Why Are Chicken Gizzards So Tough ? It’s All In The Muscle

Chicken gizzards may not be everyone’s style, most folks can at least agree they make a great base for a chicken stock or gravy. So what if you’d like to incorporate them into a meal ? You clean and cook them, of course. But something’s just not right. You’d expect the gizzards to be the same texture as the rest of the chicken, but there they go, all tough and chewy. 

Why are chicken gizzards so tough ? And is there any way to tenderize them ? What are chicken gizzards anyway, and is there anything specific you should know about them ? And after cooking all those gizzards, can you freeze them and use them later ? All this and more, coming right up.

Cooking gizzards isn’t exactly easy, but it’s very rewarding if done right. So let’s see how to do that.

gizzard tough

Why are chicken gizzards so tough ?

Chicken gizzards are so tough because they are a heavily exercised muscle that’s meant to break down hard grains and chew the food for the animal. It’s also coated with a membrane on each side. One on the inside that is very rough and meant to withstand grains and rocks. On the outside, it has thick silverskin that will never fully cook and become tender, just like beef.

And just like beef, if you’re planning on getting it tender, you need to cook and simmer it until it gets very, very tender. Unlike beef, chicken gizzards can’t be eaten rare. Even if you did, the texture wouldn’t be as tender as beef.

Your only option is to cook them for a while. We’ll get to explaining how to do that in a couple of minutes. First, let’s see some really useful tips on cooking gizzards in general, whether they be chicken, duck, turkey, or alligator (yes !).

Always remove the silverskin on gizzards

Silverskin is the bane of any beautiful roast. The thicken the silverskin, the more annoying it is to eat your meal. You can boil, simmer, cook, broil the meat until the silverskin starts to soften, but that takes hours. It’s a ridiculously thick and sturdy membrane. Which is useful while the animal is alive, to keep its muscles together and working well.

Read also: Can You Reheat Pancakes ?

But once it’s on your plate, it becomes a nuisance. So we recommend getting a sharp, thin knife and trimming off the silverskin as much as possible. We recommend cutting the gizzard in two, and then cutting along the side. If you don’t get all the silver skin, that’s fine, but get the very white, thick part.

Remember that gizzards shrink when cooked, a whole lot. 

Always remove the yellow inner lining on gizzards

Another membrane, just like the silverskin, is on the inside of the gizzards. On most gizzards, it’s already removed, but maybe you’ve got a whole bird and have to do this by hand. So there is the inner lining of the gizzards, it looks yellowish and wrinkly. If your gizzard is whole, you’ll have to cut it open to get to it. 

You can peel off the membrane by tugging on one side and it should start to separate from the muscle. If it doesn’t try to help it a little with the sharp point of a knife. It should not be too difficult to do.

Most of the time you’ll find gizzards already cut and cleaned

If you’re handling gizzards that come from a tub, then they’re likely already cut and cleaned for you, with only the silverskin left on the outside. In this case all you need to do is to rinse them in cold water, check for any debris, and then remove the silverskin.

If your bird is whole, with only the giblets and feet removed and stuffed inside, then you will need to cut it open. It looks fairly round, and will be tough.

You need a very sharp knife to cut through it. You can either cut it in two separate halves, or stop midway and let it keep a sort of butterfly shape, it’s up to you.

But you’re very likely to find grit, bits of chicken feed, a bit of grass, and a few tiny rocks inside the gizzard. This wont look pretty, but it is very easy to clean under cold running water. Be sure to really rub into the yellow membrane to get all of the debris out. Do this even if you’re removing the membrane at the end, the debris may stick to the muscle. Remember to trim off the silverskin.

Again, this is very likely not the case for most commercial gizzards, especially if they come packed with hearts as well.

Gizzards are meant to ‘chew’ the chicken’s food

Alright but why are gizzards so darn strange ? Well, they’re meant to ‘chew’ the bird’s food, in a way. Birds have no teeth to grind down their grains, so they swallow them whole and they pass their real stomach, and go right into the gizzard. There the very tough muscle will grind down the grains. Often the birds will eat bits of sand, grit, and tiny rocks to get extra minerals and help the gizzard break down their food.

The food then passes back into the stomach, it gets digested a little, then back into the gizzard, and back into the stomach, and so on. This is a lengthy process, much the same way herbivores chew cud and pass their food through different cavities until they finally absorb the nutrients.

So, the gizzard of a chicken (or any domestic bird for that matter) is going to be extra tough, because it’s a hard-worked muscle. The same way the older cattle provide tougher cuts of beef, a gizzard is a tougher meat because it’s constantly moving. There is no fat in gizzards, not a drop of fat marbling to help keep it tender.

To be fair, it isn’t to be tender on our plates, it’s to break down hard grains and whatever else the chicken eats. So, it needs extensive cooking times to get it fully tender. 

How do you get tender chicken gizzards ?

The best way to get tender chicken gizzards is to cook them for a long time, or broil them, or cook them in a pressure cooker. Whichever method you use, the gizzards need lots of heat and/or pressure to loosen the muscle fibers.

This means that those nice breaded chicken gizzards, tender inside and crispy outside, are a real piece of work. They’re not raw, coated in crumbs, and then fried for 5 minutes. You get a tough, chewy gizzard them. No, you need to cook them thoroughly, and only then you’ll get some nice, tender gizzards.

Even so, after boiling and simmering for about an hour, you need to remove the gizzards from the heat, pat them dry, let them cool completely. And only afterwards can you dunk them in egg and bread crumbs, and then fry them.

How do you know when chicken gizzards are done ?

You’ll know your chicken gizzards are done and good to eat when a fork can pierce them easily. It doesn’t have to be on the membrane side, because even the rest of the muscle is tough and a good indicator. Don’t use a sharp knife since that will have a much easier time.

If your form pierces the gizzards easily, then it’s time to turn off the heat. Depending on how you’re cooking them, this could be anywhere between 30 to 60 minutes. If using a pressure cooker, then half an hour should be enough for a pound, maybe even a bit over a pound.

If you’re simply boiling and then simmering, you need at least an hour. So if you’re making something like a stew or gumbo, where you have to let the food simmer for hours on end, the gizzards will surely be done.

Can you freeze cooked chicken gizzards ?

Yes, you can freeze cooked gizzards, and this will actually help tenderize them even more. You see when meat freezes, the moisture inside each cell expands a little, breaking the cell walls. This is why veggies are mushy after they’ve been frozen, and why meat changes texture after it’s been frozen.

In the case of gizzards, this is actually beneficial, because when you thaw them they’ll be a little softer and tender. This works better with gizzards that have never been frozen though. And we recommend using gizzards that are plain, in that they’re not spiced or part of a meal. Just gizzards that have been simmered simply to make your life easier the next time you want to deep fry them or add them to a meal.

When freezing chicken gizzards make sure to pat them dry very well, then use an airtight container. And that’s pretty much it ! Gizzards are a really tough meat, but they have so much flavor in them it’s a shame not many people love them. Now you know why they usually end up tough, and how to get yours tender. 

If you’ve got any other food curiosities, be sure to check the related articles below, we’re always adding more food facts to make your life that much easier.