What are Rocky Mountain Oysters?

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

Rocky Mountain oysters are a type of food that actually consists of the testicles of bulls or sheep. They are part of a class of meat called offal, which is a term for the internal organs or entrails of butchered animals and includes other foods such as chicken gizzards, beef tripe and pork intestines. Also known as prairie oysters or calf fries, Rocky Mountain oysters usually are sliced, breaded, deep-fried and served with dipping sauce. Usually considered an appetizer rather than a main course, this dish is said to be an acquired taste.

Rocky Mountain oysters are the testicles of bulls or sheep that are typically deep-friend and served as an appetizer.
Rocky Mountain oysters are the testicles of bulls or sheep that are typically deep-friend and served as an appetizer.

A Novelty Appetizer in Restaurants

Steakhouses or other restaurants that have Western themes often serve Rocky Mountain oysters as a novelty item. Some recipes for calf fries or prairie oysters involve poaching or sautéing, but Rocky Mountain oysters are almost always served as deep-fried slices. Many customers who order Rocky Mountain oysters use generous amounts of hot sauce or dipping sauces to enhance the flavor.

Rocky Mountain oysters are a delicacy that are made from bull testicles.
Rocky Mountain oysters are a delicacy that are made from bull testicles.

Origin of the Name "Rocky Mountain oysters"

This dish earned its name through association with the prevalent cattle industry in the Rocky Mountain region and a passing resemblance to raw oysters from the sea. Cattle ranchers regularly remove the testicles of young bulls to discourage aggressive behavior. Meat packing plants also save the testicles of older cattle for possible resale as a meat byproduct.

Preparing the Dish

The first recorded preparation of Rocky Mountain oysters is unknown, but it is believed that ranch cooks experimented with different meats to find inexpensive sources of food. When properly seasoned and breaded, Rocky Mountain oysters are said to have a neutral or slightly liver-like flavor, with a chewy texture similar to that of chicken gizzards. Restaurants that serve this dish are likely to use a generous supply of salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper and seasoned salt in the flour breading.

Preparing Rocky Mountain oysters can be a little complicated. Obtaining fresh bull testicles is the first hurdle. Specialized butcher shops might be able to order a small supply, but in general, the product is sold in freezer packs. Some recipes for this dish recommend slicing the testicles while they are still frozen. Sometimes, the testicles arrive with a surrounding membrane that must be peeled off before preparation.

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

A regular wiseGEEK contributor, Michael enjoys doing research in order to satisfy his wide-ranging curiosity about a variety of arcane topics. Before becoming a professional writer, Michael worked as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.

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Discussion Comments

anon982633

People are such little sissies nowadays about meat that isn't boneless, skinless muscle meat. This attitude has to change. Only buying muscle meat and leaving the rest go to waste is so wasteful (and disrespectful if you will). For millennia, people would eat almost every part of the animal and somewhere along the line we got conditioned into thinking offal is 'gross'. Turns out that offal (liver, heart, testicle etc.) is extremely nutritious, and affordable since no one buys it!

At least suck it up and try these things once in your life. No one likes a picky eater. (Only thing I won't try is rectum, since I heard it tastes like, well...)

If you don't like the taste of liver etc. you can 'hide' it by mixing 20-50 percent in ground beef patties.

anon354478

@sdtrott: The guy who wrote it was named Bill Smallwood, and there isn't an MP3 of this song (yet! I have a cassette tape of it somewhere, recorded off the radio!) I am an RMO song fan as well. --Roxy in Denver

bythewell
@browncoat - Actually, people have been eating the testicles of various kinds of animal for as long as they have been hunting animals. I mean, it's inevitable that testicles are going to be seen as an emblem of strength to some people, and a lot of tribes once believed that if you eat the part of the animal symbolizing something, you will draw that quality into yourself.

Plus, offal tends to be very nutritious, as it's composed of more than just muscle and fat. Back when they really had to use every part of the animal, they wouldn't see a problem with eating the testicles as well. And I don't really see the problem, myself. It seems like people are a bit squeamish about it, but there's no real reason for it. I'll bet with the right Rocky Mountain oysters recipe you'd really enjoy them.

browncoat
Personally, I think they call them Rocky Mountain oysters as a kind of trick, because they know no one would ever try them if they were outright called "bull testicles." I mean who would ever want to eat something like that, unless they were participating in Fear Factor or some other kind of shock show like that?

Yes, they probably look like oysters when they are raw, but they aren't really like oysters. I mean, you wouldn't actually eat them raw I hope, because that sounds absolutely revolting.

anon135431

Was this song supposed to be from a pig's point of view?

anon123262

Hey there's a fellow, Gary Phipps in north platte

nebraska who sings this song. He is a fine entertainer.

sdtrott

Does the song by Bill Smallwood contain the lyrics ""Rocky Mountain Oysters, I'm sure you think they're fine. I don't care if you eat them, but why did you have to eat mine?" If it does, then that would be the song I have been looking for. I couldn't find any lyrics on Bill Smallwood's web page.

anon14810

I heard from him! This is definitely it! I ordered my CD "Cowboys and All That Jazz" by Bill Smallwood... with the song "Rocky Mountain Oysters" included on it. Cheers!

anon14177

Posted by: sdtrott

This may be slightly off topic, but I remember a novelty song around 1980 or 1981 about Rocky Mountain Oysters. It was on a jukebox at the bowling alley on Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo Texas. I have been looking for that song for years but I don't know who the artist is. The song title may have been simply "Rocky Mountain Oysters". The song is in a country style and the only lyrics I can remember are the following:

"Rocky Mountain Oysters, I'm sure you think they're fine.

I don't care if you eat them, but why did you have to eat mine?

Why don't you stick to frog's legs, mushrooms and other stuff..."

If anyone knows more information about this song and/or where it can be acquired, I would appreciate it.

I've been looking for this, too! I'm waiting for the fella to reply to the email I send him but, take a look at (won't let me put web addy)... Google Bill Smallwood. It's there under CD info.

I hope this is the one for both of us! =)

anon5411

I have a version of the song "Mountain Oysters" by the Bill Doggett Trio from a Rhino CD called Risque Rhythms. Judging from the sound, it has to be from 1947- 1957.

sdtrott

This may be slightly off topic, but I remember a novelty song around 1980 or 1981 about Rocky Mountain Oysters. It was on a jukebox at the bowling alley on Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo Texas. I have been looking for that song for years but I don't know who the artist is. The song title may have been simply "Rocky Mountain Oysters". The song is in a country style and the only lyrics I can remember are the following:

"Rocky Mountain Oysters, I'm sure you think they're fine.

I don't care if you eat them, but why did you have to eat mine?

Why don't you stick to frog's legs, mushrooms and other stuff..."

If anyone knows more information about this song and/or where it can be acquired, I would appreciate it.

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