It’s hard to get excited about giblets. The seemingly suspect bird parts—which often come in a paper bag tucked inside the body cavity of a raw chicken or turkey carcass—aren’t the kind of ingredients that home cooks are known to celebrate. Most people, I imagine, just throw them away, or simply forget to remove them altogether. But that is a grave mistake. Before I explain why, however, here is a short primer on what exactly giblets are.
Giblets—the word is pronounced with a soft g—is the collective term for a few specific chicken or turkey organs that may initially seem gross but are useful to cook with: the liver, heart and gizzard, which is just a part of the stomach. The neck is also included, though it isn’t an organ—and in some instances the kidneys are thrown in for good measure, but this doesn’t happen all that frequently.
This assortment of offal may turn you off, and I won’t blame you if that’s the case. Still, you don’t have to be Fergus Henderson, the English chef who is known for pioneering nose-to-tail cooking, to appreciate giblets. They’re not universally applicable across the culinary spectrum, of course, but you can add them to enough recipes—or simply eat them on their own—that they are worth holding on to rather than discarding when you pull them from the depths of your bird.
Most commonly, home cooks use giblets, nutrient-rich and high in protein, on Thanksgiving as the base for a deeply flavorful gravy. Simmered in a stock and then chopped into small bits, giblets give a rich, funky, taste to deglazed pan drippings that, with the addition of some flour, can be whisked into a delicious gravy.
But there is no reason why you can’t cook with them outside the confines of Thanksgiving. Giblets can also be used to enhance a stock that you don't necessarily need to make a gravy with—which is why you should save and freeze your giblets in a plastic bag or Tupperware container if you don’t intend to cook with them immediately. That way, when the mood strikes, you can defrost your bounty and go to town.
What else can you do with them? Use your imagination. A lot of meals can benefit from diced, cooked giblets—you can add them to ragù or chili, for instance, if you are feeling experimental. Or you can throw them into meatloaf, say, for an added kick. Personally, though, I believe that the best way to eat giblets is whole and on their own. They’re a perfect amuse-bouche to serve your more adventurous guests before dinner—that is, if you happen to be making chicken or turkey. One little chicken heart, pan-fried and then skewered on a toothpick, is an exquisite appetizer.
So the next time you pull out that bag of giblets, think twice before you discard it. You’ll be throwing away a delicacy if you do.
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