and has a high-protein content but also has a lot of minerals and vitamins in it. The minerals found in the liver are;

  • Zinc
  • Iron
  • Phosphorus
  • Selenium
  • Copper
Close-up shot of meat in a pot

Cooking Liver And Onions

While the sides are up to you, the essential ingredients in this meal are, of course, liver and onions. They are typically cooked via frying, however, any other method of cooking would also work for the liver. It is important to make sure you get the highest quality ingredients possible as the liver’s flavor depends heavily on a few factors.

Choosing The Right Liver

The liver is a great food to eat as it is protein-rich, but can have a very metallic flavor. The strength of the liver’s flavor can vary depending on how old the animal was. If you are choosing beef liver, then it will be best to try and get calf liver if you are trying to get a more subtle flavor.

If you are not wanting to use beef liver then you can alternatively choose lamb, chicken, pork, or venison liver. All of these will have different flavors but will still hold a rather metallic taste. Thankfully, if you dislike the metallic taste that much, you can easily mellow it.

How To Remove The Metallic Flavor Of Liver

The metallic flavor of the liver is not necessarily bad, yet a lot of people are not huge fans of it. If you are wanting to reduce the strength of this flavor then you will be happy to know that it is possible. There are a few methods that vary in effectiveness but the overall best method is to soak your liver in buttermilk or cow’s milk overnight. Simply place your liver in a shallow pan and pour enough milk to fully submerge it. After it has rested in the fridge for at least an hour or two, you can drain the milk and pat dry your liver.

Alongside using milk, you can instead choose to allow your liver to rest in water overnight too. This will be less effective but will still help mellow out the metallic flavor. Other than this, there is only one other alternative which is to counterbalance the metallic taste with acidity. For this, you can soak your liver in lemon juice, lime juice, or vinegar. This will remove the strong flavor of the liver but will instead leave it with a slightly bitter acidic taste.

Preparing The Liver

If your liver has come already sliced then you are almost done with preparation. If your liver is yet to be sliced then you will need to slice it yourself. To do this, you will want to partially freeze it first as the liver is very slippery and will be difficult to slice. To reduce the risk of cutting yourself, freeze the liver for an hour first so that it is partially frozen, and then cut it horizontally about 3/4 of an inch thick.

Preparing the Onions

To prepare your onions, you have a few choices. You can either decide to slice them which is more traditional, or you can dice them. Both methods are completely fine and work well, just make sure not to slice them too thickly as this will cause them to take longer to fry properly. If you want to be fancy you could even cut them into rings and fry those to add some presentation to the meal. Just make sure to clean your onions before using them, as you should do with all fruit and vegetables.

Making The Seasoned Flour

Before frying the liver, you will want to partially coat it in seasoned flour. This will act as a flavoring and will make your meal taste amazing. To make the seasoned flour you will need;

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground dry mustard powder
  • 1/4 teas[ppm salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper

These dry ingredients can be combined together using a blender or by just mixing them with a fork or whisk. It is best to do this thoroughly as you do not want a concentrated patch of any singular spice. Once these are mixed together, spread them out evenly on the bottom of a plate or tray that is big enough to accommodate the liver slices. Once you have this ready, you can start making the dish itself.

Can you make banana bread without baking soda?

Cooking The Liver And Onions

To start off you will want to lay your liver slices in the flour mixture so that each side is evenly coated. Raw liver is moist enough that the dry ingredients will stick to it. Over medium-high heat, lay your coated liver slices in a large skillet so that they can pan fry. If you are choosing to cook beef liver, you will want it to still be slightly pink on the inside. For this, cook on each side for 3-4 minutes or until the outside is browned.

In a separate pan, you will want to saute the onions. This is done by adding a teaspoon of bacon fat or butter to a large cast-iron skillet on medium heat and cooking them until they are translucent. You will notice that they are now very similar to caramelized onions, which is what we want. When they are done, you can serve your sautéed onions on top or alongside your cooked liver. You can further garnish and flavor this by adding garlic powder, salt, and pepper to taste. If you want to, you can also pour the leftover butter from the pans over your meal as a sauce.

Cooking beef liver is not that difficult as you just need to fry it over medium-high heat. However, it is important that you do not overcook liver slices as they will quickly become rubbery. This can be avoided as long as they are not cut into too thin slices.

Pink and white round candies on black round plate

Other Ways To Cook And Use Liver

While a traditional liver and onion dish may be tasty, it might not be exactly what you are after. Thankfully, you can cook beef liver in many different ways and use it in a lot of different recipes. If you enjoy the beef liver taste then a meal such as a beef liver and chorizo sandwich will be a delight for you.

To make this amazing sandwich, all you need to do is fry both a slice of liver and a few slices of chorizo until they are both cooked properly, allow the chorizo to crisp. Once the meats are cooked, you can butter some lightly toasted bread, sourdough or rye are good choices, with garlic butter. Place the meat and any salad you want in the sandwich and enjoy.

Best Sides To Pair With Liver And Onions

While liver and onions are a very tasty meal, they may seem a tad small. Not only this but the meal is also not the most balanced with just those two ingredients. For this exact reason, it is best to introduce some side dishes into the mix just so you can have a more balanced meal and also have more variety in flavor and texture.

Mashed Potatoes

To pair with a traditional dish, why not choose an equally traditional side dish. Mashed potatoes are incredibly popular and that is for good reason. When done right, this creamy dish shows you exactly why so many people love it. The dish is creamy, delicious, and also very nutritious. There is plenty of fiber in mashed potatoes which will help balance your otherwise protein-heavy meal.

Banh bao

Creamed Spinach

Made primarily of spinach, cream sauce, and cheese, this tasty side is healthy and delicious while still having an amazing rich feel. The strong flavors of cheese and spinach also pair wonderfully with the flavor profile of liver and onions which make this a great side dish.

Spinach leaves with water droplets

Green Bean Casserole

Green bean casserole is made of green beans, cream of mushroom soup. and onions. This is already plenty of fiber and nutrition to pair with your main dish but also, this casserole will add some color to your meal as well as a deep flavor and exciting texture. This side dish is sure to impress any guest you have but is also so good that it is worth cooking all for yourself.

Green string beans on brown wooden crate

Scalloped Potatoes

If the previously suggested mashed potatoes aren’t your thing, then scalloped potatoes are for sure a great alternative. They are just as healthy and have all the fiber you will need, but they have a very different texture. They are crispy on the outside, and only have a thin layer of potato in the middle so they are a great choice for adding a more crunchy texture to your meal. They can be flavored with salt and pepper, or more fancy spices if you desire. They are also really easy to make and only require you to slice potatoes and fry them in a bit of oil. If health is a concern then you can opt for a healthier oil substitute.

Potatoes

Liver And Onions, A Timeless Classic?

While the dish may seem a tad lackluster due to only two main ingredients, it is the perfect main dish to center some side dishes around. The liver has a great taste which is further enhanced by the fried onions. Alongside this dish, you can serve a lot of different side dishes without them seeming out of place. It is the perfect dish to cook for a homely meal to enjoy without having to spend hours in the kitchen.

FAQs On Liver And Onions

How is liver supposed to be cooked?

The liver can be cooked in many different ways, there is no definitively correct way. The most popular way to cook the liver is by frying it as this will help make sure it is perfectly cooked to your liking, similar to a steak.

Why do you soak liver in milk before cooking?

Liver is commonly soaked for a few hours in milk before being cooked. This is to help reduce the metallic flavor that it gives off. Some people like the flavor but others can find it a bit too overwhelming, so they use methods such as soaking in milk or water overnight to help with it.

How do you prepare liver to eat?

Liver can be prepared in many ways, but the most common way is to simply cut it into the cuts you need and cook it. Further preparation can be taken such as a marinade or a flour coating to flavor it some more.

Do you need to soak liver before cooking?

If you have never tried liver before then it is best to either try a small bit first or soak it. The flavor of liver is very strong and metallic and can sometimes not be to people’s liking. The flavor can be reduced and tamed by soaking the liver before cooking it.