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How to Clean Chitlins

If you want to earn a Southern Granny’s respect, learning to clean and cook chitterlings (chitlins) is the ticket. This soul food delicacy has a unique and irresistible flavor when properly prepared. Serve them up with fried chicken, cornbread, collard greens, and a good vinegar hot sauce, and you’ve got a true-blue Southern meal that will knock your socks off.

Chiltins with collard greens and cornbread in a white bowl

Now, truth be told, cleaning chitlins is a real labor of love. It takes some time, and you’ll have to endure their smelly nature at the start of the process but honey, let me tell you, the finished product is totally worth it.

What Are Chitterlings?

Chitlins are a more appetizing name for cooked pig intestines. People have been cooking these guys for centuries, and some of the oldest recipes originate from Africa and Asia. It’s a no-waste dish that takes a cut of meat the wealthy might throw out and turns it into a delicious dish you wouldn’t want to pass up.

What Do Chitlins Taste Like?

Honestly, chitlins have a very mild flavor, meaning they take on the flavors of the herbs, veggies, and seasonings you cook them with. Some people say the texture and flavor are like certain types of seafood, octopus or squid, for example, but I think they have a taste all of their own. Bottom line, you’ll have to try them to find out!

Chitlin Cleaning Supplies

What you need to properly clean chitlins
  • Chitlins – You’ll need a tub or bag of chitlins to start. Choose a brand that has been “hand-cleaned,” and they’ll be a little cleaner straight out of the package, saving you some time at home.
  • Baking Soda or Vinegar – Either of these ingredients will help sanitize the intestines and neutralize the smell.

How to Clean Chitlins

The first step to getting them clean
The final cleaning steps
  1. The CDC recommends boiling raw chitlins for 5 minutes before cleaning to reduce germs and harmful bacteria that could contaminate your kitchen. Some people skip this step, but I’d say better safe than sorry.
  2. Drain the chitlins and let them cool. Then put them in your kitchen sink in cool water with two tablespoons of baking soda or vinegar. 
  3. Soak the chitlins in the water for a few minutes. 
  4. Scrub the outside and inside of the intestines with your hands, removing any fat, straw, pig waste, and anything else that doesn’t belong.
  5. Dunk them up and down in the water for a few minutes.
  6. Drain the excess water from the chitlins and put them in a clean bowl.
  7. Drain the dirty water from the sink and rinse it clean.
  8. Fill the sink with cool water again and add the chitlins for a second rinse, this time with no baking soda or vinegar.
  9. Repeat the rinsing process three or four times until the water in the sink stays clear. 
A serving of prepared chitlins

Chitlin Cleaning Tips

  • Some people use salt when scrubbing their chitlins clean. Its abrasive nature helps remove the fatty lining inside the chitlins.
  • To clean the inside of the chitlins, you can turn them inside out, which takes a little practice, or you can cut them open, so both sides are easily accessible. Either way works!
  • When you pre-boil your chitlins, try adding some chopped onions to the water to reduce the bad smell.

Storage Instructions

You can store cleaned raw chitlins for two days in the fridge or three months in the freezer before cooking. 

Recipes to Serve with Chitlins

Chitterlings in a white bowl with cornbread and bay leaves in the background
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How to Clean Chitlins

This soul food delicacy (when properly cleaned) has a unique and irresistible flavor when properly prepared. Serve them up with fried chicken, cornbread, collard greens, and a good vinegar hot sauce, and you've got a true-blue Southern meal that will knock your socks off.
Prep Time 3 hours
Total Time 3 hours
Servings 10
Calories 275kcal

Ingredients

  • pounds (1.2kg) chitterlings
  • 2-3 tablespoons baking soda (or vinegar)
  • Water, as much as needed
  • 1 large onion, sliced

Instructions

  • Rinse chitterlings in clean water, then soak them in cool water (in the kitchen sink or a tub) with a couple of tablespoons of baking soda (or vinegar) for about 10 minutes.
  • Cut them lengthwise with scissors, remove the fat and anything else that doesn’t belong, then rinse them with clean, cool water.
  • Fill your pot or kitchen sink with fresh, cool water and thoroughly rinse them again. Repeat the rinsing process until the water stays relatively clear, and you're sure they're clean.
  • Put the chitlins in a large pot, cover with fresh water, add the sliced onions, and simmer them for 5-10 minutes. (Some people do this step first. It's your call.)
  • Note: Clean and disinfect your work area as soon as you're done.

Notes

  • Some people use salt when scrubbing their chitlins clean because its abrasive nature helps remove the fatty lining inside the chitlins.
  • To clean the inside of the chitlins, you can turn them inside out, which takes a little practice, or you can cut them open, so both sides are easily accessible. Either way works!
  • When you pre-boil your chitlins, try adding some chopped onions to the water to reduce the bad smell.
  • Please keep in mind that the nutritional information is a rough estimate and can vary significantly based on the products used in the recipe.

Nutrition

Serving: 125g | Calories: 275kcal | Fat: 214g | Sodium: 330mg | Potassium: 29mg
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