What's Next in Nose-to-Tail Cooking? Testicles

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Ian Knauer


Nose-to-tail eating is an ethos that embodies political correctness. Who can't get behind the idea of using every part of an animal? Sure, every skinny-jean-wearing hipster with this month's issue of Edible Wherever tucked under his arm can settle into a pork jowl or trotter and take one for the Fergus Henderson team. The added bonus is that pork jowls and trotters (when cooked the right way) are delicious. So eating this way is a bit like going to church only twice a year, on Easter and Christmas. You can put in your time and feel good about yourself, everyone sees you there, and it doesn't hurt too much.

But who really practices true nose-to-tail eating? How many among us delight in brain, or tendon, or testicles? These nasty bits, although they have a small following, often go ignored. But in the religion of head to tail, it's the brains and balls that promote the eater from politically correct do-gooder to enlightened food guru. And, for the record, balls (when cooked the right way) are delicious.

This is the time of year when I open my freezer and find strange body parts, like deer testicles. There are a few tricks and techniques that come in handy when cooking them. As with anything, the key to cooking testicles is understanding the ingredient. Testicles (and this shouldn't be surprising) are naturally salty. They also (and this is always surprising) tend to explode. I learned the latter the hard way when my friend Alan Sytsma roasted two pairs a few years ago. Four balls went into the oven; three balls came out. After that incident, I did a little research. This post is about sharing that knowledge with you as a way to help with your journey toward transcendence.

Testicles have two membranes that surround the glands. The outer membrane encases the balls—a sack, if you will. Kitchen sheers help to cut through the tough tissue which can then be peeled back and torn away from the inner membrane. This inner membrane (tunica albuginea, for those of you following along in your copy of Gray's Anatomy) is what makes the balls explode when they are heated. It can shrink rapidly when it comes in contact with heat, forcing its contents (the actual gland) to shoot all over the inside of your oven. To avoid this (and you want to avoid this), the inner membrane needs to be punctured, allowing it to shrink away from the testicle.

Here's a video demonstrating the peeling, puncturing, roasting, and slicing of a pair of deer testicles. It features Trent, Steve, Greg, and Elvis.

If you've come as far as where the video begins, then the hard work is done. Bread and fry the slices of balls as you would prepare fried green tomatoes. Most importantly, you can feel good about yourself as an eater knowing that none of an animal has gone to waste. Welcome to true food enlightenment; feel free to bask in the salinity.

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Ian Knauer is a former Gourmet test kitchen cook, and he wrote extensively for Gourmet and Gourmet.com until the close of the brand in late 2009. More

Ian Knauer joined Gourmet in 2001 and became one the cooks in the Gourmet test kitchens. He wrote extensively for Gourmet and Gourmet.com until the close of the brand in late 2009. He now contributes to several food-related publications, including his own blog, and when not in a kitchen, he is either hunting, fishing, tending his beehives, or foraging for dinner wherever it can be found.
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