Scrambled Brains Recipe (2024)

Why It Works

  • The brain's texture is creamy but firm, like overly curdled yogurt or lumpy tofu.
  • Scrambled eggs are gently folded in the brain and cooked until just set, but still soft.

I began an apprenticeship atFleisher's Meat Shopin Kingston, New York, that started with a single premise: CouldJoshua Applestoneand his team of butchers teach me, your humble columnist, to break down a pig in one week or less? It took me a week to learn how to butcher a pig, but what I couldn't have anticipated are the months I needed to recover from my time upstate.

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What started as a simple goal became aturning point in my meat-obsessed life.I loved everything about butchery: the sound of cracking bones and cartilage, the thrill of digging my fingers into inches of pristine fatback and feeling all that creamy fat lodging deep within my nails. I loved the aroma of raw meat: fresh, feral, and bloody all at once. And when giant hunks of aged steak were pulled out of the freezer, I loved to lean in and inhale the smells of meat mastery at its finest.

I loved it so much, in fact, that my return to the city was almost unbearable. Like thepounds of leaf lardI so enjoy rendering, I myself experienced a meat meltdown. The kind of meltdown that had me wandering around my apartment every morning in my robe, drinking too many cups of coffee and all the while wondering, "How come I'm not at Fleischer's breaking down more pigs?"

The most difficult thing about going through ameat meltdownis the meat that taunts you. For a few weeks I took my version of a meat hiatus and scaled down to eating meat only twice or thrice a week. But everywhere I looked, I saw intimations of meat. People on the subway could be broken down into primals. Long, slim Japanese eggplants looked like purple sausages. And when I finally allowed myself to eat animals, my hunger was insatiable. Each week became worse and worse. I hit a low point three weeks ago when, faced with a very large and delicious hunk of pastrami that Ed had given me,I took the entire piece of pastrami to bed and ate the whole thing between fat slices of rye.The crumbs fell into the covers but instead of getting up to sweep them away, I let them lie there with me as I napped.

Nothing felt quite as real to me as the store and the people who make the place so unique. It would only be a minor exaggeration to claim thatFleisher's sells the best-tasting meat in the country,but then again, Fleisher's is no ordinary butcher shop. It supplies meat to superstar chefs like Dan Barber. It's been featured in countless books and magazines. (Ever heard of Julie Powell andCleaving?Yes, that was Fleisher's as well.)

"To call Fleisher's a traditional shop, however, would be to underestimate the extraordinary things that take place in the shop on a daily basis."

The owners, Jessica and Joshua Applestone, insist that what they've accomplished at Fleisher's is no different than what butchers have been doing for centuries. Breaking down animals that arrive at the shop in whole, halves and quarters, and selling all manner of cuts, is certainly a practice in butchery that has been overtaken only in recent decades by stytrofoamed packed, factory-farmed meat. To call Fleisher's a traditional shop, however, would be to underestimate the extraordinary things that take place in the shop on a daily basis. Fleisher's is a store, but it's also a meat university, a place where the art of butchering is discussed, demonstrated and above all, practiced.

Learning from Hans, the Master Butcher

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Scrambled Brains Recipe (3)

I'm finally ready to talk about meat. I learned so much in my time at Fleisher's, and though I need to return to continue my education in lamb and beef, I have a pretty solid grounding in pig now. It may take Josh a cool47 seconds to break down a half side of pigand me, several hours, but no matter. I can look at a half side of pig and instead of being overwhelmed by the sheer mass of a very large animal, I see bacon and hams, whole loin roasts and shoulders.

My tutelage began underHans,a German gentleman from Bavaria who'd been a master butcher at theCulinary Institute of Americafor two decades prior to coming to Fleisher's. His directions were gentle but firm; his speech bears the signs of his Bavarian heritage, such as, "Chichi, you are putting your knife in the wrong direction to remove the teender-loin. Put it dere. See vat I mean?"

A spry man in his sixties, Hans is quite tall. He has a son who's a professional football player, yet Hans himself is lean rather than muscular. Fond of plaid shirts and sauerkraut, Hans displays a quiet, assured strength that's the closest I've ever witnessed to the zen of butchery. With neither strength nor weakness,Hans wields his knife like it's an extension of his hand.There is an eerie continuity between the two, as if Hans is not leading his knife but the other way around.

With X-ray acuity, Hans can separate joints with a subtle twist of his wrist.He can make the trotter tumble away from the hock by pointing the tip of his knife into the joint connecting the two and giving it one deft twist with his wrist. Once, when the shop was perfectly still, I heard the faintest pop of air as he inserted his knife into the joint, smoothly carving around the joint. It took me several pigs to successfully insert the tip of my knife into the joint. Doing so in the beginning felt like desperate jabs in the dark, but when I finally managed, I felt a jolt of assurance in my palm when the tip of the knife went cleanly in.

"Following the sinews is quite a bit like following a roadmap of meat."

A lot has been written about the composition of meat—that, contrary to the common conception of meat as an impenetrable composite, flesh is in fact stitched together by collagen and tissue, by sinews that are plainly visible on the cutting table. Following the sinews is quite a bit like following a roadmap of meat. The muscular groups on the hind leg of a pig are not much different than that of the cow; both kinds of legs can be taken apart and put back together again in discrete masses of flesh.

One of the first tasks Hans had me work on wastaking apart a pig's hind leg and putting it back together again.The hind leg is composed of a few cuts: the top round, bottom round, the eye of round, and the knuckle. A few deft slashes of the knife will separate the leg into these parts. It took me the better part of an hour to get the hang of using my knife, during which time Hans had started to break down a whole lamb.

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Each time I looked up from my station Hans had further fabricated the lamb. In the beginning he manually sawed off the head with a large bandsaw and set it aside. I looked down at the head and was struck by its alien nature, so angular and narrow underneath the guise of skin and wool. A lamb's tongue, gray and flaccid, often hangs out of the mouth between perfectly neat rows of tiny teeth. My mouth watered thinking of confited tongue.

When lunchtime neared, I handed the lamb's head back to Hans.

"Let's have the brains," I said.

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A real butcher shop may be the one place in the world where I will never have to explain what I love to eat.Without so much as batting an eye, Hans walked over to the mechanical saw and cut the head in half, carefully extracting the lobes from inside the skull. Then he turned on one of the burners in the kitchen where, adjacent to our burner, a giant vat of stock was bubbling away.

Adding a bit of butter to the pan, Hans tossed in the lobes. Brain is primarily composed of fat; each segment is barely held together by a thin membrane that displays the intricate pattern of veins and blood vessels underneath. Upon contact with the heat, the brains spurted and sizzled. Hans let them brown for a moment and then cracked a few eggs into the pan as well. Waiting until the eggs had barely congealed, he removed thescrambled brains and eggsfrom the pan onto a single plate for us to share. A butcher's lunch in three minutes' time.

Scrambled Brains

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What do brains taste like? The texture is easier to describe:creamy but firm, like overly curdled yogurt or lumpy tofu.The taste is unlike any other part of the animal, with the exception perhaps of sweetbreads. Both brains and sweetbreads possess an animalistic flavor that's neither iron-intensive like the livers or gamey like the kidneys. Brains also taste somewhat like firm fish roe, though without the fishiness, of course.

The general consensus about brains is that they should be soaked in water for several hours to leech out the excess blood. The fresher the brain, however, the less likely it is that you'll need to do so. The lamb's brain at Fleisher's did not have to travel far to be cooked: Its trajectory started from inside the skull to the cutting table; then it was plopped onto the frying pan nearby. We did not soak it in water.It was extremely tender and flavorful, with no extraneous or overly assertive flavor.Furthermore, the membrane surrounding the brain was so fresh, thin, and delicate that there was almost nothing to trim. (Had the brains come from a pig or cow, they would have been less delicate.)

April 2010

Recipe Details

Scrambled Brains Recipe

Cook10 mins

Total10 mins

Serves2 servings


  • 8 ounces brains (lamb's, calf's, or pig's) soaked in changes of water and drained

  • 6 eggs

  • 3 tablespoons butter

  • Salt and pepper to taste

  • Herbs, such as sage, to garnish


  1. Place a stainless steel skillet over high heat and wait until it's very hot but not smoking. Melt butter in the pan and place brains into pan. Let brains brown for a minute, then stir lobes around in the pan until they are browned but not cooked all the way through, about 2 minutes.

  2. Add all eggs to the skillet and stir gently, taking care not to break up the brains more than necessary. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste, and fold in herbs after a minute. With constant and gentle stirring, the eggs will congeal around the brains in a minute.

  3. Remove scrambled brains and eggs from heat while eggs are still very soft and barely cooked through. The eggs will continue to cook on the plate. Serve hot, with more herbs to garnish.

Special Equipment

Stainless steel skillet


You'll want to soak the brains in water or briefly poach them in salted water before use. To soak the brains, wash them in cold water, then place them into a bowl and soak in several changes of cold water. Then pull off as much of the filament as you can without tearing into the brains.

  • Stovetop
  • Scrambled Eggs
Scrambled Brains Recipe (2024)


What is scrambled eggs and brains called? ›

Eggs 'n' brains is a breakfast meal consisting of pork brains (or those of another mammal) and scrambled eggs. It is a dish of Portuguese cuisine known as omolete de mioleira (English: brain omelette).

What is the culinary name for brains? ›

The brain of animals features in French cuisine, in dishes such as cervelle de veau and tête de veau. A dish called maghaz is a popular cuisine in Pakistan, Bangladesh, parts of India, and diaspora countries. In Turkish cuisine, brain can be fried, baked, or consumed as a salad.

Is pork brain good for you? ›

Pork brains are incredibly nutritious, easy to cook with, and surprisingly easy to find. Just as importantly, pork brain offers health benefits that you just can't get from any other food. Pork brains, as you might expect, are merely the harvested brains of a pig intended for use as food.

How long does it take to cook a hog head? ›

Place the pig's head in the pot along with the rest of the ingredients. Cover with water by 2 inches. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat and very gently simmer for 5 hours, or until all the meat is tender.

What is pig brains and eggs called? ›

Brain and Eggs, Pork Brains and Eggs. Lovingly called “brains 'n' eggs,” this Southern staple was served up for breakfast during the mid-20th century.

What's another name for hog brains? ›

Some quick investigation on a smartphone revealed that pork brains are also called “offal” — “the organs such as the liver or kidney of an animal that are used for food.” And correct, that's pronounced the same as the word “awful.” This in no way encouraged me to believe any appeals in defense of pork brains.

What do you call fried brains? ›

Sautéed Cerveaux (Fried Brains)

Who makes canned pork brains? ›

Rose Pork Brains is a Boone Brands product made in Sanford, NC.

Can you eat brains if cooked? ›

In many parts of the world, people never forgot the value of eating brain. In South Asia, stir-fried maghaz is especially associated with the Muslim festival of Eid, prepared separately from the meat when a goat or sheep is slaughtered for the holiday feast. Mexicans use brains as the filling in tacos de sesos.

Are brains sweetbreads? ›

brains. Some people might think that sweetbreads are the brains of a calf (via Culinary Lore). While sweetbreads and brains are both considered off-cuts or offal, they're not the same. They're completely different parts of the animal.

Why are sweetbreads called sweetbreads? ›

The word "sweetbread" was first used in the 16th century, but the reason behind the name is unknown. Sweet is perhaps used since the thymus is sweeter and richer tasting than muscle flesh. Bread may come from brede “roasted meat,” or is used because bread was another name for morsel.

Why not to eat pork? ›

Did you know that pigs carry a variety of parasites in their bodies and meat? Some of these parasites are difficult to kill even when cooking. This is the reason there are so many warnings out there about eating undercooked pork. One of the biggest concerns with eating pork meat is trichinosis or trichinellosis.

What country eats pork brains? ›

In China, cooks will add pig brains as an ingredient to hot pot dishes — the ingredient favored for its ability to absorb the soup's broth.

What is the best brain food in the world? ›

15 "Brain Foods" That May Help Preserve Your Memory
  1. Nuts and Seeds. Nuts such as walnuts, almonds and peanuts as well as sunflower and pumpkin seeds, are brain foods high in protein and omega fatty acids. ...
  2. Salmon. ...
  3. Beans. ...
  4. Blueberries. ...
  5. Dark and leafy greens. ...
  6. Lean Red Meat. ...
  7. Avocados. ...
  8. Tomatoes.

How do you cook hog brains? ›

Poaching brains

To poach them, bring your liquid (water, court bouillon, broth) to a boil. Then slip them into the pot and adjust the temperature so your liquid stays just below a simmer. Julia Child recommends 15 minutes for lamb, 20 minutes for calf or pork, and 30 minutes for beef brains.

What do you eat pork brains with? ›

Fry them, scramble them in your eggs, serve them hot with rice, pasta or vegetables, or enjoy them right out of the can.

What do people eat with pork brains? ›

Brains & eggs are a classic if you can find them. I like brains quickly sauteed in beurre noisette with capers. They are good served over rice pilaf or just plain boiled rice. They are quite delicate but with a cream sauce or sour cream, they are very tasty.

Do you boil pig head? ›

Pig's head is most commonly cooked to make brawn, stocks and soups. For all these desired outcomes, boiling is obviously recommended.


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