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Braised oxtail is a recipe that uses frying, or searing, combined with slow cooking for a traditionally hearty meat and vegetable stew. The oxtail used is generally cut tail portions of beef cattle, usually about 2 inches (5 cm) long. Thick tailbone is surrounded by beef meat and a fat layer. The braising method allows the oxtail to cook thoroughly, producing a thick sauce for dripping onto the cooked vegetables.
Cooks have the option of preparing the oxtail meat a few days before braising. The fat layer surrounding the oxtail is typically removed, revealing the lean beef enclosing the tailbone. Salt, or other desired spices, are applied to the meat. The oxtail can be placed in the refrigerator overnight, allowing the spices to infiltrate the meat's interior.
The oxtail is commonly seared in olive oil to begin the braising process. Braised oxtail should be completely browned on all sides. This searing method helps retain the meat's juices during slow cooking, preventing the meat from becoming dry and tough. Cooks can also select vegetables to braise along with the oxtail, including carrots, onions, and celery.
Braised oxtail recipes commonly use alcohol, such as wine or brandy, to deglaze the meat and juices remaining in the frying pan after browning. The resulting sauce is mixed with the oxtail and vegetables during slow cooking, producing a thick gravy to accompany the meal. Beef bouillon is typically added in small amounts to the sauce mixture to control the overall viscosity.
A tightly sealed dutch oven, such as a cast iron type, is a necessary tool for finishing the braised oxtail. The sauce, browned oxtail, and vegetables should be placed within the dutch oven, securing the meal with the lid. Cooks can either slow cook the braised oxtail on a stovetop, on low heat, or inside the oven.
Simmering the braised oxtail on the stovetop can take between 1 and 2 hours. A long cooking time ensures that the meat will be soft, melting in the mouth. Oven cooking can take longer, commonly about 2.5 hours. The key to thoroughly cooking the oxtail is keeping the lid closed for the entire cooking process. Repeated meal inspections, by lifting the lid, will allow heat to escape from the dutch oven's interior, lowering the food's temperature and compromising the meal's quality.
Braised oxtail is often served with mashed potatoes. The oxtail sauce serves as a thick gravy for the potatoes. The cooked vegetables complete the meal, mixing with the sauce as well.
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