Oxtail stew with fries. (Photo by: VW PICS/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

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What Is Oxtail And How Do You Cook It?

Oxtails once came from oxen, but today, the term refers to the tail cut of beef or veal of either sex. The tail is skinned and cut into cross-sections that come out as rounds of meat with a section of bone at the center.

Back in the day, nose-to-tail eating was a given, and people discovered that oxen were milder in temperament and tastier than bulls. They developed recipes to utilize oxtail, generally in long-cooked dishes that broke down the tail's connective tissue to produce a rich broth.

Oxtail has an intensely meaty flavor and can be compared to short rib, but more tender. Because the bone is cut crosswise, each section contains a hearty knob of fat-rich marrow that melts when cooked, bathing each piece of meat and lending its buttery, nutty taste to the dish as a whole.

Jamaican oxtail stew is a popular oxtail dish enjoyed all over the Caribbean and often features soft butter beans and spicy Scotch bonnet peppers. Romans like to make coda alla vaccinara — a braised oxtail dish with tomatoes, celery, and warming spices — while Eastern Europeans enjoy oxtail in barley soup with rye bread.

Oxtail is also a good protein source, is rich in collagen, and contains about 14 grams of fat and 260 calories per 100-gram serving. More than a third of oxtail's fat is saturated, and recent research suggests that saturated fat can support liver health and balance hormones.