How Do I Cook Calf Liver?

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison

To cook calf liver, you will typically have to start by preparing the surface of the liver so that it is as smooth as possible. You can then slice the liver thinly, coat it with some flour, and fry it in a pan, though sauteing works as well. You’ll need to make sure the meat has cooked enough to be safe for human consumption but not so much that it becomes dry and leathery. Though not required, many people serve this meat with cooked onions.

Southern cooks often saute calf liver and onions in a frying pan.
Southern cooks often saute calf liver and onions in a frying pan.

There is a bit of preparation required before you cook liver. If the membrane on the organ hasn’t been removed for you, you will need to take it off. Often, you can simply peel it away with your fingers, and then use a knife to remove any veins you see. You can cook the liver at this point if you wish, but you might choose to soak it in milk for several hours instead. This step isn’t mandatory, but many experts assert that it makes for more tender liver.

People often choose to cook calf liver in a frying pan. Cooking experts usually recommend cutting the liver in slices that are about a quarter of an inch (6.35 millimeters) thick. Slicing the meat is said to help reduce toughness and make it easier to ensure that liver is thoroughly cooked before you serve it. If the liver you have has a good deal of fat on it, you may do well to trim this off as well. You can then dip the slices in a bit of milk and coat them lightly in a small amount of flour before placing them in a hot frying pan to which you’ve added a couple of spoonfuls of oil.

Since you’re cooking this meat in slices, a few minutes of cooking on each side is usually enough. You will likely get an inkling that it is done when the outer coating turns a medium brown color. Most food safety experts recommend making sure the internal temperature of the meat reaches about 145° Fahrenheit (62.77° Celsius) before you serve it. The meat may still have a pinkish tinge to it at this point, but that is considered normal and doesn’t mean the meat has not cooked enough. If you cook it too long, the meat will likely become tough.

Many people eat calf liver topped with onions. If you want to prepare liver this way, you will need to peel and slice a large onion. You can then sauté the onions in a pan that has a small amount of butter or cooking oil in it. The goal in this case is to caramelize the onions, which means cooking them until they are browned and tender. Once the onions are ready, you can spoon them atop the calf liver before you serve it.

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison

Nicole’s thirst for knowledge inspired her to become a wiseGEEK writer, and she focuses primarily on topics such as homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. When not writing or spending time with her four children, Nicole enjoys reading, camping, and going to the beach.

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Discussion Comments


I have never been a fan of liver, and I've never seen it cooked in any way other than pan frying it with onions. My dad liked it occasionally, and just thinking about the smell of the liver cooking is enough to make me a little nauseated.

While I do eat meat, I absolutely, positively draw the line at organ meat. I don't eat "variety" meat in any form, period. Liver, heart, gizzard, kidney, tongue, sweetbreads -- none of it. Don't even ask.

I know people who have severe iron deficiency are advised to eat liver, since it is rich in iron, but I'd rather choke down the old fashioned beef, iron and wine tonic.

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