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Oxtail Explained: Taste Profile and Popular Dishes

Oxtail Explained: Taste Profile and Popular Dishes

Oxtail comes from an Ox, traditionally, and from beef cows today; and it tastes like beef. However, the beefy oxtail taste in recipes has a depth of flavor that few other cuts of meat can compare to.

With Oxtail, you can create the ultimate comfort foods of stews, soups, and even casseroles.

What is Oxtail anyway?

Oxtail tastes like beef because it comes from a cow. Initially, Oxtail came from Oxen and may still be in some parts of the world.

However, Oxtail from oxen is not as common as it once was. So, the title has been assigned to a cow’s tail, whether that cow is a bull, steer, or heifer.

Oxtail is exactly as advertised, other than being from a cow, as opposed to an ox. The tail of a cow, steer, or ox is flavorful.

They also produce a beautiful broth and must be cooked low and slow if you want it to be tender.

Cuts of Beef

How much meat is in the tail of a cow?

A cow’s tail can weigh five or six pounds, depending on the size of the cow, and is cut into pieces that are one-half to a full inch in thickness.

As the tail gets smaller, so does the diameter of the cuts of the Oxtail.

Is Oxtail cheap meat?

The Oxtail was one of the cheapest meats at one time. Even though almost every cut has value, some have less than others, and the Oxtail was considered a lowly menu item.

That was the case until chefs flaunted its wonders by cooking it in ways that made it tender, appealing, and tasty (similar to other lesser-known cuts).

You must consider a cow only has one tail so that five or six pounds is all a butcher gets to process and sell.

While they get plenty of meat from the cow for other cuts of beef, such as roasts, steaks, and ground meat, of course, the price of Oxtail is high due to its limited availability and popularity.

Oxtail, over the years, has become a delicacy, thus driving up the price. In the last few years, I’ve rarely seen Oxtail under ten dollars a pound.

Used in homes and restaurants as an ingredient in many recipes, Oxtail is a treat that most of us can only purchase for special occasions. But, a little oxtail goes a long way; a pound can make several quarts of a beautiful soup or stew.

So, you can use a minimal amount of Oxtail in your recipes and get a huge flavor and high yield, which makes it cost-effective.  

What does Oxtail taste like?

Oxtail tastes like the best piece of melt-in-your-mouth beef you’ve ever eaten, and what it lacks in looks, it makes up for with extraordinary taste (similar to beef cheeks).

Why is Oxtail so delicious?

Oxtail is not pretty and is one of the oddest-looking meats you will ever cook. It has the appearance of pieces of fatty meat around a white core. That white center, with meat all around it, is bone marrow.

Bone marrow is what adds the rich flavor, collagen, and nutrients to oxtail broth, soup, and other dishes made from this luscious culinary delight. The slow cooking method at a low temperature also affects the flavor of dishes made with Oxtail.

What meat is similar to Oxtail?

If you make a recipe that calls for Oxtail, you can replace it with bone-in beef short ribs, veal neck, or veal shank. Osso Bucco, a traditional Italian dish, uses a veal shank as the star of the plate.

These cuts require a low oven temperature and ample time to melt the marrow and draw the collagen from the bone. It is these flavors that make these meats tastier than many other cuts.

Is Oxtail tough meat, or is it tender?

The tail is muscle, sinew, fat, bone, and marrow in the center. So, Oxtail tends to be tough unless it is adequately cooked.

It is not a meat that can be hurried and will need hours of roasting or stewing at a low temperature to become tender.

However, once it reaches tenderness, not many cuts of meat can compare to Oxtail’s velvety smoothness and exquisite flavor.

Oxtail recipes make perfect comfort food.

Braising oxtails — is it necessary?

If you have the time and equipment (a Dutch oven or similar oven-proof pot), then take the time to braise your Oxtail for a few minutes. Braising means you brown the Oxtail on both sides before adding water and your other ingredients to the pot.

If you use a Dutch oven or pressure cooker for cooking your Oxtail, braise it in the pot, then add your liquid once you’ve browned the meat. You then finish cooking the Oxtail in the oven at a low temperature.

You can braise Oxtail before putting it in the crockpot or not. The extra time for this procedure will add great flavor to your dish and the juices that make the broth or sauce.

If you are in a hurry, you don’t need to braise your Oxtail first. Also, if you are making soup with Oxtail, or cooking it in a crock pot, braising is not required but recommended.

Oxtails smothered in gravy (aka oxtail stew) — a Southern star

Simply put, oxtails smothered in a sauce are much like beef stew, only better. Much, much, much better.

When served over steamed rice, creamy mashed potatoes, fresh green veggies, and crusty bread or biscuits, it will put a smile on all the faces around your table.

You can find many recipes online for Oxtail with gravy; each is a bit different than the next. Some are served as meat and sauce, or you can add veggies to them during the cooking process, giving you a meal in a pot.

Oxtail soup — traditional comfort food

Homemade soup is one of my favorite meals. Oxtail can help you create many variations of this classic recipe. The traditional recipe, which is great comfort food, calls for tomato and assorted fresh vegetables.

However, I sometimes use canned or frozen vegetables instead of fresh when necessary for convenience and still have great soup.

Oxtail stew – Jamaican style — adds a little spice to the mix

The most significant difference between traditional oxtail stew and Jamaican-style oxtail stew is the marinating of the meat, which begins the tenderizing process.

Jamaican oxtail soup is also spicier with a sweetness, giving it a bolder flavor than the traditional recipe. Butterbeans are also an ingredient of Jamaican oxtail soup that sets it apart from other recipes.

Osso Bucco — is made from an oxtail alternate, veal shank

One can use a veal shank in place of Oxtail. However, can one use Oxtail in place of veal shank, as in Osso Bucco?

Yes, you can, and it is a less expensive alternative than the veil shank in the traditional recipe. But unfortunately, Osso Bucco commands a hefty price when served in restaurants, and veal shank is generally more expensive than Oxtail.

However, you can get the same dish at home, at a much lower price, by using Oxtail, the right ingredients, and patience.

What is the best way to slow cook Oxtail?

Oxtail can be cooked in a covered Dutch oven, in the oven, or at a low temperature on the stovetop.

You can also pressure cook oxtail, which will considerably reduce cooking time. It can take Oxtail over three hours to become fork tender, depending on the temperature you are cooking them at when cooked in the oven.

You can cut that time to less than an hour with a pressure cooker or appliance like the Instant pot. A slow cooker, however, on the low setting, can take up to eight hours to cook your Oxtail when set on low. Even when set on high, a crockpot will take about four hours to cook your Oxtail to the tender stage.

Is Oxtail fatty?

Oxtail is very fatty, so you must clarify your broth by removing some of the fat after the cooking process. Once your Oxtail is cooked, you can cut away some of the fat from the meat.

It is best to cool the broth and skim the fat from it before you continue with your recipe. This is another part of the process of cooking Oxtail that takes time.

However, like braising the meat first, it is a step that is necessary to give you the best flavor in your dishes.

Where can you buy Oxtail?

Grocers with a full-service meat department will often have Oxtail in their beef case. If they don’t, you can order it from the butcher if none is readily available.

If you need Oxtail for your recipe today or tomorrow, and it is unavailable, you can use bone-in short ribs, veal neck, or veal shanks in their place.