Why are organ meats healthy? What is Pluck, and why do we eat it almost daily? Learn more about nose-to-tail eating in this blog post and podcast interview with James from Pluck.
Something that’s near and dear to my heart is deep nutritional eating by utilizing the entire animal, including organ meats.
What excites me about today’s guest is that he has created a product that my family adores. His seasonings include organ meats and you can’t even tell you’re getting incredible nutrition through the flavoring of your food.
About Chef James Barry
James Barry jokes that he grew up in a house where they knew dinner was ready when the smoke detector went off. So his becoming a chef was a bit of a surprise to his family.
He grew up with a pretty standard American diet in the 70s, which has made him even more passionate about health and consuming a wide variety of foods for health purposes.
James has 16+ years in the culinary field. He started as a private chef for celebrities such as Tom Cruise, Mariska Hargitay, George Clooney, Gerard Butler, Sean “Puffy” Combs, Barbra Streisand, and John Cusack.
Most recently, James launched his first functional food product, Pluck, an organ-based seasoning. It’s the first of its kind and an amazingly easy and delicious way for people to get organ meats into their diet.
The Importance of a Good Palate
There are five primary tastes that our tongue recognizes. Sweet, salty, sour, savory and umami. Most packaged foods from the grocery store today fall into the sweet or salty categories.
Because of this, many children and adults alike have palates that are geared toward those flavors, making items like ferments, healthy vegetables, or the natural sweetness of foods unappealing.
To combat this, James recommends exposing children to a wide variety of flavors at a young age. And don’t just try once! Palates can change, but it doesn’t happen overnight. James shares that he’s helped multiple people get off sugar and change their palate in about two weeks.
Our Body’s Built-In Intelligence
Both James and I agree that our body has a built-in intelligence system. If our body doesn’t need sodium, then salty foods will taste off-putting. If our body needs salt, then a heavily salted steak will taste incredible.
However, some of our systems have been skewed with unhealthy processed foods (and chemicals in food such as MSG). Getting back to a whole-food diet is key. From there, if we find we’re craving ice cream, it could just mean we need more fat.
I grew up eating a lot of candy. To this day, whenever I’m craving fruity candies (like Skittles), I know I’m actually thirsty. If I go drink a big glass of water, that craving will go away. I think what my body was actually craving was the juice from real fruit.
Learning to discern our cravings, giving our palate a chance to change, and listening to our body’s cues to provide it with what it truly needs (not necessarily wants) is an incredible gift we can give ourselves.
What is Offal?
Most people use the term “offal” and organ meats interchangeably. However, offal is any part of the animal except the muscle meat and bones. Offal includes bone marrow, the tongue, tail, joints, lungs, and stomach (tripe), as well as the heart, kidneys, liver and pancreas.
Why Are Organ Meats Healthy?
There’s this ancestral concept that “like supports like.” The idea is that if you’re eating the liver of an animal, it’s going to help support your own liver.
Because the liver’s job is to filter out toxins, many people have a misconception that when you eat an animal’s liver, you’re also consuming toxins. But that’s simply not true. The liver filters the toxins out of the body. It doesn’t store them.
James thinks of organ meats like mother nature’s prenatal vitamin. If you look at the ingredients in a prenatal, it has potassium, iron, folate, magnesium, vitamins and minerals. All these can be found in organ meats.
The benefit of consuming organ meats is you’re getting these nutrients in a whole-food form, so it will be better utilized by our body. The reason most vitamins are supposed to be taken with food is because they’re fat soluble, so for your body to absorb the nutrients, it needs some fat.
If you’re taking whole-food sources of these vitamins, then you don’t need to add anything else. It’s already packaged in a way your body can use it.
The Hang Up With Organ Meats
It seems today that people fall into one of the following categories when it comes to organ meats:
- They weren’t raised on organ meats, so they don’t think they’ll taste good.
- They were forced to eat it as a child, so there’s trauma surrounding that food.
- They want to eat, maybe have even tried to cook it, but don’t know how to cook it properly so it tasted bad.
These reasons are why James created Pluck. His seasoning is an easy way to get high-quality nutrition into your diet while also allowing your body to signal whether it needs more or less.
Now if you’re a homesteader or someone who orders a whole cow, or whole chickens, you may have organ meats sitting in your freezer. If you’re unsure how to use them, James recommends treating them like an ingredient, not the main dish.
There are countless recipes for organ meats on James’ website, Eat Pluck. Be sure you check those out!
This is one of the easiest organs to jump into because it’s the closest in flavor to muscle meat. Chicken hearts are even easier because they’re milder in flavor than beef hearts. They’re also small and can be chopped up and hidden to be unrecognizable in dishes. James recommends slicing up chicken hearts and cooking them up as you would a mushroom.
The idea of cooking a large beef heart can be overwhelming. Ask your butcher if they can pre-slice your heart to eliminate the task of having to butcher it yourself.
James says beef heart jerky is also wonderful. Jerky will take on whatever flavor you marinate the meat in, and since it’s a muscle, the end result will be very similar to other homemade jerky.
I happen to love the flavor of heart, so my favorite way to cook it is to fry it up in butter and season it with salt.
Though beef tongue is technically a muscle and not an organ, it’s still consuming the animal nose to tail. The tongue is one of the most delicious cuts of meat on the animal, but you have to know how to handle it and prepare it well.
Most people don’t realize that boiling tongue for an hour to an hour and a half loosens the tough skin that can then be peeled away to reveal an extremely tender cut of beef. If you then sear that meat and season it up a bit, it will become a delicious, tender and crispy beef, perfect for taco night.
Defrosted liver has quite a unique (and somewhat unappetizing) texture. If you’re not used to it, it can be off-putting. James recommends keeping the liver frozen and simply grating it into your ground meats.
You likely won’t even notice that it’s there, but your body and palate will be getting used to it in smaller quantities.
I have tried to prepare kidneys many times and just can’t get past the smell. James’ recommendation is to keep it frozen and grate it into some ground meat. Or, instead of soaking it in milk, as I’ve done, soak it in buttermilk prior to cooking. This can help remove some of the unpleasant odor of the raw meat.
Why I Love Pluck
As soon as I heard about Pluck, I knew it was a product I could stand behind. However, I’ll be honest that I was very skeptical that it would actually taste good.
I went ahead and ordered some and was shocked when I found out I couldn’t even taste organ meats in the seasoning.
Pluck contains a combination of five organ meats (liver, kidney, spleen, heart and pancreas), and what you taste is a delicious blend of herbs and seasonings.
If you’re looking to add more nutrition and umami flavor to your diet, I highly recommend trying out Pluck. Shop all three delicious flavors of Pluck here, and be sure to use coupon code “EATHEALTHY” for 10% off your order at checkout.