The Real Reason It Takes So Long For Oxtail To Cook

Oxtail is the tail of any cattle, male or female, though usually from a steer. What was once considered a meat that would just be thrown away has now made its way to the delicacy category. According to Business Insider, oxtail is a Jamaican delicacy and due to its popularity, it has become pretty pricey.

The bone-heavy, yet meaty, piece of cattle is known as a one-pot meal and dates all the way back to the 1500s (via Business Insider). Traditional cooking of the gelatin-style meat has stayed alive and true, with most recipes still being cooked with only one pot in a rich liquid for full tenderness like in this soy-braised oxtail recipe.

If you have never made this yourself, you may be taken aback at how long the cooking process is. Think about it, though: How long do you think you have to cook boney meat until it turns into a rich, delectable, gelatin type of meat? Since the best way to cook oxtail is on low heat, it will likely be several hours before your oxtail is done cooking

What you need to make oxtail

From smothered oxtail to oxtail stew and even oxtail tacos, there are many different ways to prepare and serve oxtail, furthering its tastiness with every new dish. What you need for any dish can vary, but there is a ton of crossover when it comes to ingredients and spices.

Some of the most common ingredients that can be added, however you feel like cooking oxtail, are salt, paprika, cayenne pepper, black pepper, sugar, wine, garlic, onion, beef stock (or a reasonable substitute for beef broth), and sometimes a bit of tomato paste or red wine if you're braising

While you can find most, if not all, of these ingredients at a local grocery store, oxtail isn't like steak or chicken. The latter two you can find in any meat section but finding oxtail may prove to be tricky. If you are wanting to expand your culinary skills, be sure to call ahead and see if an order can be placed if none is in stock.

Why does it take so long to cook?

Much like any other stew-based meat — think pot roast — before you can start the slow and steady part of cooking oxtail, you have to brown the meat on both sides, says Food 24. This, of course, adds to the preparation time, but it'll be worth it.

Oxtail is a very fatty piece of meat with a lot of tendons. Fat and tendons aren't textures that can become super soft, super fast. When you bite into that properly prepared fatty piece of pot roast, it melts in your mouth. That is what you should experience with oxtail — soft and jelly-like so it will fall right off the bone (via Food 24).

Slow cookers and pressure cookers are the best way to get the most authentic oxtail (without actually being in Jamaica, that is). Submerging the browned meat in water that is perfectly seasoned will ensure a rich and juicy oxtail, rather than tough and hard. 

How to serve oxtail

There are many ways to prepare oxtail. One of the prime variables is the time involved. If you have a slow cooker and want to prepare in the morning, and come home for dinner already done, a nice southern smothered oxtail would do the trick (via I Heart Recipes). Smothered oxtail is covered in a creamy beef flavored gravy that would be best served atop potatoes or rice.

Braised oxtail is similar to smothered, but there is less of a beefy gravy; it's often cooked in a wine-based sauce like in the braised oxtail recipe featured in Saveur. Braised oxtail is often best served over creamy garlic potatoes or polenta.

The fastest and simplest oxtail dish is probably oxtail stew, served by itself in a bowl. There's only about an hour of actual cooking time (via My Forking Life). In a slow cooker, you will add many of the same ingredients you'd find in a beef stew: beans, onions, carrots, celery, green onion, and a ton of spices. Then, add in beef broth and oxtail bits. Once all is combined, serve it up in a bowl with a slice of bread for dipping.

What is the nutritional value of oxtail?

Oxtail, much like any other meat, is full of protein, with one serving providing 30.93 grams, according to Livestrong. Granted, protein is not the only thing you need in a day to have a well-balanced meal. Serving oxtail with a side of vegetables will help the overall nutritional value. Think of it as another delicious way to get your daily vegetables.

Since oxtail is usually a dish served with sides, it can be difficult to pinpoint just how many calories or fat are in each meal. In 100 grams of oxtail itself, though, there are about 262 calories and 14.34 grams of fat, and 141 milligrams of cholesterol (via Livestrong).

LiveStrong also says that one serving of oxtail has 233 milligrams of sodium, but no carbohydrates. On a positive note, oxtail is a great source of iron, with 3.6 milligrams per serving. You will also consume about 10 milligrams of calcium per serving.