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Why Do Some Steaks Taste Like Liver?

Are you tired of biting into a steak only to be hit with a livery surprise? Look no further. Here’s why and when this happens—and how to avoid it.

You’re starting at that huge ribeye on the plate, hungry. Your mouth’s watering and drool’s practically dripping off your chin.

You grab hold of the fork and knife, cut into the steak, bite into it, and… wait, what? The steak tastes nothing like the juicy, succulent ribeye you were expecting. Instead, it tastes like liver. What gives?

In this article, we’ll dive deep into the world of steak flavors to find out why some steaks taste like liver—and how to avoid it. So go ahead, salivate over that ribeye. As usual, we’re about to sate your hunger for culinary knowledge and introduce you to the ins and outs of steak cooking.

How to Keep Your Steak From Tasting Like Liver

To make a long story short, three things can help you keep your steak from tasting like liver: buying younger meat, dry-brining it before cooking it, and cooking it just enough, so it’s tender and safe but not overcooked.

Buy Beef From Younger Cattle

It turns out that the steps to cooking a steak that doesn’t taste like liver start with your meat selection at the grocery store.

If you don’t want your steak to taste like liver, buy younger beef. A master’s thesis by Ranjeeta Wadhwani, graduate from the Utah State University, found that steaks from older animals are more likely to have off flavors compared to those from younger animals.

Now, you may be wondering: How does the age of the cattle affect the flavor of the beef, exactly? According to an article by Jeannine Schweihofer of the Michigan State University Extension, it comes down to the meat’s myoglobin content.

Myoglobin is the protein that gives meat its red color. It’s also the protein that holds iron and oxygen reserves for the cells while the animal is alive. The older the animal, the more myoglobin its muscles will contain. This makes the meat darker and, in some casts, tasting more like liver.

Dry-Brine Before Cooking

A great way to get rid of off flavors in your steak, whether that of liver or blood, is to dry-brine it before cooking.

Dry-brining is when you salt the steak liberally on both sides and refrigerate it for 60 minutes before cooking. The salt draws some of the meat’s juices to the surface and dissolves in them, forming a flavorful brine. The meat absorbs some of its briny juices back—and they flavor it from the inside out.

The flavor, especially if you like your steak salty, is like no other. You can also crack black or mixed peppercorns to give the steak a pleasantly piquant kick as I like to do.

Psst! Want to learn more about dry brining? It’s one of the many things I cover in my latest book, Cooking Methods & Techniques: A Crash Course on How to Cook Delicious Food at Home for Beginners. Only on Amazon, available in paperback and on Kindle Unlimited.

Don’t Overcook the Steak

The degree of doneness of the meat also affects its flavor, Wadhwani points out in her thesis. The more you cook the steak, the more likely it is to come out tasting like liver.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you should eat your steak undercooked. The USDA recommends cooking all cuts of beef to a minimum internal temperature of 145°F (63°C), measured by a meat thermometer inserted at the thickest part of the meat, for safety reasons.

Steaks cooked to less than this internal temperature may harbor pathogenic bacteria and cause foodborne illness, especially for the young, the elderly, the pregnant, and those with a weakened immune system.

Buy a meat thermometer and cook your steak to 145°F (63°C). Take it off the grill, skillet, or remove it from the oven as soon as it reaches this temperature and rest it for a minimum of 3 minutes to allow the juices to settle in the meat (otherwise, they’ll run out when you cut into it).

The Bottom Line

Fortunately, not all steaks taste like liver. But those that do tend to come from older cattle. Buy steaks from younger cattle at the butcher or grocery store. In the kitchen, make sure to dry-brine the meat and not overcook it.

Know your author

Written by

Dim is a food writer, cookbook author, and the editor of Home Cook World. His first book, Cooking Methods & Techniques, was published in 2022. He is a certified food handler with Level 1 and Level 2 Certificates in Food Hygiene and Safety for Catering, and a trained cook with a Level 3 Professional Chef Diploma.