How to Cook | How to Cook an Ox Tongue

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You rarely see tongue in butcher’s shops now yet any Irish childhood would be bereft without it. It was a staple of many an Irish tea in Summer where it was served with some soft butter lettuce leaves, a slice of tomato and sliced bread and butter. We watched it in the pot as it bubbled away as if it was an alien, but after your mother had prepared it, peeling away its skin to reveal a deep carmine-coloured meat, and sliced it, it took on an altogether different appearance.

What does ox tongue taste like?
Ox tongue has a buttery texture and a deep savoury flavour.

Where can you buy an ox tongue?
Buy a fresh ox tongue from any good butcher – you will probably need to order it. You’ll often find it ready-cooked and sliced in Marks and Spencers (in Ireland and the UK) if you want to try it before investing in a whole one. It’s expensive to buy that way – a few slices costs a few euro – whereas a whole ox tongue from a butcher weighs about 1kg and costs 7-8 euro according to James Kenny of the The Brown Pig Butchers in Terenure in Dublin who can see signs that it’s coming back into fashion again as people look for meaty cuts that are economical and low in fat.

How to Cook an Ox Tongue

1 ox tongue (they weigh about 1kg but they differ a little in size)
1 leek, cleaned, trimmed and cut into four
1 stick celery, halved
2 carrots, peeled and halved
2 bay leaves (dried or fresh)
10 whole black peppercorns
Good pinch of sea salt


1. Place the ox tongue in a large saucepan, add cold water to cover and bring to the boil. Remove the ox tongue to a plate, discard the water, clean the saucepan and add the ox tongue back to the pan. Add the rest of the ingredients, cover with cold water and bring to the boil again. Remove any white foam that rises to the surface with a spoon or paper towel.

2. Simmer the ox tongue at a gentle bubble for between 3 to 4 hours. It will depend on its size. To check whether it is done insert a sharp knife into the meat: it should slice through easily. Remove from the cooking liquid, use a small sharp knife to cut away the skin and discard it. Cut the tongue into thick slices if you are serving it warm or leave to cool to serve cold where you can slice it more thinly (and make it go further).

Keep the broth, leave it to cook and then freeze it in portion sizes. Use it to make soups instead of using stock cubes. It will keep frozen for up to 3 months.

Serve cooked hot ox tongue with Irish Potato Pancakes, Irish Boxty Pancakes,  or Irish Champ and Irish Parsley Sauce.

This recipe has been triple-tested in the gréatfood test kitchen.


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