FoodMeTrivia Series #3: The Making of Rocky Mountain Oysters

Question: What are rocky mountain oysters?

Answer: Rocky mountain oysters are cooked animal testicles, usually from cows. Lamb, pig, goat, yak, buffalo, and turkey testicles are also eaten. Its a well-known, novelty dish in parts of western America where cattle ranching is prevalent. Other names they go by are prairie oysters, Montana tendergroins, cowboy caviar, swinging beef, and calf fries.

As explained by Wikipedia, rocky mountain oysters

“are often deep-fried after being peeled, coated in flour, pepper and salt, and sometimes pounded flat. This delicacy is most often served as an appetizer with a cocktail sauce dip.”

I find the cocktail sauce humorous. CornyMe. Other sauces include hot sauce, tartar sauce, and ranch sauce.

The first rocky mountain oysters I tried were deep-fried, breaded, sliced cow balls served with ranch sauce (pictured above). And, they were good! (See the FoodMeOmaha post, “My First Balls: Rocky Mountain Oysters“.)


Question: How are rocky mountain oysters made?

Answer: From start to finish, here are generic steps to make the classic rocky mountain oysters:

  1. Get some balls.
  2. Cut a slit in the skin-like muscle surrounding each testicle and remove the skin.
  3. Once peeled, give the balls a bath. Soak the balls in either salt water, beer, milk, or vinegar mixture for a couple of hours.
  4. Slice, pound, or leave the balls whole.
  5. Season and bread the balls.
  6. Deep-fry the balls for a few minutes.
  7. Eat some balls!

Curious and still can’t visualize the process?

Here’s a video of rocky mountain oysters in the making with yak and bison balls.

Here’s is a video of smaller balls (I suspect calf) being peeled.


Question: Are there swimmers in rocky mountain oysters?

Answer: My friend’s doctor friend verified that sperm is in the testicles. The balls are the swimmer’s home base. Naturally, it makes you wonder, are you eating microscopic cow tadpoles?

On my online research, I found some entertaining comments:

  • “Is there still semen in rocky mountain oysters? and if so is it like a twinkie?”
  • “Where do you think the sauce comes from?”
  • “extra protein!”
  • “Don’t let them fool you. A cooked swimmer is still a swimmer! Don’t let them tell you otherwise!”

According to wiseGeek’s “How Do I Make Rocky Mountain Oysters”,

“Testicles are often removed from a calf when he is branded, but may also be removed from adult bulls. The calf testicles are smaller and more tender so are the preferred meat to use.”

A Yahoo! Answers contributor explained

“They are removed from young bulls not mature enough to breed, once a male calf is sent to the feed lot to be fattened up for processing he becomes a steer or a castrated male, they are just spongy tissues when removed, I cooked them and ate them as a chef, I use bull and lambs fry’s for use in the places I worked as chef.”

While I don’t have a concrete answer, here’s my theory. If you are eating calf balls, then you are not eating any swimmers since they haven’t hit puberty. If you are eating adult balls, then you are eating unseen, cooked, dead swimmers. Extra protein!

If you know the answer, please share with CuriousMe!


Question: Which dining venues serve rocky mountain oysters?

Answer: You can find rocky mountain oysters at testicle festivals (which I have yet to experience) or restaurants and bars around America. It’s common to find them served at western-themed steakhouses. Case in point, I tried my first balls at Black Iron Grill Steakhouse and Salon in Rock Port, MO. In the Omaha area, Dinker’s Bar and Grill serves classic rocky mountain oysters which FoodMeOmaha plans to try one day!


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