Oxtail is -- you guessed it -- the tail of a cow!
Once upon a time, it did exclusively mean the tail of a male, but not so much these days. It’s a gelatin-rich meat, which means it requires a slow-and-low preparation to really achieve that perfectly tender texture. When the gelatin melts, it creates a hearty, rich body to whatever liquid it’s cooked in -- this means that it lends especially well to braising. In addition, it’s quite boney and fatty, so we’re going to double down on our braising suggestion.
Once an obscure ingredient, oxtail has been yanked into the gourmand favorites list in recent years. Due to this, the price of the protein has certainly gone up a bit, but there’s an upside to that, too! With increasing popularity comes increasing availability. Oxtail is easier than ever to find -- most reasonable butchers should be able to get you set up without any problems.
When buying oxtail from a butcher, though, there are a couple of pro-tips. Ask your butcher for pieces from the top of the tail, if he has them. They are going to be larger and meatier. As well, if you can get all of your pieces roughly the same size, they are all going to cook at similar speeds. By getting the upper pieces only, things are going to be both easier, and tastier.
Additionally, when it comes to cooking oxtail, the good news is that it’s incredibly easy! All they take is about 250 degrees of heat, and a few hours of you doing something else entirely. Set it and forget it, as they say!
We’re gonna look at a sort of ‘hybrid’ method to cooking oxtail today. It’s a combined smoking-and-braising technique, where we use smoking to create a mahogany crust and impart flavor, then finish things off with a slow-and-low braise. It takes some time, but rest assured: it’s worth every second.
You’ll start by putting the oxtail directly on your smoker. Make sure your temperature doesn’t get too crazy -- keep things around 250-275 degrees here. You can put some seasoning or salt on the protein here. It’s going to take just a couple hours for the oxtail to develop that nice, deep color on the outside.
Once that’s happened, it’s time to get your braise on! Our favorite idea here is a beer-based braise. Add some celery, carrot, and onion, and you’ve got yourself a party! Put all of this in a cast-iron pot on the grill, and go to town. Braising on the grill is going to take a few hours, but we have a feeling you’ve done it before. You don’t have to keep too keen of an eye on the pot -- this slow, gentle cooking method is going to do most of the work for you. We won’t get into the science of it today, but braise away, guys!
Oxtail is a truly delicious cut of meat, but it takes some know-how to do properly. With the proper cooking techniques (slow and low is king here!), and the technical know-how, you can make oxtail that is absolutely bursting with flavor. Get some!