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What Is Steak and Kidney Pudding?

By J. Airman
Updated May 17, 2024
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A steak and kidney pudding is a British food item made by surrounding a large pile of meat and gravy with puff pastry or suet pastry. Types of meat used in a steak and kidney pudding include chopped beef or lamb steak, or lamb or pig's kidney. This dish is also commonly flavored with spices, oyster juice and wine. The meat is cooked first before it is wrapped in pastry and baked in a bowl.

Generally, the pastry made for a steak and kidney pudding is prepared with animal fat, usually pig fat, and is called suet pastry. This type of pastry is also known as suet pudding. Though suet pastry is the traditional pastry used to make steak and kidney pudding, many chefs substitute puff pastry. For a non-traditional steak and kidney pudding, puff pastry can be a better choice because it is easier to buy commercially than suet pastry, and it gives the dish more of a refined pastry texture.

Normally, the meat inside the pastry is cooked before it is wrapped in pastry, often simmered with onions and spices. It is usually diced, but it can also be ground. Flour is added to the simmering meat and onions to make a gravy before the meat is piled, packed and covered in pastry dough. Often, this dish is prepared by lining a bowl with pastry, piling the meat on, covering the meat with pastry, and baking. When the dish is done, the contents of the bowl are overturned onto a plate for serving.

The kidney is an organ that is shaped like a bean, and that is responsible for many functions within the bodies of animals and humans alike. Steak and kidney pudding is made with pig or lamb's kidney, and is not usually prepared with beef kidney. Since many people are not used to the flavor of kidney meat, often, steak and kidney pudding is made only of chopped steak, and does not contain any kidney.

Steak and kidney pudding has been known by a great number of names throughout its existence. For many years, it was known as John Bull pudding. Commonly, this dish is often called steak pudding, and less commonly, members of the British Armed Forces have been known to call it baby's head or baby's head pudding.

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Discussion Comments

By anon1005810 — On Nov 26, 2021

Chefs never use puff pastry to make a steak and kidney pudding! Neither does anyone else who knows what a steak and kidney pudding is.

If you use any pastry other than suet pastry, then you are making a pie - cooked in the oven. This is when the mix is pre-cooked.

Steak and kidney puddings are steamed; the filling is raw.

And yes, babies heads are a Royal Navy term for tinned steak and kidney puddings, which, when turned out of their tins have a soft spot in the center as do real babies' heads.

By Lostnfound — On Aug 28, 2014

I went to a place in Boston guaranteed to be a genuine Irish pub, and tried this dish. The steak was great. The kidney? Not so much. It just had a completely weird taste that I did not like. I ate around the kidney pieces.

The crust and broth were delicious, as were all the onions in it, but I ate maybe two bites of the kidney meat. Put me on the list of people who do not eat internal organs from animals. It is just not nearly what I thought it would be, and I honestly went into it with an open mind and was prepared to like it. Maybe it was just all in my head, but I could have sworn the kidney meat had a defined urine flavor. Yuck.

By Grivusangel — On Aug 27, 2014

I could eat this just fine if it only had steak in it. That's kind of like a beef pot pie. That would be OK. Otherwise, I think I'd have to pass. I'm just not down with the whole kidney thing. I generally don't eat "variety" meats, and kidney is no exception, even if it's in something with steak.

Many people don't have a problem eating organ meats, but I'm not one of them. They just don't taste good to me. Plus the very idea of what I'm eating is just not pleasant to me. They're not good for your cholesterol, either, so that's another excuse.

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