How to Cook a Pig’s Head

I know people are going to complain when they see the photo of the pig's head. The last time I posted a photo of offal (I believe it was the cow tongue), I got a lot of complaints. (Rest assured, I refrained from posting the more gory close-up shots. Go to my Flickr account if you want to see those.)

I think we have become too sanitized and sheltered in America. Pigs have heads. Cows have tongues. And they are meant to be eaten. Go to France and you will see all the skinned rabbits hanging in the shop windows. Or Spain, where there are pig's legs hanging from the ceiling in many restaurants. We Americans want our cheese shrink-wrapped and our chickens cut into skinless, boneless breasts.

Why Eat Organ Meats?

It is ridiculous that most people will only eat the muscle meat from animals. It's not sustainable. How can it be? Just eating a few select parts of the animal and throwing the rest away?

Furthermore, organ meats have 10 to 100 times the nutrients of muscle meats, according to Sally Fallon Morell, author of the Nourishing Traditions cookbook and Founder and President of the Weston A. Price Foundation.

How to Cook a Pig's Head

What would you do with a pig's head? My WAPF co-chapter leader, Victoria, got her hands on one from Healthy Family Farms (a sustainable family farm here in the Los Angeles area, where I buy our eggs, chickens, and ducks).

We decided to make head cheese. We followed the recipe from Chef Fergus Henderson's cookbook, The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating

My neighbor and dear friend Janis and I had just attended a cooking course with Chef Fergus Henderson the weekend before, where we got to eat delicious crispy fried pig's ears, pig's tails, cow's heart, and trotter salad. Stay tuned for that post coming soon.

Victoria and Janis did most of the work, while I took pictures and chased after my rambunctious preschooler. Here she is, drawing, in a rare moment of placidness:

Making Head Cheese is Easy

Head cheese is surprisingly easy to make. If you don't mind ripping the flesh off the boiled head of a pig, that is.

Janis's husband, David and I didn't mind at all — we happily nibbled on it. It was delicious!

Here's David taking photos of the pig's head (I have to say, I really enjoyed his enthusiasm for this way of eating):

Taking Pictures of the Pig's Head

Anyway, to make head cheese, you boil the head of a pig for several hours — just like you'd make beef or chicken stock. After some time, you remove the head, then you pick off all the meat. The meat goes into a loaf pan some such vessel, and the skull goes back into the pot.

When the broth has cooked long enough, you remove the skull and pour the gelatinous broth over the meat bits in the loaf pan. This will gel and create the potted meat dish, “head cheese”.

You can get the complete recipe in Fergus Henderson's book: The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating

Unfortunately, I did not get a chance to taste the head cheese, since I had to leave to put my little one down. I'll have to get my hands on another pig's head and make it again.

Enjoying the Fruits of Our Labor

Here we are, relaxing with a glass of wine and a dinner of delicious mussels made by Janis:

Find Me Online

Ann Marie Michaels

I have 25 years of experience in digital and online media & marketing. I started my career in Silicon Valley and Los Angeles, working at some of the world’s top ad agencies. In 2007, after my first child was born, I started this little food blog which I grew to over 250K monthly unique website visitors and over 350K social media followers. For nearly 15 years, I've helped my audience of mostly moms and women 25-65 cook for their families and live a healthier lifestyle.

 The year after I started the blog, I founded a blog network in the health & wellness space called Village Green Network. I started the company on my coffee table and bootstrapped the business to over $1.3 million in annual revenue within 5 years. During that time, I helped a number of our bloggers become six figure earners. After being censored on almost every social media platform for telling the After being censored on almost every social media platform from Facebook and Instagram to Pinterest and Twitter, and being deplatformed on Google, I am now deployed as a digital soldier, writing almost exclusively about politics on my blog Cheeseslave.com. Because who can think about food when we are fighting the second revolutionary war and third world war? Don't worry, there will be more recipes one day. After the war is over.

70 thoughts on “How to Cook a Pig’s Head

  1. Wonderful post! I remember you talking about pigs head cheese a while ago on facebook. I’m just getting into eating organ meat. I think it’ll be a while before I try something like this, but when I do, I know where to go! Thanks for sharing this with us, AnnMarie.
    .-= The Coconut Mama´s last blog ..FLOURLESS QUINOA PANCAKES =-.

  2. I was offered a pig’s head with my last order of pork. Now I wish I had gotten it. I will next time for sure! I heard of head cheese but never knew what it actually was. Sounds really nourishing and delicious.
    .-= Kat´s last blog ..Traveling on SCD =-.

  3. I have to admit that it looks like something which would require a few people the first time you make it. And not just to take photos.

    I got a t-short a few months ago which says “I <3 offal". Been meaning to get a photo of myself wearing it. If I had more disposable income I'd go to Wise Traditions this year just to wander around wearing it.
    .-= Soli @ I Believe in Butter´s last blog ..Real Food On The Big Screen =-.

  4. Thanks AM- we raised four heritage Glouchester Old Spot pigs this year and I had a chef come to the slaughter to make us all the french goodies with the heads and more. My favorite was the blood sausage. I look forward to reading more so I can do it myself for next time.

    1. I’ve heard of people getting them for as little as $8 for a whole head.

      In virginia at the H-Mart Korean grocer, they are going for $15.

      At the Great Wall Chinese Market, you can get the hog face (no skull) for about $2 a pound for a 2-3 pound package.

  5. I get pastured beef from a local rancher. He asks me what cuts that I want and I most often times request guts and bones! I’ve been following the GAPS diet for almost a year and I have an ongoing crockpot full of bone broth. I also eat lots of liver because of the chromium that it contains. I read that chromium along with iodine support the thyroid. Heart, tongue, sweetbreads (pancreas) and oxtail (my favorite) are good too. I eat the fat because of the CLA. I’m getting healthier and someday I’ll walk again (I have MS and I’m in a wheelchair but many symptoms that I used to have are gone because of the food that I eat…and don’t eat!). Another neighbor raises pigs on pasture and some feed. When his pigs are “finished” I’ll have pork again. I’ll request the head!

  6. Raine –

    That is so funny – you got to meet them both!! They are two of my best friends in LA — both wonderful ladies who bring so much to my life and my heart.

  7. Annabelle –

    So good to “see” you. Do you plan to go to the WAPF conference this year?

    I love what you have been doing with your farm. It’s so awesome to see how far you’ve come.

    PS: Love your son’s cowboy hat and boots!

  8. Hi Ann Marie~ I’m fairly new to your site, been on here a few weeks and I do enjoy reading it. I also enjoyed reading this blog on pig’s head but don’t think I could eat it. There is also a very good article on how to make headcheese (pig’s head) in one of the Foxfire books from the 70’s; I can’t remember which one.
    I was not raised on organ meat and can’t bring myself to eat it. I used to eat chicken gizzards when I was a child, but by my early 20’s I could not longer eat them. Tried liver once when I was 15/16 and thought it tasted like mud, though my mother-in-law loved it and had made it, along with onions.
    I’m now ‘old’ as I am 50, and it seems my food prejudices have become more pronounced, though I have been forcing myself to eat more real foods. I’ve given up all sodas (over 7 years ago), eat very little processed foods (little to nothing that comes in a box), and try to find and eat as local as possible. We do have a garden and we are enjoying it tremendously as things are ripening.
    We eat only real butter, olive oil, and some lard in moderation. We also eat a lot of meat (most every meal), but we’ve done this our entire life.
    Though I can’t quite bring myself to eat ‘offal’, I don’t mind that others do, nor do I mind watching it being prepared. Years ago I used to work in a grocery and the local farmers, older people, and blacks used to come in and buy pig tails and ears, pig mauls, and pig intestines (chitlings), calf brains and kidneys, cow tongue and tripe. I just didn’t want to be a guest to dinner when these foods were made! I know they are good for you, I just wasn’t raised to eat them.
    I do so enjoy reading about your adventures, though! Maybe one day I will become brave from reading your blog! 🙂
    Have a blessed day~ Lori

  9. Fascinating! My dad would be proud of you–he grew up eating head cheese and innards as my grandpa was a butcher. Whenever dad would talk about these kinds of food I would wince and tune him out. But now, head cheese sounds like nothing but goodness–the meat plus the gelatin. I am putting this on my “cooking goals list”. Thanks!

  10. No complaints here… just sheer and utter pig’s head envy! Hoping to have all my guts and bones in order by this time next year. Thanks for the encouraging post.

  11. Too funny – the pig’s head didn’t bother me, I was totally on board until you got to the gelatinous bit. Ick! I’ve never been able to stand that texture. I baffled people as a child because I hated Jello.

    The only thing I don’t think I could eat are eyeballs (oh, and tongue). Most organs I’m okay with, but I’m such a texture-oriented person with my food that I don’t think I could bring myself to do it.

    Still, I could definitely make a ton of goetta with a pig’s head. YUM.

  12. Hi Ann Marie, this may be obvious but….is the brain still in the head? Is that part of the “meat” you’re picking off the skull? I’m about to order a hog and I’m going to get courageous. I probably still need to warm up to the idea of eating all this stuff but I’ll make it and pretend it’s completely normal to my kids ;o) My husband will eat anything so I’m good there. Thanks for posting this!

  13. Just showed my mom, a 89 year old from El Paso, Texas, the gory pigs head pics and she said, “hmmmm, those are so good. We used to cook them and they make the best tamales. Do you know how much meat those cheeks have?” exactly her words. She grew up on a farm and is constantly telling me how she would get a drink of milk straight from the cow while milking. She is so funny.

  14. Sabrina –

    All the Latinos I meet who grew up in Mexico or South or Central America have the exact same reaction when I talk about offal — they say, “YUM!” and get this dreamy look on their face. It doesn’t matter whether I’m talking about liver or tripe or any of it — they always sigh and say, “Que rico!”

  15. I love you guys. Love your spirit of adventure!!! Farmers across the country are going to be getting phone calls from people asking for pigs heads!

    I remember when I first started posting about oysters, then people started telling me they had raw oysters for the first time and loved them.

    Then I remember I posted about the tacos de lengua and the liver and onions and people actually made them and enjoyed them.

    What a wonderful group of readers — I am so blessed.

  16. lol The pictures don’t bother me either. Some friends of ours have an annual pig roast. For several years in a row, the stuck the head on a pole at the end of the driveway to let people know where to turn in. At the time, I had no idea there was anything edible about it.

    I tried headcheese a few weeks ago, but didn’t really care for it. Is it traditionally eaten on or with something?

  17. I’ll have to try this sometime. My mom (a Louisiana girl) has always raved about head cheese, which used to freak me out (it was the lashes and eyelid on top of the loaf that turned me off). Now that I’ve grown to love liver and tolerate heart, I’m sure more “variety meats” are in my future.
    What, pray tell, becomes of the brains and eyeballs?
    .-= MamaBee´s last blog ..Learning to Cook- Part 1 =-.

  18. Fascinating! I’m starting to expand a bit into offal. I cooked heart a few months back: https://kitchenkungfu.wordpress.com/2010/03/11/cooking-with-heart/

    Thanks for sharing. It definately does seem pretty easy. Such a shame you didn’t get to taste it!
    .-= Joanna´s last blog ..Fermenting for fun and nutrition =-.

  19. I still don’t really understand — is it just like regular meat pieces with chilled consomme around it? Nothing cheese-textured? Is it hard to get rid of the skin? My husband would absolutely pass out if he caught me making this! 🙂

    1. Get rid of the skin!?! God forbid. The skin is the best thing you ever put in your mouth. You can buy pig skin at ethnic grocery stores, thankfully.

      Here’s a good intro for you. Get a couple of big pork hocks (not the smoked kind, the fresh kind) with the skin on. Salt & pepper them all over and put them in your crock pot and cook on medium all day. They are uber fantastic and the skin is way better than the meat!

  20. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to look too long at that pigs head, but it didn’t really bother me much. I think Matt Stone has already desensitized me to it!

    Kent’s Dad has Alzheimers now, but years ago I asked him all sorts of questions about how to eat the whole animal, and how people didn’t used to let anything go to waste. He said he and his siblings loved head cheese. This was years ago and I said, “…when you say ‘head’ cheese, you don’t really mean…I mean, it’s not actually made from the…HEAD is it…?” He said, “Oh yeah, it’s good!” 🙂

    Kelly
    .-= Kelly the Kitchen Kop´s last blog ..More Pharmaceutical Bull Crap =-.

  21. Rebecca –

    I probably didn’t explain it well enough. The broth congeals in the fridge and the whole thing turns into a kind of aspic/meat jelly. I think this is why they call it head cheese.

    There is no skin really to get rid of — I guess it’s not very thick? We just picked the meat off of the skull and put it in a bowl (and in our mouths ;-).

  22. I’m not at all bothered by the photos, in fact I’m a bit jealous as I don’t have a good source of a pig’s head so I can try this myself. My husband grew up in England and was quite poor during the second half of his childhood. His mother used to roast a pig’s head for holidays because it was the most affordable. He loooves the crispy skin of pork and is generally ok with all the “new-old” food things I’m trying these days.

    A couple years ago we enjoyed a fantastic nose-to-tail dinner at Fergus Henderson’s St. John restaurant in London. It was unforgettable.

  23. I wouldn’t say that ALL Americans are over-sanitized…Living in Columbia, SC I could buy pig’s feet, fresh or pickled, and chicken’s feet in the grocery store, and I know people around there eat more interesting things than that.

    Does anyone else think of Little House in the Big Woods at the mention of head cheese?

  24. Rachelle –

    I think someone mentioned that on Facebook. I will have to read it again (I plan to read it to my daughter when she is old enough — it was one of my favorite childhood books).

    I agree – not all Americans. But MOST people would make an ugly face if you told them you were serving pickled pigs feet! Good habits in the old South die hard — and I’m grateful for that!

  25. I too never knew what head cheese was – now that I know, I so want some. Do you think if you took the head of a whole roasted hog and boiled it that it would still work?? I have a friend who sells hogs to people for roasting and I know they just pitch the head – at least we did.
    .-= Christy´s last blog ..Hey- grab me a cup! =-.

  26. We just ordered an entire pig from a local farmer, and I would have never thought to ask for it’s head, although I did ask for the lard. When we got our side of grass-fed beef, I was quite happy to accept the tallow, the tongue, the kidneys, the heart and (my favorite) the liver. One kidney has already gone into dog food, as will the other and the heart, but the liver and tongue will be consumed by my family.

    I just won’t tell them what it is. 🙂

    1. Hi, Jan – I was with you on the kidney thing – just couldn’t abide the taste at all until a friend made a really delicious steak and kidney pie with Guinness for me – it’s an amazing way to deal with the strong flavour. Seems a terrible waste to give the kidneys to the dog when you can make such a tasty dish with them instead. I’d ask the butcher to give you the tripe next time for the dog as that’s one thing I can’t bring myself to eat.

    2. We like calves liver but pig liver seems to have a much stronger, even a bitter, flavor. I ended up grinding it and giving it to the chickens a bit at a time.

  27. Thank you! Thank you for posting this. I bought a pig head from our local food coop a few months back for $5. I searched the internet for head cheese recipes, but I was still too scared to make it. What size pot did you use? Do you dig the brains out? I love your site!

  28. You can’t be any closer to the truth, people are wayyyy too senstive about nearly everything nowadays. Why is eating pig, chicken, and cows fine when the pig is more intelligent than a dog? or when a cow just wants to graze around? It especially angers me when people of other nations eat different forms of food (especially meat) and Americans are just so narrow-minded about it.

    We need more blogs like this and people like you!

  29. Vandy, we used a canning pot that I had. It’s a wide enamel pot that comes with a removable wire thing that sits in the bottom to hold jars when processing preserves. You can often find them at hardware stores, are reasonably priced and easily fit over a normal size burner.

    We picked all the meat off the outside of the bone, pulled the mouth open to get the tongue out but didn’t venture inside the scull. I’ve read that the brain is pretty small.

    I have to admit, I couldn’t quite bring myself to include the nose in the mix even though Henderson’s books say to. I gave it to my dog who wandered around the yard with it for awhile then buried it. Guess she was doing some preserving of her own. 🙂

  30. This is really interesting, actually. I’ve never eaten anything like this before. I’d have to get used to the idea of it, but I’m sure it’s like anything else you try for the first time.

    Nell

  31. Meagan – I am near Culver City. If you ever want to come up for one of our WAPF meetings, we are here:

    https://www.meetup.com/Los-Angeles-Whole-Food-Nutrition-Meetup-Group/

  32. I am curious, can this only be done with pig’s heads? We don’t eat pork (and I don’t want to start a heated argument here, so I’ll just say, “for our own personal reasons”), but I would think this might work with a cow’s head… Maybe?

    Janis, I don’t blame you for not including the nose–the pics were okay, except the nose part was kinda ick for me! I think the texture would be rubbery anyway… Um… Yeah, I have decades of conditioning to overcome, myself!

  33. I would love to get my hands on some brain, but my cowboy informed me that he is legally restricted from selling brain! How do you get around that, Cheeseslave (do you know for a fact that the brain is intact?)? Perhaps that rule only pertain to cow’s brain?

  34. Hi – I love the post. I am working on starting a website dedicated to offal (www.offalobsession.com) and would love to have you guest post or share some experiences for the site.

  35. wow! I never heard of pig’s head cheese, even though i see it at the butcher’s and markets all the time in Beijing. I haven’t ventured out to eat the funny stuff yet either, but I would draw lots of similarities to the way the Chinese and French eat… heads, snouts, trotters, belly, tail, so many ways to cook them.

    Thanks for sharing!

  36. Wow, I never really knew what head cheese was but it actually sounds really good! I love pork fat, now to get my hands on a pig’s head haha. I have a good relationship with the farmer I get all my pork from so I probably could get one…
    .-= Julie´s last blog ..Kombucha Bottled! And Pickles! =-.

  37. Well thanks to your wonderful post I’ve finally made headcheese a few weeks ago. The gory moment was to fit the whole head in the pot – I had to use a hammer and a saw! But it turned out to be wonderfully easy to do, full of flavour and nutritious. Love it and it was really cheap to make as well!

  38. @ Laurent

    LOL oh my goodness that must have been a sight to see with the hammer and the saw.

    Congratulations on making head cheese! It feels like a great accomplishment, don’t you think? I hope you enjoyed it!

    Thanks so much for posting and letting me know you did it!

  39. Yes Ann Marie it was wonderful. I must say that I use to eat this delicacy in France, so I was not alien to the taste and texture. Next step is to make my own black puddings!
    However I must say that posting about my headcheese on Facebook did not improve my social network at all – and on top of it I also post about the live insects colonies I raise in my ktichen to feed my pet real food, he is a pigmy hedgegog – you can imagine the comments and look I got from my friends now LOL

  40. @ Laurent

    Oh I am dying to make my own black pudding!

    I saved some blood from my last cow’s heart. It’s in my freezer.

    LOL re: Facebook. Don’t worry if they about what they say.

    Watch this:

    https://blog.ted.com/2010/04/01/how_to_start_a/

    You have the guts to stand out and be ridiculed! Bravo!

  41. Oh, I loved this post. The most delicious thing I ever ate was hogshead hash (with extra ears, I love that crunch) and a vinegary mustard sauce that my neighbor in NYC used to make. I would love to know how to make that. My neighbor was from South Carolina and made this and “chitluns” on special occasions. I still have dreams about that hogshead hash. If anyone has a recipe for such a thing I would love the get it. It also had a spicey kick. (not much, just enough)

  42. That is just too cool, Ann Marie! I totally agree with you. We have become a shrink wrap nation. Not over here on your site, however!
    My husband is a hunter, so last year, after he harvested a deer, I ran out to the truck to get a glimps– this coming from a former vegetarian, ha. I asked for the liver, knowing the nutritive value and, to my own surprise, took the warm liver in my hands up to the kitchen. To be honest there was something so enriching about that moment. I knew for the first time just where my nourishment was coming from.
    Thanks for the post.

  43. Wow, this is a project. I don’t think I have a source for the pig’s head but will keep this in mind. Thanks for posting and broadening my scope.

  44. those pictures are a bit over the edge for me. I grew up on a farm, I eat meat, that is not the problem. These things really happen……….how else do we get our meat? I just get a bit queasy w/ blood and guts…… not my cup of tea. But hey, Cheeseslave, I give you a lot of credit for doing it!!

  45. THat doesn’t sound bad at all. In fact, I bet it’s pretty tasty. I had always been very afraid of the idea of head cheese but I think I might give it a try!

  46. Excellent post! May have to try this one! Looks like a good activity for a crowd, and thanks for your thoughts on nose-to-tail eating. I couldn’t agree more.
    Technical question: Is the brain still in the skull when it goes back in the pot for additional boiling?

  47. Just sent our first happily raised red wattle hog to the butcher and we are getting all the good stuff including the head! Around here the old timers use to have family hog killings and helped each other and the head meat was made into brunswick stew to feed all the helpers. The farmers would help butcher hogs with one farm doing it one week and then help another farm the next week and so on till everyone was done. Hope I have a big enough pot!!!

  48. I recently had an ear and af ew other pieces from a pigs head served at a restaurant in Copenhagen. The other party sharing the table shared soem of thier pork feast with us. The head was cut in half and roasted crisp. It was absolutely delicious. The skin was crispy and oh so tasty. The meat was perfectly flavored. Will absolutely eat it again if not figure out how they roasted the head. It was so yum.

  49. Anyone looking for a pigs head I sell our pasture raised pork and don’t get a lot interest in the heads and organ meat I’m at Rosewood Market in Columbia SC the 2nd & 4th Thurs. 2-7pm

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