What Is Foie Gras?

What is foie gras?
Pan-seared foie gras with red onion relish. Steven Morris Photography / Getty Images

Foie gras (pronounced "fwah-grah") is the liver of a duck or goose that has been enlarged through a special feeding technique and then served in pâtés, terrines or as a hot entree or main ingredient. Foie gras is considered a luxury or delicacy item. It is extremely fatty, with a rich flavor and smooth texture. It melts easily, so while it is often prepared with high heat, such as pan-seared, but cooking it this way can be tricky.

Of the two types of foie gras, goose foie gras (foie gras d'oie) is considered the more refined, with a milder flavor. Duck foie gras (foie gras de canard) can have a somewhat more gamy flavor, though it is slightly less fatty and thus better suited for high-heat cooking.

Is Foie Gras Animal Cruelty?

 

The technique used to fatten the goose or duck livers, known as gavage, is controversial because it is essentially a form of force-feeding, which is seen as a type of animal cruelty that goes beyond merely raising the animals to be slaughtered for food.

The culinary community is somewhat divided on the issue, with some chefs refusing to serve foie gras. Foie gras producers argue that it is possible to perform gavage in a humane manner.

Fatty Goose Liver

Geese and ducks are migratory birds that eat a large amount before migration, which means in effect the birds naturally fatten themselves. By timing the slaughter with these migration patterns, it is possible to produce a version of foie gras known as "fatty goose liver," which some view as a form of "ethical" or "humane" foie gras.