Turkish fried beef liver (ciğer tava) is absolutely delicious! I can never resist these golden-brown cubes of liver that are shallow-fried until just tender. The sharpness of lemon juice and the heat of spices are the perfect counterpoints to the slightly sweet flesh of the fried beef liver.
Plus this version of the traditional recipe, also called arnavut ciğeri (Albanian-style fried liver), is served with fried potatoes (and an onion or white bean salad if I have enough time), so it really feels like an amazing treat to have fried beef liver for dinner! If all of this is not enough to entice you to give offals a shot, I don’t know what will!
LONG LIVE OFFALS
Eating offals was a rare occurrence while growing up. My dad would not serve offals for dinner, but if some pieces ever came with the chicken and rabbits he bought to make stews he would never throw them. He would always pan-fry them in a bit of butter and serve them sprinkled liberally with salt and a good grind of black pepper. Simple but delicious. Living in Turkey for a few years really opened my eyes to whole new ways of cooking offals! Liver, brain, lungs and all but my favorite still remain this fried beef liver recipe.
TO COOK IT PAST MEDIUM OR TO NOT COOK IT PAST MEDIUM
Eating liver is genuinely good for you, nutrition-wise. Sure I’m frying mine, but oh well, fat is good for your taste buds-wise so you win some you lose some. Liver, like most offals, is also super cheap! Especially beef liver, as calf/veal and lamb livers can be a bit more pricey (but they are milder tasting so if you’re a beginner when it comes to offals, they might be a good option).
We can’t deny that liver has a bad rep, which in my opinion is totally unwarranted. It’s all due to people who overcook it. As a French cook, I feel the need to say that you shouldn’t cook liver past medium or it will become tough. You need some pink in there. I would err on the side of caution and undercooked (the residual heat keeps on cooking the liver once removed from the pan). I would suggest being attentive while frying. Don’t hesitate to cut a piece of fried beef liver to check the color inside, because in seconds the flesh can turn from moussy pink tones to grey. And when cooked liver ends up grey, no amount of lemon juice, spices and tasty side dishes will hide its grainy rubbery texture.
However, this is a Turkish recipe and if you happened to serve offal with still a little bit of pink in there to a Turkish person they will absolutely not eat it. So to be truthful to Turkish fried beef liver, the cooking times reflected in the recipe are for liver cooked the way it would be in Turkey (definitely well-done). If you want medium-cooked fried beef liver, I would fry the pieces for 15 seconds less.
A DIFFERENT KIND OF CIĞER
Shopping at the bazaar can be a tiring business and taking a break to restore yourself with a tiny cup of tea, coffee, or salep (an unctuous warm milk-based beverage made from orchid tubers) is pretty much de rigueur. But taking the time to stop to have a bite is what was really motivating me to actually go to the bazaar in the first place (I don’t like crowds). I would sometimes try a new place to eat with my friends, but there were spots I loved to go to.
One particular place was a tiny tiny restaurant on the outskirts of Kemeralti bazaar that I would have totally overlooked if it wasn’t for my in-laws. They took me there one day as they were regular patrons and that’s where I first tasted Turkish fried beef liver! This family-owned restaurant only served fried beef liver, more specifically the yaprak ciğer kind. Yaprak ciğer is a specialty from Edirne (a city located in the northwest of Turkey, neighboring Greece & Bulgaria) where the owner was from. You can read more about the restaurant here.
The main difference with yaprak (leaf) ciğer is that the offal is cut very thinly before being cooked. We’re talking 5mm (⅕ in) thin, even thinner than that if you can. I don’t have the patience to cut the liver so thinly and I also find yaprak ciğer to be more difficult to cook. They are so thin that they cook quite quickly, not leaving you much wiggle room. If you want to make yaprak ciğer, slice the meat as thinly as possible and cook the fried beef liver for no more than 45 seconds to 1 min maximum.
🠒 FIRST PREPARE THE POTATOES
- Dice the peeled potatoes into 1.5cm (⅔ in) cubes.
- Soak them in cold water for 30 min in a large bowl. Drain and dry them thoroughly.
- Heat the oil in a large saucepan over high heat to 170°C (340°F). Fry the potatoes, in 2 batches, until tender with a crisp exterior, about 8 min.
- Transfer the cubed potatoes to a plate lined with several layers of paper towels.
🠒 NEXT PREPARE THE LIVER
- Mix the flour, salt, cumin and black pepper in a large bowl.
- Slice the liver into 3cm (1 in) pieces, about 1.5cm (⅔ in) thick.
- Toss the liver slices in the seasoned flour until coated.
- Shake off the excess flour.
🠒 LASTLY, FRY THE LIVER
- Make sure the oil is still at 170°C (340°F). Fry the liver, in 2 batches, for 1 min 15. They will darken and get crispy corners.
- Using a slotted spoon remove the fried beef liver from the pan to a serving dish lined with paper towels.
THE MILK HACK
To soften the taste of liver you can soak the slices of liver in a large bowl filled with 500ml (2 cups) of milk for 2h (or up to 24h). This will drain excess blood and remove part of the liver’s bitterness. Drain and pat dry thoroughly before coating the slices with the seasoned flour and frying. To be perfectly frank, in my experience this step has never converted a liver-hater into someone who could actually enjoy fried beef liver. And I’ve tried it with many of my friends. Liver is still liver in the end. I quite enjoy the taste of it so now I skip that soaking step altogether.
Turkish fried beef liver is often topped with whole dried red chilies that have been fried for a few seconds. I only bit into one once, and I’m still mad at my husband for coaxing me into it. You can try it at your own risk but I’ll advise having plenty of ayran (a yogurt-based drink) close at hand to cool things down.
Beef liver can turn green due to bile leaching out from the gallbladder or due to oxidation (liver coming into contact with oxygen). It might not look aesthetically pleasing but your liver will still be safe to eat! As long as your liver is fresh (don’t let it stand in the fridge for more than 48h before cooking), firm (as firm as that jiggly organ can be) and doesn’t smell like rotten eggs, you’ll be fine!
FRESH IS BEST
Fried beef liver can be frozen in as much as you can technically stick anything in your freezer. However, the texture will turn crumblier once thawed. And since there is no way of properly reheating the fried beef liver without causing it to overcook I wouldn’t bother. You could eat the thawed chopped liver cold in salads or blitz it to make liver pâté but as it wouldn’t make optimum salads or pâté I wouldn’t bother with freezing.
Looking for other Turkish meat dishes? Here are some of my favorites:Print
Turkish fried beef liver is absolutely delicious! Lemon juice and a dash of spices are the perfect counterpoints to the slightly sweet liver.
For the fried beef liver:
- 2 medium-sized starchy potatoes, such as Russets or King Edwards
- frying oil, I used about 700ml (3 cups) of peanut oil
- 50g all-purpose flour (⅓ cup)
- 1 tsp fine sea salt
- 2 tsp ground cumin, heaped
- ½ tsp black pepper, freshly ground
- 500g beef liver, or lamb or veal liver
- 1 lemon, quartered
- ground cumin
- Aleppo pepper (pul biber), or use another type of chili flakes
- dried red chilies (optional)
- Prepare the potatoes. Peel the potatoes and wash them under running water. Dice the potatoes into 1.5cm (⅔ in) cubes and put them into a big bowl. Cover them with cold water and let them soak for 30 min. Drain the cubed potatoes in a colander and dry them thoroughly between several layers of paper towels.
- Fry the potatoes. Heat a large saucepan over high heat no more than a third full with oil to 170°C (340°F), or until a cube of bread browns in 30 seconds. Lower the temperature to medium-high. Gently place half of the potatoes in the hot oil and fry for 7 to 8 min, stirring them often with a slotted spoon. Once cooked (they should be tender with a crisp exterior and have specks of brown), transfer the potatoes to a plate lined with several layers of paper towels to drain. Check the oil temperature and wait if needed until it heats up to the right temperature again. Fry the rest of the potatoes following the same method.
- Prepare the liver. While the potatoes are cooking, pat dry the liver between several layers of paper towels to remove the excess blood. Slice the liver into 3cm (1 in) pieces, about 1.5cm (⅔ in) thick. If you decide to cut thicker chunks, you’ll have to increase the cooking time. Mix the flour, salt, cumin and black pepper in a large bowl. Toss the liver slices in the seasoned flour until coated. Shake off the excess flour. Don’t dredge the liver chunks in advance or the chunks will absorb the flour and they’ll stick together if they touch. Do this step just before frying the liver. Line a serving dish with several layers of paper towels.
- Fry the liver. Bring the oil back at 170°C (340°F) once you are ready to cook the liver. Gently place half of the liver slices in the hot oil and fry for 1 min 15, giving them a stir midway through frying. They will darken and get crispy corners. Overcooked liver really isn’t nice. It’s dry, tough and chewy, so stick around while frying. If you want to make sure that the liver pieces are safe to eat, remove one piece and check the internal temperature with the thermometer. It should be over 65°C (150°F). If you don’t have a thermometer, cut the piece. If it’s still red inside, keep frying for 15 seconds more and check again. Use the slotted spoon to remove the liver from the pan to the serving dish. Cook the remaining liver in the same fashion, making sure first that the oil is at the right temperature. The fried beef liver will look golden brown just after frying but it will darken while cooling down.
- Serve. Scatter the cubed potatoes over the liver and quickly serve. Let everyone sprinkle extra cumin, some chili flakes and a good drizzle of lemon juice over their own plates. If you want to serve the dried red chilies alongside this meal, fry them in hot oil for 30 seconds beforehand.
If you are worried about the potatoes getting cold while you fry the liver, you can keep them warm in a low oven. After draining them, place the cubed potatoes on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Place the tray in an oven preheated to 120°C (250°F). However since you only need a few minutes to cook the liver slices I usually don’t bother with this!
- Serving Size: 1 generous plate
- Calories: 632
Keywords: offal meat, turkish meat recipes, nose to tail recipes