21 Kinds Of Offal, Ranked By How Gross They Look (PHOTOS)

05/02/2013 10:34 am ET | Updated May 02, 2013
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Tripe, bone marrow and veal's tongue may have been unusual sights on upscale restaurant menus in 1993. But they aren't in 2013.

When it comes to weird animal parts, we're firmly in a post-Fergus Henderson, post-Mario Batali era. Nose-to-tail enthusiasts like April Bloomfield of The Spotted Pig, Chris Cosentino of Incanto and Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo of Animal now set the agenda. Our taste buds should thank them! Organ meats and strange muscles often taste much stronger and more distinctive than tenderloins and shoulders. They're often significantly cheaper, too.

I love eating offal as much as the next guy. But a bad dish of offal has a way of reminding me how gross and savage it can be to eat innards. Likewise, looking at pictures of offal -- just seeing how it looks, without the benefit of smell or taste to make it palatable -- tends to turn my stomach. With that in mind, here's a list of 21 commonly-eaten types of offal, ranked from the least disgusting-looking to the most disgusting-looking. In making this list, I tried to suspend all judgment about taste. This was all about the visuals -- so feast your eyes. (And, as ever, let us know if you disagree with the rankings, or have other random thoughts about offal, in the comments!)

21. Beef Cheek: This is kiddie offal. It barely makes it into the club. But it tastes so, so good. Like short ribs, but more tender!

veal cheek

20. Chicken Liver: The peanut butter of offal.

chicken liver

19. Pig Skin: We vote to ban football, so that there are more pig skins available for frying into chicharrones.

pig skin

18. Sweetbreads AKA Thymus & Pancreas: You like chicken nuggets? You'll like sweetbreads.

fried sweetbread

17. Oxtail: It gets a little dicey from here on out. This one has bones.

braised oxtail

16. Beef Tongue: Tastes tough, looks like well-done steak.

beef tongue

15. Calf Liver: Looks like really rare steak!

calf liver

14. Pig's Tail: OK this one looks gross raw, but I promise they turn into long chicken wings when you fry them. Or roast them. Or stew them.

pigs tails

13. Bone Marrow: Marrow is yummiest offal of them all. Unfortunately, it comes in a creepy packaging.

bone marrow

12. Veal Kidney: They basically look like sweetbreads, I admit. But kidneys? Ew.

veal kidney

11. Pork Trotter: That's a lot of bone.

pork trotter

10. Cow Heart: Pretty gruesome when it's whole, like in this picture. But when you eat it, you usually cut it into slices, so you can't really tell that it's a heart.

beef heart

9. Pig Ear: Delicious crunchy when deep-fried. (Like meat potato chips.) Not so scary-looking when julienned, as they usually are at dim sum restaurants or taco trucks. But when they're cooked and served whole? Those are for hearing. Very obviously.

pig ears

8. Duck Tongue: These are actually even worse than they look. There are bones inside.

duck tongues

7. Pig Lungs: Even the word "lungs" sounds yucky. And then they look like this.

offal lungs

6. Tripe: So close, yet so far, from the kind of honeycombs that bees make.

tripe

5. Pig's Snout: Pigs use these to root around in the mud.

pig snout

4. Duck Heart: These actually look super delicious in this photo. But think about what you're looking at for a moment. An aquatic bird used each round dollop of meat in that bowl to pump blood through its body.

duck heart

3. Calf's Brain: It's impossible to eat brain without feeling a little like a zombie.

offal

2. Lamb Face: Lamb face really loses us at rectangular-irised eyeballs.

lamb face

1. Raw Horse Heart, a la Vaes Dothrak: This offal is so gross that, if you can stomach it, you become a queen. You go, khaleesi!

horse heart

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