What Are Sweetbreads?

Sweetbreads are popping up on more and more menus these days, and we've predicted that it'll become even more popular in 2015. But what are sweetbreads, exactly?

The definition is actually quite nebulous, which could be a part of the reason why there's so much confusion around what they actually are. Sweetbreads are generally the thymus or pancreas of lamb or veal, but occasionally are from beef or pork. Occasionally, they're also made from the parotid or sublingual glands. While definitions vary, when you see sweetbreads on a menu it's usually specified whether they're lamb or veal, and more often than not it's the thymus.

In order to prepare sweetbreads, the organ is usually soaked in saltwater then poached in milk, then the outer membrane is removed. Then they're either sautéed or breaded and fried, and the end result is actually quite tasty.

As for that name? It obviously has nothing to do with either bread or something sugary; While the etymology is unclear, sweet most likely refers to the flavor (it's sweeter than traditional meat), and bread may come from the Old English brede, for "roasted meat."