You Should Grill More Chicken Hearts

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Photo: Claire Lower
Photo: Claire Lower

I have never shied away from a visceral meat-eating experience. I find eating bone-in chops and steaks, offal, and even a literal face all deeply enjoyable. Bone-in steaks are a little pricey for everyday consumption, and faces take a lot of prep — but chicken hearts are cheap, easy to skewer, unchallenging to cook, and surprisingly versatile. Plus they’re offaly good.

You can buy a few grams of chicken hearts for around a buck fifty, perhaps even less, depending on where you buy your meat. (I got mine at an Asian grocery store for $1 per kilo.) You can ask your butcher to clean them, or you can trim away excess fat and little arterial bits yourself. I leave most of the fat, but trim the arteries. (They are easy to spot; they look like little white tubes.)

Once cleaned, you can marinate or not marinate — they’re good either way, and I really appreciate that about them. They’re the perfect last-minute, bite-sized meaty morsel for rounding out your grilled menu, and whether you give them mere moments of attention, or offer them the luxury of a 24-soak in a flavorful marinade, they turn out great.

The marinade does not need to be elaborate. I find an equal amount of soy sauce and vinegar (either sherry or apple cider) with three tablespoons of sugar works quite well. (These are also good.) Just an hour in the sweet and tangy liquid is enough to thoroughly flavour the hearts, but you can leave them in for a full 12. You can also skip a soak entirely, and flavour with a rub, but you can keep it even simpler than that. The flavour of chicken hearts is dark and steaky but not gamey, the texture pleasantly chewy, and all it takes is a heavy sprinkling of kosher salt to accentuate both of these qualities.

To cook your hearts, skewer them on (soaked) bamboo or metal skewers, and get your grill nice and hot (turn it up high). Cook the hearts for about three minutes each side, any longer and the tough little pumpers can go from chewy to rubbery. (I err on the side of caution, and taste a sample heart the moment it gets some colour on it.) Serve immediately, with or without a brush of your favourite sauce — BBQ and Teriyaki are both fun — and pull them off the skewer with your teeth. A skewer is not a bone, but eating them this way still feels quite primal.

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