Sweetbread is the culinary name for the glands of lambs, calves and bullocks found in the neck (thymus) and in the stomach (pancreas).
Lamb sweetbreads are considered to be the finest in texture; calf sweetbreads are more economical but also have a good texture; and bullock sweetbreads, although larger and coarser, may be cooked for a long time (3 to 4 hours) to make them tender. They are ideal for dishes with sauces.
Sweetbreads have a delicate flavour, a close, smooth texture virtually without membrane and are surprisingly rich and filling to eat.
Neck and stomach sweetbreads are both readily available, but stomach sweetbreads are more sought after because they have a smoother texture and are more regular in shape.
To prepare sweetbreads, place them in a mixing bowl and nearly fill the bowl with cold water. Soak for 3 hours, drain and discard the water. Using a slotted spoon, remove the sweetbreads from the bowl and drain them on kitchen paper towels.
Remove and discard the skin and any membranes. Place the sweetbreads in a large saucepan and cover them with cold water.
Place the pan over moderately high heat and bring the water to the boil. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside for 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the sweetbreads from the pan and drain them on kitchen paper towels.
Sweetbreads may either be cooked whole, sliced or chopped into pieces. They may be braised, in butter and stock, fried in butter or poached in sauces. See .