Demystifying Beef Oxtails: What They Are and How To Cook Them

Oxtails may sound unfamiliar and look odd, but they are a real delicacy packed with deep beefy flavor. If you’ve never tried oxtails before, you’re missing out! This guide will explain exactly what oxtails are, where they come from, how to cook them, and why you should add them to your repertoire.

What Are Beef Oxtails?

Oxtails come from cattle and are literally the tail of the ox or cow. They are composed of vertebrae bones, fat, and connective tissue encircled with succulent meat.

When butchered for consumption, the tail is cut into segments around 2-3 inches long containing a single vertebrae bone each. This leaves oval shaped chunks of bone-in meat perfect for braising.

Where on the Cow Are Oxtails Located?

As the name suggests, oxtails come from the tail of cattle. Cows use their tails to swat flies and communicate, so tails are muscular and contain a decent amount of meat.

The tail attaches near the rear of the cow above the rump. It extends down roughly 3 feet long, getting narrower towards the tip.

When cutting up whole carcasses, oxtails are removed by cutting through the joints in the tail to free the meaty segments.

What Cuts of Beef Are Similar to Oxtail?

The closest cut of beef comparable to oxtail is beef cheeks. Like oxtail, beef cheeks contain plenty of collagen and become meltingly tender when braised low and slow.

Other bony cuts that require moist cooking methods like short ribs, shank, and brisket also share some textural similarities to oxtail.

Nutritional Profile of Oxtails

Oxtails are high in calories, fat, and collagen:

  • Around 650 calories per 3.5 oz serving
  • Over 70% calories from fat
  • High in saturated fat from marrow and fat cap
  • Abundant collagen from connective tissue
  • Small amounts of protein and micronutrients

The abundant natural collagen gives oxtails their rich mouthfeel and health benefits for skin, joints, and bones. Their high fat content makes them perfect for low carb, keto, or carnivore diets.

Are Oxtails Healthy?

Yes, oxtails are a nutritious and healthy choice! Here are some of their key benefits:

  • Rich in collagen to support skin health, arthritis relief, stronger bones and joints.
  • Natural glucosamine and chondroitin for joint health.
  • Nutrient-dense bone marrow supports immunity and blood health.
  • High in heart-healthy conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) from grass-fed beef.
  • Contains tryptophan to help the body produce serotonin and melatonin for better sleep.

Availability and Cost of Oxtails

Oxtails were once everyday fare but are now considered a specialty item. They can be difficult to find and more expensive than common cuts of beef.

Oxtails typically cost $6-12 per pound depending on the butcher or store. Asian and Hispanic markets often carry oxtails at more reasonable prices. Online mail order is another sourcing option.

When found in stock, oxtails deliver great value. Their rich meat and bone marrow provide plenty of servings perfect for braises, soups, and stews.

How To Cook Beef Oxtails

Oxtails require slow, moist-heat cooking through braising or stewing to become tender. This breaks down the fat, collagen, and connective tissue over several hours transforming the meat into a succulent, juicy state.

Cook times:

  • Braising: Simmer gently on stove 2 1⁄2 – 3 hours
  • Stewing: Simmer in oven around 3 hours
  • Pressure cooker: High pressure 50 mins – 1 hour

Tips for cooking oxtails:

  • Brown oxtails first for enhanced flavor.

  • Use a heavy pot with lid for even heat distribution.

  • Add aromatic veggies, herbs and spices to the braising liquid.

  • Flip oxtails halfway through.

  • Cook low and slow. High heat will toughen the meat.

  • Internal temp should reach 195°F-205°F when done.

  • Let rest 10-15 minutes before serving.

Best Oxtail Recipes and Serving Suggestions

Oxtails pair well with any cuisine that utilizes slow braising. Here are some top recipes to try:

  • Oxtail soup – Traditional English soup made with oxtails, carrots, onions, celery, garlic, and herbs.

  • Curried oxtail stew – Jamaican-style curry spices amp up the richness of braised oxtails.

  • Red wine braised oxtails – Braise oxtails in bold red wine with tomatoes, herbs and vegetables.

  • Oxtail tacos – Shred the tender meat after braising for taco filling.

  • Oxtail pasta sauce – Braise oxtails in a tomato sauce base to put over pasta.

Other good pairings include creamy polenta, mashed potatoes, or rice. Veggies like roasted Brussels sprouts also balance the richness.

What Does Oxtail Taste Like?

The meat on well-cooked oxtails is succulent, tender, and pulls cleanly off the bone. The flavor is robust, intense, and deep with beefiness.

When slow braised, the meat takes on the flavors of any liquids and seasonings used. The texture becomes similar to pot roast with strings of fiber in the meat breaking down through the long cooking time.

The fatty marrow and collagen melt into the surrounding sauce leaving it luscious and silky smooth. This gelatinous sauce clings nicely to the oxtails giving great mouthfeel and flavor in every bite.

Should You Cook Oxtails?

If you love deeply flavored, fall-off-the-bone tender beef, then you must try cooking oxtails! They require time and patience but deliver a supremely satisfying eating experience perfect for cooler months and comfort food cravings.

Start with an easy oxtail soup or stew and branch out from there. You’ll be rewarded with the rich, unctuous flavors and tender beefiness that makes oxtails a cherished delicacy across the globe.

What animal do oxtails come from?


What kind of meat is a oxtail?

Oxtail is most definitely beef. It is simply the tail from Beef Cattle.

What does oxtail taste like?

Although oxtail may not be pretty to look at, its taste is worth seeing past its knobby appearance. Simply put, the oxtail tastes like beef, and when cooked, creates a deeply rich flavor. Comparing braised oxtail to a short rib, the oxtail is more tender with a silkier texture.

Is oxtail from an ox or a cow?

Oxtail is the tail of a cow. A long time ago, it came from the tail of an ox, but now it comes from the tail of a cow of either sex. The tail is skinned and cut into sections. Each section has a tailbone with some marrow in the center, and a bony portion of meat surrounding the tail.

Why are oxtails so expensive?

Washington says that historical subsistence foods like oxtail, saltfish and callaloo were once considered poor man’s food, and over time gained prestige and financial value. “They held a certain social richness in that it was a path forward, a map towards what our ancestors ate,” she explains.

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