Beef tendons are part of the cow's connective tissue, located between the animal's bones and muscles. Beef tendons are not easy to find in U.S. supermarkets, but they are a staple of many cuisines, including Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai, Taiwanese, Filipino, and Vietnamese. In the dishes of these countries, beef tendons often help create tasty and rich sauces and stews. Here’s why you’ll want to get yourself to your local butcher and ask if they have beef tendons.
What Is Beef Tendon?
Beef tendon is the piece of connective tissue that holds muscle to bone. This fibrous band of tissue is capable of withstanding a good deal of tension and force, making it ideal for long cooking times. Beef tendon is typically sold ready to cook but is sometimes included in larger cuts of meat. It is very affordable and can be used in stocks and sauces as well as on its own.
How to Cook Beef Tendon
There are several ways you can cook beef tendon. No matter which way you choose, you want to rinse and blanch the beef tendon first. If you don't, your dish may have an off-putting beefy smell. First, rinse off the beef tendon and then boil it for about 2-3 minutes. After this, rinse off any residue on the beef tendon. From there, you are ready to cook the beef tendon.
You can cook beef tendon in a slow cooker by covering with water and cooking on low for 10 hours. Or you can simmer on the stovetop. To simmer, place the beef tendon in the pot with enough water to cover and then place a tight-fitting lid on your pot. When using this method, be prepared to cook the beef tendon for about 7 hours and you'll need to check it periodically to remove any new residue that forms. If you have a pressure cooker (like the Instant Pot), you can add about 10 cups of water and add the tendon for 80 to 100 minutes, depending on how chewy you want it to be. Don't throw out the broth it cooked in—save it to add to soup and stews.
What Does It Taste Like?
Simply put, beef tendon tastes beefy. It has a mild beef flavor and a gelatinous texture, but it's full of depth with a mouthfeel similar to pork belly. The key is cooking it long enough to make it tender and seasoning it well.
Beef Tendon Recipes
Beef tendon is often used in Asian soups and stews, lending the dish a real depth of flavor. It can be discarded after making the broth or sliced and added to the finished dish. You can add it to pho or any beef stew.
- Korean Spicy Beef Soup (Yukaejang)
- Old-Fashioned Beef Stew
- Pho Bo Soup (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup)
Where to Buy Beef Tendon
You likely won't find beef tendon in a supermarket, although Asian markets, such as H-Mart, sometimes carry it. If you have a local butcher shop in your area, chances are they'll have it, especially if you call ahead and request it. Beef tendon is also available online from farmers and sometimes farmers markets, depending on the meat vendors' practices. It is sold per pound and can sometimes be found frozen.
Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week. Cooked tendons will keep for a few days. To freeze uncooked beef tendons, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and store in a zip-top freezer bag or airtight container for up to three months. Defrost in the fridge before using within a few days.
Nutrition and Benefits
While there is no such thing as a fountain of youth, beef tendons are high in collagen, which is known to be good for the skin, hair, nails, and joint health. In comparison to other meats, beef tendons also have lower fat content, with just 0.5 grams of fat per 100-gram serving, 0 grams of carbohydrates, and more than 36 grams of protein.