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What is Oxtail?

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Everything you need to know about oxtail, from how to prepare this humble cut of meat, to the health benefits of oxtail, and everything in between!

oxtail inside pot

If you’ve never purchased, prepared, or tried oxtail meat, you probably have a lot of questions. Like, what is it made of? Is oxtail from an actual tail? And, what the heck is an ox?

Let’s start at the beginning – or because we’re talking about a tail, the end! Oxtail is a cross-cut section of beef that a butcher cuts from a cow’s tail. The cut is usually from the uppermost part of the tail or the middle section. Because the tail is thicker at the top and becomes thinner the closer you get to the end, oxtail pieces can vary in size and shape.

No matter which cut you use, the one thing all oxtail pieces have in common is that they’re super gelatinous and filled with connective tissue, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Because oxtail meat is best prepared by braising, slow cooking, or using a pressure cooker, all of that connective tissue gets broken down and gives any dish it touches a rich, beefy flavor. 

Oxtail meat is considered a delicacy and is popular in countries around the world, and for good reason – it’s deliciously tender, full of meaty flavor, and easy to prepare. If you’ve never tried it, you’ve got to add it to your grocery list. 

raw oxtail

Oxtail health benefits 

Oxtail has a surprising amount of health benefits. The connective tissue in and around an oxtail is filled with collagen. When the meat and connective tissues around the it melts down during the cooking process, it turns into a collagen-rich broth, which isn’t just incredibly flavorful it also has some meaningful health benefits. Collagen has the potential to support the growth of healthy hair and nails, while also relieving joint pain and preventing bone loss. Some health professionals also say it promotes healthy skin. Sounds pretty good to me!

Because oxtail is red meat, it’s a great source of iron, which helps move oxygen through the body, and prevents anemia.

Where to buy oxtail

You don’t have to go to a specialty grocer to find oxtail meat, it’s available at most local grocery stores. I’m usually able to find oxtail cuts in the pre-packaged meat section. But, if you don’t see them there, your butcher should have a few pieces behind the meat counter. You’ll also usually find it at international grocery stores.

When you’re buying oxtail, keep in mind that unlike other cuts of beef, oxtail may appear to be more bone than meat. And that’s okay. Part of the reason oxtail meat is so rich is that when the bones are braised, the bone marrow melts into whatever dish you’re preparing, so less meat doesn’t necessarily mean less flavor.

If you buy oxtail directly from the butcher, rather than in the refrigerated meat section, you can also select your own pieces. Ask for the larger, thicker cuts, they have a bit more meat and a larger section of bone, which means more marrow!  

Why is oxtail so expensive?

There’s no doubt that oxtail is pricey! Prices can vary from about $10 per pound or more. The cut is considered a delicacy and is not as widely available as other cuts of meat, which also contributes to its higher price. Although expensive, many people will pay for the prime cut of meat to make delicious they love and are familiar with. The fact that when cooked right, oxtail melt in your mouth. There is nothing like a piece of oxtail that has been cooked low and slow.

Best Tips for cooking

If you’re looking for a delicious way to cook oxtail, here are some tips to help you get the most out of your meal.

  • Oxtail is best cooked slowly over low heat. This allows the meat to become tender and fall off the bone. If you’re in a hurry, a pressure cooker will work fine, but you’ll still need to cook the oxtail for about 40 minutes or more until tender.
  • When cooking oxtail, be sure to add water or stock to the pot. This will help to keep the meat moist and prevent it from drying out.
  • Oxtail can be cooked in a variety of ways, including braising, stewing, or even baking. Experiment with different methods to find the one that best suits your taste.
  • Don’t forget to season your oxtail with salt and pepper before cooking. This will help to bring out the natural flavors of the meat.
  • Oxtail is best served with a flavorful gravy or sauce. This will help to keep the meat moist and add extra flavor to your dish.

Following these tips, you’ll be able to cook up a delicious oxtail meal that everyone will enjoy.

Mouthwatering recipes

Chefs around the world love working with oxtail because it’s so rich and fall-off-the-fork tender. 

The most popular oxtail recipes always involve slow cooking, braising or pressure cooking. Think comforting soups, stews, and ragus with a super-rich flavor, thanks to the oxtail bones. 

oxtail recipes

These tips and recipes will make you an oxtail pro.

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