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What Are Gizzards? Unveiling the Nutritious World of This Unique Delicacy

Editorial Team
Updated Jan 31, 2024
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What are Gizzards?

Gizzards, the muscular stomachs found in birds, play a crucial role in their digestive process. According to West Texas A&M University, these specialized organs are essential for grinding up tough food materials, a task made necessary by the absence of teeth in avian species. Birds consume a varied diet, and the gizzard's function adapts accordingly; for instance, granivorous birds often ingest grit to aid in pulverizing seeds. Research indicates that the gizzard's force can be substantial, exerting up to 500 pounds per square inch of pressure to break down food. Understanding what gizzards are unveils the remarkable adaptations birds have evolved to thrive in diverse environments, highlighting the intricate connections between anatomy and diet in the animal kingdom.

Where Do Gizzards Come From?

Because birds don't have teeth, they must fill their stomach with small stones to achieve the same goal. The organ contains a very tough inner membrane, surrounded by a muscular pouch which provides the grinding action. Gizzards are part of the group of foods called offal, which also includes beef tripe, chitlins (pork intestines), and hearts. The gizzard is near, and part of, the stomach and digestive system for all birds.

Do All Birds Have Gizzards?

All birds have gizzards, though gizzards vary in size and structure from bird species to bird species. Some birds have gizzards that are thick and muscular. Other birds have thin-walled gizzards instead.

Birds with Thickly-Lined Gizzards

There are two primary types of gizzards. Some birds have thickly-lined gizzards, and others have thin-lined gizzards. Birds with thickly-lined gizzards include ducks, quail, turkeys, emus, doves, and others. These birds eat items with tough exteriors, like nuts and seeds. Because these birds sometimes pick up bits of gravel or sand, they need a tough gizzard that can endure the tough texture of these items. The gizzard collects these tough-textured items. The gizzard then pulverizes these items with digestible secretions from the bird. Owls also have tough gizzards, though an owl's gizzard functions differently than other birds with thickly-lined gizzards.

Owl Gizzards

Because owls swallow their prey hole, they need a gizzard to collect the nonedible parts of the prey. In an owl, the gizzard doesn’t pulverize the nonedible items, but rather it collects these items for the bird to later cough up as pellets. The gizzard acts as a holding place for bones, fur, and feathers. After the owl has digested the edible parts of its prey, the gizzard’s muscles contract and the owl coughs up the non-digestible items, or the pellets. Other birds don’t need a thickly-lined gizzard, but instead have thin-walled gizzards.

Birds with Thin-Walled Gizzards

Some birds don’t eat hard-textured items like nuts, seeds, or prey with bones and feathers. Certain birds stick to a diet of soft fruits, nectar, or soft-bodied insects, instead. These birds only need a very small and thin-walled gizzard on their diet of soft fruits, nectar, or soft-bodied insects. Hummingbirds, sunbirds, and honeyeaters only eat nectar, so they fall into the category of birds with thin-walled gizzards. Orioles, bluebirds, mockingbirds, and American robins are other birds that have thin-walled gizzards because of their diets.

Do Humans Have Gizzards?

A human’s digestive system is much different than a bird’s digestive system. Because of this, humans do not have gizzards. Humans have teeth, saliva, stomach acids, and intestines to help digest food. As stated earlier, birds do not have teeth, so birds have gizzards that help them digest their food. A gizzard acts almost like a second stomach for birds. This is something that humans don’t have or need.

How to Cook Gizzards

While many people may recoil at the thought of eating bird stomachs, gizzards are actually a popular food item around the world. The turkey gizzard is also included in the collection of neckbones, heart, and liver known as giblets. These giblets are often used to make a stock or broth for dressings and soups. The gizzards alone can also be added to soup stocks for additional flavor. Gizzards may be poached, boiled, ground, or even deep fried.

How to Clean Chicken Gizzards

Before you can prepare gizzards for any meal, you need to properly clean them. If the gizzard is covered in a layer of white fat, you will need to remove this first. Then, you can cut the gizzard to expose the yellow sack inside of the meat. Then, cut or pull the outer membrane away from the yellow sack, separating the yellow sack from the meat. This method works best if you’re working with a gizzard that’s been stored in the refrigerator. If you cut the gizzard open when it’s at room temperature, the yellow sack can rip, allowing dirt and debri to spill. Dip the gizzard into a bowl of water to clean and remove any substances from the gizzard.

How to Fry Chicken Gizzards

Deep fried chicken gizzards are commonly served in the southeastern region of the United States. They are usually available in bulk at local grocery store meat departments, along with other organ and offal meats such as chicken livers and souse. The organs are washed to remove any impurities, then heavily dredged in seasoned flour. Because gizzards are frequently prepared and cooked in the South, cajun spices are often used. These include salt, paprika, cayenne, onion powder, celery salt, pepper, garlic powder, cumin, and some Louisiana-style hot sauce. They are deep-fried at a very high heat for several minutes until done. Chicken gizzards are often served with honey mustard or barbecue sauce. Gizzards are also served with gravy, hot sauce, or even ranch.

How to Poach Gizzards

Once the gizzards are clean, you can poach, or boil, gizzards for tender stewed gizzards. First, season the clean gizzards with salt and pepper. You can let the gizzards sit in the salt and pepper mixture overnight in the fridge or for about ten minutes before cooking. Then, add the seasoned gizzards to boiling water and bring the water to a simmer. Let the gizzards simmer for about half an hour.

At this point, you can add seasonings to the water to add flavor to the gizzards. You can add anything from onions to Louisiana-style hot sauce to Cajun seasonings. Once you add these items, the gizzards will need to cook for an hour. Use a meat thermometer to ensure the gizzards are cooked. You can then serve the boiled gizzards over rice or mashed potatoes.

What Do Gizzards Taste Like?

The taste and texture of fried gizzards can be difficult to describe. They are definitely chewy, since they are primarily a membrane more than a muscle. The muscle tissue itself has a subtle flavor similar to chicken liver. Chicken livers and gizzards are often prepared together, but not seasoned identically. Gizzards are usually seasoned with salt, pepper and garlic salt, while livers are generously coated with Cajun spices and seasoned salt.

Are Chicken Gizzards Healthy?

Gizzards are organs, so they are high in protein and iron. Gizzards also contain many different vitamins, including vitamin B12. Gizzards are low in fat, which is another health benefit. The method of preparation for gizzards determines the overall health of the dish, even though gizzards have many health benefits to start. Fried gizzards are a southern favorite, but not necessarily the healthiest method of preparation.

To fry gizzards, people usually coat gizzards in white flour and spices, then put them in oil to cook. People usually label fried foods as unhealthy, so consider air frying, boiling, or baking gizzards instead. When you choose to air fry, boil, or bake gizzards, you could cut down on the amount of fat and calories in your meal. Baked, poached, boiled, or ground gizzards are likely healthier options when compared to fried gizzards.

Where to Find Chicken Gizzards

Gizzards are a popular food item among poorer countries because they are usually in high supply and are very affordable. Grocery stores usually pack chicken or turkey gizzards in bulk containers and offer them for sale by the pound or kilogram. Most large grocery stores will carry gizzards as well. Gizzards, usually from a chicken, can be found in the meat section of your local grocery store. You can also try to find gizzards at a butcher shop as well.

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Editorial Team
By Editorial Team
Our Editorial Team, made up of seasoned professionals, prioritizes accuracy and quality in every piece of content. With years of experience in journalism and publishing, we work diligently to deliver reliable and well-researched content to our readers.
Discussion Comments
By anon996440 — On Aug 29, 2016

I just defrosted chicken giblets. Having not thought twice, I fried the hearts, livers, kidneys and what I thought was a stomach, in a pan. After eating everything and leaving the "stomach" for last since it was my favorite. I was severely put off by the weird "crunchy" texture, It's so firm it feels like biting into a really dense sponge. It's the first time I ate it and I don't think I like it.

By anon949097 — On May 03, 2014

Just had a smoked turkey gizzard from Warren's Meats in Hays, KS. and it was tasty and rich in flavor. Must have been one happy turkey. Try it sometime. It reminded me of jerky, but that usually is for beef or deer.

By anon210174 — On Aug 29, 2011

@olittlewood: I would say using gizzards as a flavoring agent for broth is a good idea in general, since they're usually included with the whole turkey anyway and do contain a significant amount of flavor. If the thought of using chicken "stomachs" bothers you, make sure she removes them from the finished broth before serving. The other ingredients contained in that packet (neck, liver, heart) can impart flavors of their own, but may not mesh well with certain broth recipes. Livers can impart an unwanted bitterness, for example.

If using the gizzards for broth flavoring is completely off the menu, then you might be able to use chicken bouillon cubes or chicken seasoning packs from ramen noodle boxes to boost the flavor of the broth.

By anon140744 — On Jan 08, 2011

Harold's Chicken is a popular chicken place in Chicago. The best yet is the one in Homewood, IL and thye have great gizzards.

By anon129020 — On Nov 21, 2010

One Thanksgiving Eve i had cooked the giblets and now they are on my cutting board cooling a little so that i can chop them up to put into my stuffing.

Just then, my husband walked into the kitchen. Upon looking at the giblets he pointed to the gizzard and said "I know what everything is but one. He pointed to the gizzard and says, "That's not what i think it is, is it?" I said, "Yep. That's the turkeys testicles." Lord i laughed so hard!

He said, "You cooked them, too? You are not going to put them in the stuffing are you?" "Sure." i said, still laughing! He said, "Oh no you are not, you throw them out side for the dogs".

I threw them out and down the driveway they bounced. He says, "Oh my God!" and shut the door.

To this day i have never told him what they really are. That's my laughing secret! I just had to share this story with you.

By anon127173 — On Nov 15, 2010

i made some yesterday in the slow cooker and man they melted in my mouth. So loving my chicken stomachs (lol) with brown rice and gravy with vegetables. so freaking good.

By anon108884 — On Sep 04, 2010

The Swinging Doors in Spokane, Wa. has the best gizzards I have ever had in my life. They call them "Oven Broasted Gizzards". They are fried, baked, and roasted. Unlike most gizzards they are more tender and really easy to eat.

By anon79455 — On Apr 22, 2010

Spinx gas stations in upstate SC have pretty good livers and gizzards fast and cheap.

By anon61159 — On Jan 18, 2010

Golden Chicks have excellent gizzards. Don't know if they are in Beaumont, Texas but they are here in Mineola, Texas.

By anon52501 — On Nov 14, 2009

To anon, you could try KFC. Here in SC they offer a liver and gizzard dinner.

By anon32363 — On May 20, 2009

Where can you find already prepared Chicken Gizzards in Beaumont, Tx or the surrounding area?

By olittlewood — On Jan 01, 2008

do these really add that much to a broth? my mom always uses them to make broth to add to the drippings when making gravy for turkey. is there another way to impart the flavor without using the gizzards?

Editorial Team
Editorial Team
Our Editorial Team, made up of seasoned professionals, prioritizes accuracy and quality in every piece of content. With years of experience in journalism and publishing, we work diligently to deliver reliable and well-researched content to our readers.
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