What Is Oxtail and Different Ways to Cook It

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Kaye Modified: August 30, 2022
What Is Oxtail and Different Ways to Cook It
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What is oxtail, you ask? It’s a flavorful cut of beef from the cow’s tail. It’s perfect for dishes along the lines of comforting soups and stews. So, for your next braised dish, there’s no need to scour the web for the best cut of steak to use if you have this in your arsenal! 

Interested? Then continue reading below to discover everything about oxtails and more. Learn more about its source, how to cook it, recipes to try, and other essential information about this meat cut. 

What Is Oxtail Meat?

Infographic showing where oxtail comes from

Nowadays, oxtail or cow tail pertains to a specific cut of beef taken from the tail part of both male and female cattle. Back in the past however, this cut of meat only used to refer to the tail part of oxen or castrated male cows, hence the name. It’s also known as cola de res or rabo de toro in Spanish, meaning beef and ox tail respectively. 

Officially classified as an offal, oxtail was once considered throwaway meat that had very little to no value. Like the famed sweetbreads, this particular ox meat was only eaten as a way to use up all the parts of the animal. In today’s time, however, cow tail is among the most prized cuts of beef cattle out there. 

Apart from the fact that oxtail can now come from any gender of cattle, it comes from both young and mature cows as well. Consequently, you can find either veal or beef oxtails in butcher shops. The beef tail is often cut into sections of different sizes, with bone marrow in the middle surrounded by bone cartilage, connective tissue, and a small amount of meat. 

What Does Oxtail Taste Like?

Most people compare the taste of oxtails to that of a short rib, but intensified. In other words, it has an incredibly rich and hearty beef flavor that you can’t miss. This is the reason why it’s a popular choice for making stocks or bone broths.

In terms of texture, oxtail is more tender compared to a short rib. The bone marrow, coupled with the connective tissues and cartilage impart a thick, jelly-like consistency to the stock.

How to Cook Oxtails

oxtail stew, how to cook oxtail

Compared to common steaks, a simple pan-frying or searing technique over medium heat simply won’t do if you want to make the most out of a beef oxtail. It has a unique composition of bones, connective tissues, and meat after all. So if you’re wondering how to cook an oxtail, the best methods to try are the ones listed below.

Slow Cooker

Cooking oxtail in a slow cooker is a fool-proof way of tenderizing this cut of meat. Through this method, the meat and connective tissues are properly broken down to have a melt-in-your-mouth texture. This is the reason why oxtails are mainly braised or used in soups and stews. It’s very rare to see fried or baked renditions.

So, how long does it take to cook oxtails by slow cooking? The average cooking time is at least three hours. But if you have the time and you want to experience the richest flavor and the best texture, we recommend cooking the cuts overnight.

Pressure Cooker

If you don’t have the time or the patience to slow cook the meat, this method may be more ideal. By using a pressure cooker to tenderize the beef oxtail, you don’t have to wait overnight to get the best results. Instead, the cooking time is cut down to at least an hour. Just make sure to follow the appliance’s instruction manual, and you’ll be good to go!

Instant Pot

If you have a multi-cooker, you’re in luck because you can do either slow cooking or pressure cooking using one appliance. Yes, it’s possible to whip up an Instant Pot oxtail recipe using either of the two methods. It’s up to you to decide which one to use. 

Popular Oxtail Recipes

Bowl of Jamaican oxtail stew with butter beans

As an ingredient that’s present in different cuisines around the world, oxtail is a great substitute for your go-to steak dinner ideas. Feel free to pick the best oxtail recipe below.

  • Beef StockSlow-cooked oxtail turns into beef stock or bone broth for making comfort food items like soup. The end product is a flavorful liquid that is thicker compared to regular beef broth
  • Braised Oxtail SoupAnother broth-based concoction that showcases beef tail as the main ingredient, this braised oxtail soup recipe makes for a hearty meal. The meat pieces are browned in olive oil before simmering. Some renditions may call for apple cider vinegar to balance off the flavors.
  • Jamaican Oxtail Stew Another popular way to use this cut is by making this famed Jamaican oxtail recipe. Braised with spicy scotch bonnet peppers and butter beans, this offers a satisfying bite. With seasonings like Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, and all-spice, these Jamaican oxtails promise a burst of flavors in your mouth. 
  • Red Wine Braised Short RibsAdd oxtail into a pot of beef short ribs for braising to intensify the meaty flavor of the dish. The pieces are drowned in a thick and flavorful tomato paste sauce. It isn’t too heavy thanks to the bay leaf infused into the concoction. 
  • Southern-Style Oxtail The Southern oxtail recipe showcases smothered oxtails slowly cooked and tenderized in a savory onion and garlic-flavored gravy. 
  • Hawaiian Oxtail Soup The oxtail fat is trimmed in this Hawaiian soup, producing a broth that isn’t as thick as those previously mentioned. Simmered in water with dried orange peel, star anise, ginger, and salt, this special cut lends a meaty flavor to the dish. Bay leaves, cinnamon, and peppercorns are common add-ons.

Is Oxtail Healthy?

Considering its unique composition, what is oxtail good for? Despite containing a small amount of meat, this cut still is a good source of protein and essential minerals. It also contains collagen. This is a substance that helps keep skin bouncy and joints healthy. However, oxtail is fatty, so it may not be the best option for a low cholesterol diet

Where to Buy Oxtail

Oxtail is generally available in local butcher shops. Once considered scrap meat that barely cost anything, its price has skyrocketed over the years due to limited supply and increasing demand. Hence, you can expect to shell out $5 to $10 or more per pound for this specific cut. 

If oxtail isn’t available, possible substitutes are bony cuts like veal or beef neck, short rib, and shank. After all, what is oxtail if not a bony beef cut surrounded by a small amount of meat and connective tissues?

How to Store Oxtail

As with other kinds of raw meat, it’s always best to cook oxtail right away. But if that is not possible, here are two options to consider: 

The first and probably the best method is to keep the meat in the freezer. Before you set aside oxtails, make sure to wrap them in plastic or aluminum foil to keep them intact for up to a year. And once you decide to use the frozen cuts, give them enough time to thaw out before cooking.

On the other hand, you can use the refrigeration method if a freezer isn’t available to you. While this is much less effective in extending the freshness of oxtail meat, it can still help keep it safe to eat for three to five days. Make sure to watch out for warning signs that indicate the meat has gone foul. Examples are unpleasant changes in odor and appearance. 

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Kaye is a writer and a recent oat milk convert. With a background in Language Studies, she has founded a deep appreciation of cultures, traditions, and the power of words. In her spare time, she enjoys testing some of the trendiest and most accessible recipes on the internet.