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What Is Foie Gras?
Foie gras (pronounced “frwah grah”) is a delicacy made from the fattened liver of a duck or goose, often served seared or as a pâté. Foie gras literally means “fat liver” in French. This fatty liver comes from waterfowl that have been force-fed. The practice dates back to at least 2500 BC—ancient Egyptian paintings illustrate humans force-feeding birds. Because the animals are fed much more than they would usually eat, their livers swell to up to ten times their normal size.
Where Does Foie Gras Come From?
Although foie gras can technically be either duck liver or goose liver, the majority of the world's foie gras producers raise Muscovy ducks or Moulard ducks (a cross between a Muscovy and a Peking). The distinction between foie gras production and other duck farms is the force-feeding process, sometimes referred to by its French name, gavage.
Most foie gras farms feed their animals a corn-based feed that is inserted into the duck's throat through a long metal feeding tube; the process takes seconds. Force-feeding typically happens two to three times a day during a two- to four-week period. After the liver-fattening process, the ducks are killed and the duck livers processed.
France is currently the largest producer (and consumer) of foie gras, but Israel, California, and New York have all had strong production of foie gras—though at times it has been banned.
What Does Foie Gras Taste Like?
Foie gras is 50 to 65 percent fat by weight, so it's incredibly rich and buttery. (For reference, liver typically has a fat content of 21 to 31 percent, and most other cuts of meat are 24 to 36 percent fat.) The fat droplets are incredibly tiny and evenly dispersed, giving foie gras a delicate, silky mouthfeel. Duck foie gras is more commonly available and has a wine-like flavor. Goose foie gras is rarer and has a mild flavor.
4 Ways to Prepare Foie Gras
Prepare raw, whole foie gras by removing any traces of green gall bladder that may be attached to the liver, then split the two lobes of the liver in half by hand. Cut the lobes lengthwise to remove the veins. From there, four options are common for preparing foie gras:
- Seared foie gras: The easiest way to prepare fresh foie gras is to cut it into thick slices and sear it. When briefly seared in butter, foie gras becomes brown and slightly crispy on the outside and meltingly smooth on the inside. Since liver is low in collagen, it is tender when cooked briefly but can taste dry if overcooked.
- Foie gras terrine: To make a terrine of foie gras (also known as a pâté de foie gras), press the liver into a mold and gently heat it in a hot water bath to cook. After cooking, cool and slice the terrine.
- Foie gras torchon: A foie gras torchon involves rolling the livers in a towel and poaching them, making them easier to slice into rounds for an appetizer.
- Fois gras mousse: Purée cooked foie gras into a mousse and serve it spread on toasted brioche.
Serve foie gras with grapes or currants and accompanied by a sweet dessert wine such as Sauternes.
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