The average grocery shopper may have never even heard of chicken gizzards — despite how nutritious and affordable they are. After overlooking them in the meat department for too long, it's time to finally learn how to cook chicken gizzards so you can add them to your weekly rotation.
Read more: Is Baked Chicken Breast Healthy?
What Are Chicken Gizzards?
A chicken gizzard is a small but strong organ found in the digestive tract of a chicken. The organ is responsible for grinding up ingested food before it makes its way to the bird's intestines.
The chewy and tough gizzards have a more peculiar flavor than breast meat but taste similar to dark meat.
Are Chicken Gizzards Healthy?
Chicken gizzards are one of the most nutritious parts of the chicken. A 3.5-ounce serving contains 154 calories, 2.7 grams of fat, 0.7 grams of saturated fat and an impressive 30 grams of protein, according to the USDA.
"Protein is essential in repairing tissue, carrying oxygen in the blood and helps with immunity," Cynthia Lanzillotto, RD at Bloomberg LP in New York City, tells LIVESTRONG.com. And if you're someone looking to manage your weight, protein is vital because it helps keep you satiated and build and repair muscles, according to an August 2012 study in the British Journal of Nutrition.
Read more: How Much Protein Is Right For You?
Gizzards also contain a variety of vitamins and minerals including B12, iron, phosphorus, zinc, selenium and niacin. "Vitamin B12 plays a role in the healthy function of the brain and nervous system," Lanzillotto explains, adding that iron is vital in making sure that our red blood cells can transport oxygen throughout the body.
Phosphorus helps remove waste from our kidneys and is involved in bone formation, Lanzillotto notes, and zinc, mostly known for its immune-boosting benefits, also helps cell growth and wound healing. Niacin plays a part in converting macronutrients into energy utilized by the body, she adds.
Another benefit of chicken gizzards? They contain selenium, a mineral that is typically difficult to obtain from food. "Selenium plays a role in the production of thyroid hormones," Lanzillotto says.
Read more: How to Properly Take Vitamins
How Do Chicken Gizzards Compare to Other Parts of the Bird?
When comparing chicken gizzards to other chicken byproducts such as the heart and liver, the gizzards have the least amount of saturated fat and nearly as much protein as the liver, according to an April 2015 study published in the Korean Journal for Food Science of Animal Resources. "We need fat in the diet to properly absorb different vitamins; however, too much saturated fat is associated with cardiovascular disease," Lanzillotto says.
The April 2015 study also found that the liver contained the highest levels of essential amino acids, which are amino acids the body can't produce on its own. Runners up were the gizzards and the heart.
Chicken gizzards and other internal organs also contain more B vitamins compared to muscle tissue (such as chicken thighs). Plus, gizzards boast more energy-boosting heme iron than chicken breast does.
How to Cook Chicken Gizzards
Chicken gizzards are tough, fibrous and not very flavorful on their own. But a few simple cooking methods can help you transform them into tender and delicious edibles, equally enjoyable on their own or added to other dishes.
Claudia Sidoti, head chef and recipe developer at HelloFresh, breaks down the five best cooking methods below.
How to Bake Chicken Gizzards
- Cut the gizzards in half.
- Season lightly with salt, pepper, herbs and preferred spices.
- Drizzle with olive oil.
- Bake at 500 degrees for just under 30 minutes or until the gizzards are browned.
How to Barbecue Chicken Gizzards
- Marinate the chicken gizzards with a marinade of your choice. Sidoti recommends a sweet and sour sauce or a gingery spiced sauce.
- Slide the gizzards onto soaked skewers, alternating with red or green peppers.
- Heat the grill to high.
- Place the kebabs on the grill and brush with your marinade.
- Grill for 12 to 15 minutes and flip frequently. Gizzards should look slightly crisp around the edges and the peppers slightly charred.
- Insert a thermometer into the gizzards to ensure they reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
How to Cook Chicken Gizzards in a Slow Cooker
- Rinse the gizzards.
- Place chopped carrots, onions and peppers (or other veggies of your choice) into the bottom of your slow cooker.
- Place the gizzards on top.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Pour beef or chicken broth in the slow cooker, coating everything throughout.
- Cover and cook on low for four hours.
How to Braise Chicken Gizzards
- Season the gizzards with salt and pepper.
- Grab a large pot and drizzle with olive oil.
- Sear the gizzards until brown.
- Remove the gizzards and add in onion and garlic.
- Add more oil if needed and cook until the veggies are golden.
- Add the gizzards back to the pot and add white wine.
- Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil.
- Turn heat to low and simmer, then cover and cook for four to five hours. Gizzards should be tender when inserting a fork.
How to Fry Chicken Gizzards
- Place gizzards, onion, celery and celery salt in a saucepan and add enough water to cover the gizzards by about an inch.
- Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until the gizzards are tender, about three hours.
- Remove the gizzards and discard the celery and onion. Make sure to reserve the broth.
- Season the gizzards with celery salt, salt, pepper, garlic powder, hot sauce and cumin.
- Pour saved broth over the gizzards and refrigerate for a minimum of 30 minutes. Stir often.
- Heat frying oil in a large pan until oil starts crackling.
- Place flour in a plastic bag and put the gizzards inside. Shake the bag to coat the gizzards with flour.
- Gently add about half of the gizzards to the hot pan and fry until golden brown, about five minutes.
- Drain on paper towels and serve hot.
- NCBI: "Characterization of Chicken By-Products by Mean of Proximate and Nutritional Compositions"
- NCBI: "Dietary Protein — Its Role in Satiety, Energetics, Weight Loss and Health"
- USDA National Nutrient Database: "Basic Report: 05024, Chicken, Gizzard, All Classes, Cooked, Simmered"
- HelloFresh: "Claudia Sidoti"