The Expert Way to Handle Sweetbreads

Don’t be intimidated by this fantastic, underutilized protein

By Farideh Sadeghin

Published on October 21, 2015

Sweetbreads, the name for a calf or lamb's pancreas (near the stomach) or thymus gland (in the throat), are the kind of intimidating ingredients that many home cooks avoid on principle. A thanks-but-no-thanks, I'm-adventurous-but-not-that-adventurous kind of thing. But if you can get over the ew factor, sweetbreads are versatile: They're easily fried, roasted, braised, sauteéd, or grilled. They are also, blessedly, nearly impossible to overcook. The only trick is to make sure you clean them thoroughly, which means peeling off the membrane (the viscous sheath that surrounds the meat): After you rinse them to remove any traces of blood, boil for five minutes and then shock in an ice bath. This will help the membrane firm up and make it easier to peel.

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