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Beef Up Your Next Braise with Oxtails

Collagen-rich oxtail makes the most luxurious broths and braises.
By Published Feb. 22, 2022

If you’re not beefing up your soups and stews with oxtails, you should be. Resourceful cooks around the world have long utilized this collagen-rich appendage (once considered an undesirable byproduct of cattle slaughter) to add richness and lustrous body to all sorts of braises—and in many preparations it’s the star component. Oxtail is the foundation of Hawaii’s soul-satisfying soup: beefy-rich broth infused with ginger, star anise, dried mushrooms, jujubes, and the aged dried orange peel known as chen pi. In Jamaica, where the tough cut is a staple of the cuisine, cooks simmer it to melting tenderness in a silky gravy that’s seasoned with the dark, smoky caramelized sugar called browning. Romans transform it into coda alla vaccinara, a lush peasant dish that’s brightened with tomatoes and wine. 

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Science Behind Their Silkiness

No matter the preparation, oxtail is typically cooked low and slow to convert as much of its collagen as possible into gelatin so that the meat is meltingly tender and the broth full-bodied and satiny. That conversion begins at temperatures as low as 122 degrees and kicks into high gear between 160 and 180 degrees. Tough, collagen-rich cuts like oxtail are often held in that higher range to maximize breakdown.

On the stovetop, that process can take 3 or 4 hours, but we found that using the high setting of a multicooker can reduce the time to an hour, plus 30 minutes for releasing steam naturally.

Shopping Tips

  • Oxtails are typically sold as crosscut pieces that vary in thickness and diameter, depending on if they are cut from the top or bottom of the tail. 
  • If possible, buy oxtails that are wider, 2-inch‑thick pieces (far left image below) to help ensure that the meat doesn’t overcook and stays attached to the bone. 
  • You can order oxtails from your butcher; they’re also often found in the freezer section.

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JC
JOHN C.
16 days

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too. I've done this using a rimmed sheet pan instead of a skillet and put veggies and potatoes around the chicken for a one-pan meal. Broccoli gets nicely browned and yummy!

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too.

MD
MILES D.
JOHN C.
9 days

Amazed this recipe works out as well as it does. Would not have thought that the amount of time under the broiler would have produced a very juicy and favorable chicken with a very crispy crust. Used my 12" Lodge Cast Iron skillet (which can withstand 1000 degree temps to respond to those who wondered if it would work) and it turned out great. A "make again" as my family rates things. This is a great recipe, and I will definitely make it again. My butcher gladly butterflied the chicken for me, therefore I found it to be a fast and easy prep. I used my cast iron skillet- marvellous!

CM
CHARLES M.
11 days

John, wasn't it just amazing chicken? So much better than your typical oven baked chicken and on par if not better than gas or even charcoal grilled. It gets that smokey charcoal tasted and overnight koshering definitely helps, something I do when time permits. First-time I've pierced a whole chicken minus the times I make jerk chicken on the grill. Yup, the cast iron was not an issue.