Slow braised oxtail cooked in a delicious, rich sauce is pull-apart tender, unctuous and perfect served on a bed of creamy mashed potatoes.
What is oxtail?
Oxtail is the meat from the tail of a cow. It is cut into sections and perfect for slow cooking. The unctuous meat falls off the bone and is similar to slow cooked short ribs but so much more delicious and full of flavor.
This oxtail recipe is the way South Africans often cook this delicious cut of beef. Jamaican oxtail (which is the more famous way of preparing oxtail) is cooked with Scotch Bonnet pepper, butter beans and allspice.
- Olive oil.
- Herbs. Aromatic herbs like bay leaves, rosemary and fresh thyme all work well in braises and stews.
- Red wine. I used a Cabernet Sauvignon but any full-bodied red wine will work.
- Tomatoes. I used canned chopped tomatoes but tomato Passata or fresh chopped tomatoes will also be delicious.
- Beef broth/beef stock.
- Salt and black pepper.
How to cook oxtails
Oxtail is a tough cut of meat full of connective tissue that needs to be cooked low and slow in liquid to break down properly. You can do this on the stove, in the oven or in an Instant Pot.
- Brown the oxtail: As with any stew, start by browning the meat well in a large, deep Dutch oven or pot set over medium-high heat. This allows the meat to caramelize (Maillard Reaction), adding incredible depth to the stew. Once the meat is browned, remove from the pan and set aside. You can also brown the meat in a large skillet but be sure to deglaze the pan and pour the reduced liquid into the stew to add all that rich flavor.
- Make the stew: In the same pot, sauté the onion, celery and carrots until golden and just starting to soften. Stir in the garlic and herbs and sauté for another minute. Pour in the red wine and deglaze the pan. Allow the wine to simmer and reduce for a few minutes then pour in the tomatoes. Add the meat back into the pot and pour in the beef stock or broth. Add just enough stock to cover. Reserve the rest. Generously season with salt and pepper then cover and allow to simmer slowly for 3 hours until the meat is tender and succulent.. Alternatively, place in the oven at 160ºC/320ºF. Check on the liquid level every 45 minutes and top up as necessary.
- Finish the oxtail stew: Remove the lid for the last 30 minutes of cooking and allow the sauce to reduce and thicken slightly.
- Serve: Serve with the sauce over a side dish of your choice.
What to serve with braised oxtail?
- Garlic Parmesan mashed potatoes
- Maple butter mashed sweet potatoes
- Creamy polenta
- Steamed white rice
How long to cook oxtail?
Oxtail will take approximately 3 hours to cook slowly in liquid set over medium-low heat, depending on the size of the oxtails. You can also cook oxtail in an Instant Pot or pressure cooker for approximately 45 minutes. In a slow cooker, oxtail can take up to 10 hours to cook.
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Slow braised oxtail
- 2 kg Oxtail
- 4 large carrots peeled and finely chopped
- `1 onion finely chopped
- 2 stalks celery finely chopped
- 5 garlic cloves finely chopped
- 3 Bay Leaves
- 2 sprigs rosemary
- 1 cup red wine
- 400 g (14oz) chopped tomatoes
- 4 cups beef stock
- salt and pepper to taste
- Season the oxtail generously with salt. In a large pot set over high heat, brown the oxtail in batches.
- Remove and set aside. Add the onions, celery and carrots and cook until golden and just starting to soften.
- Add the garlic and herbs and sauté for another minute.
- Add the red wine and allow to reduce slightly.
- Add the tomatoes and the oxtail back to the pot.
- Pour in the stock, just enough to cover the oxtail. Reserve the rest. Season with salt and pepper.
- Bring up to a boil then reduce the heat, cover and simmer gently for 3 hours. Check every 45 minutes if the oxtail needs more stock and top up as needed.
- Remove the lid for the last hour of cooking to allow the sauce to reduce.
- Serve the soft oxtail with mashed potatoes, polenta or rice.