An oxtail is exactly what it sounds like: the tail of an ox. They are officially classified as offal, along with an assortment of organ meats, and like other offal, it has a long and illustrious culinary history. Oxtails can be purchased at boutique butchers and sometimes at a butcher's counter in a large market, depending on the regional taste for the meat. Once purchased, it may be used immediately or frozen for future use.
What is Oxtail Made Of
To prepare oxtails, butchers remove the tail of a cow while it is butchered and skin it. The tail is typically cut into segments, making it easier to handle. It is extremely bony and also very muscular, and it requires special care in the kitchen. The best way to use oxtail is as the base for a stew, soup, or beef stock, as it benefits from long gentle braising. Oxtail can also make a soup taste a bit gelatinous, as it releases a great deal of collagen during the cooking process.
What Animal Does Oxtail Come From
The terminology surrounding the oxtail is a bit complex. Traditionally, it came from oxen, neutered adult cattle used as dray animals. Over time, however, oxtails have been harvested from any sort of cattle, including steers and veal cows. Some people feel that traditional oxtail has the most flavor, because the longer a cow lives, the more muscle develops in the tail, and as a result the flavor tends to be stronger and more complex.
Where Do Oxtails Come From
As with other offal, the taste for oxtail probably arose from necessity. Many cultures have a long tradition of trying to use every part of every animal butchered, with the offal typically ending up in the pots of the lower classes, since they could not afford the more prized cuts of meat from the animal. Innovative cooks developed all sorts of interesting ways to use offal, and while it was once a lower class food, offal is now included in the recipes of many gourmet restaurants, especially those which offer traditional European cuisine.
What Does Oxtail Taste Like
Because oxtail typically comes from any sort of cattle, including steers and veal cows, oxtail tastes like beef. Oxtail is comparable to beef shanks, beef short ribs on the bone, veal neck, and veal shank. Because these meats are similar to oxtail, it is a suitable substitution in recipes for these meats. Oxtail contains a lot of collagen and nutrients, so it makes an excellent addition to homemade beef broth because of its beefy taste. Because the oxtail is an extremely muscular part of an animal, its texture improves with slow cooking.
How to Cook Oxtails
The classic use of this meat is in oxtail soup, a venerable English classic. Oxtail also crops up in a lot of Caribbean food, especially in Jamaica, where a soup with butter beans is extremely popular. The well developed, rich flavor of a slowly braised oxtail can be quite memorable and very strong, and it is often included in the packaged beef bouillon sold at many markets. When oxtail stock is made at home, it can be frozen for future use if the cook thinks he or she won't be able to use it up.
How Long Does it Take to Cook Oxtails
Oxtails aren’t usually a meal you whip up in a time crunch. When oxtails are prepared and simmered for a certain amount of time, the oxtails resemble short ribs in texture. Oxtails benefit from a long simmer, which should range anywhere from two hours to four hours. If you cook oxtails longer than this, under the right conditions, the meat can become more tender. On the other hand, if your cooking temperature isn’t right, you may experience a tougher texture with too long a cooking time. There are several different methods to cook oxtails, and the cooking time varies with each oxtail recipe.
How to Cook Oxtails in the Oven
Some cooks may opt to cook their oxtails in the oven. Baked oxtails can make for a delicious and flavorful meal if the cooking conditions are right. Baked oxtails benefit from a lower cooking temperature to avoid a tough texture. If you’re using an oven, it’s best to keep the cooking temperature between 275 degrees and 350 degrees. The lower your temperature, the longer you’ll want to bake your oxtails. If you’re baking your oxtails at 350 degrees, start with a cook time of one hour. After an hour, rotate the oxtails and allow them to bake for another hour.
Some cooks like to add a bit of water, butter, and chopped onions to the oxtails while they bake. Some cooks like to season and braise the meat in its juices after some time in the oven. Whatever oven method you choose, be sure to check on the oxtails about every 40 minutes or so. This will ensure that you don’t overcook the meat. You can also cook oxtails on the stove.
How to Cook Oxtails on the Stove
First, you’ll want to season your oxtails with salt and pepper, or any combination of your favorite seasonings. Then, you’ll need to heat a large pot over medium-high heat. Brown the oxtails on all sides in the large pot. You can then add in onion and cook until the onion is golden. You can add in water or beef broth, or a combination of both, and reduce the heat to a low medium. Let the oxtails simmer in the broth and water mixture for three hours to three and a half hours.
Periodically check the oxtails to ensure they aren’t being cooked at a temperature that is too high. Feel free to add any of your favorite vegetables, like peas or carrots, to the pot in the last half hour of cooking to make for a tasty, hearty meal. If you have more time to prepare and cook the oxtails, you have the option of cooking the oxtails in a crock pot or slow cooker.
How to Cook Oxtails in a Crock Pot
Crock pots and slow cookers are a great way to cook oxtails. A crockpot meal of oxtails can consist of many flavors, seasonings, and add-ins. You can choose to marinade the oxtails before cooking or combine all of your ingredients in the cooker and cook without marinating. You can cook the oxtails in a mixture of beef broth, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, onions, garlic powder, onion powder, and paprika, or simply salt, pepper, and broth for a less complex flavor. You can also add in tomatoes, carrots, peas, potatoes, green onions, or beans for a complete meal.
Once you decide on the ingredients you’d like to use, you can cook the oxtails on low for seven to ten hours. Check the slow cooker periodically to ensure you’re not overcooking the meat. The slow cook time will allow you to gain maximum flavor from the oxtails. Depending on how your cooker cooks meat, you may need to start out on the high-temperature setting first, then lower it to the low setting after a couple of hours. Either way, oxtails make for a delicious and nutritious meal.
Is Oxtail Healthy
There are several reasons why oxtail is considered a healthy meal. Because oxtails are an excellent source of protein, oxtails can make for an extremely satisfying meal. Oxtails are also loaded with collagen, a natural supplement that can help you maintain healthy skin, hair, and bone joints. A hundred gram serving of oxtail has less than three hundred calories. Oxtail is also a good source of iron. Depending on what you choose to serve alongside oxtails, you can create a vitamin-rich, hearty meal.
Where to Buy Oxtail
As previously mentioned, oxtails can be found at boutique butchers and sometimes in local butcher shops, depending on the regional taste for oxtails. You may also be able to find oxtails at specialty grocers or even big-name grocery stores in your area. It’s best to perform a quick internet search for the best place to find oxtails near you. You may even find a grocery delivery service that will deliver oxtails, along with other groceries, to you.
Oxtails are a versatile addition to any meal. There are several health benefits and many different ways that cooks can prepare this dish. Oxtails can be found on restaurant menus or at your local butcher shop. Some might say that oxtails are expensive, but they’re worth it for anyone looking for a comforting, warm meal. Whether you're making oxtail soup with a side of collard greens, or Jamaican oxtail, you're sure to enjoy the tender oxtail meat no matter how you prepare it.