What is Oxtail and Why It's So Expensive Now

Rich, tender, with a wide depth of flavor, oxtail is a cut of meat that has been prepared for centuries in parts of Asia, Caribbean islands, South America, and parts of Africa. But what is oxtail exactly? Once only referred to as from the tail of an ox, today the term encompasses meat cut from tails of any kind of cattle. Known today as comfort food in America, this gelatin-rich meat was once known as a throwaway cut or "poor man's food". Now, the prices for oxtail meat have skyrocketed due to its popularity in fine dining, making this once cheap cut of meat almost double and triple in price.

What Does Oxtail Taste Like?

close up of rustic british oxtail stew
Getty Images

If you haven't gotten the chance to try oxtail yet, I highly suggest visiting your local Jamaican restaurant and ordering a plate of Jamaican oxtail stew or oxtail plate. The local Jamaican food truck near me starts by seasoning the meat with dry seasoning and freshly chopped onion and thyme before slow cooking it until the meat falls off the bone and the cooking liquid is concentrated into a flavorful gravy.

Meaty with a tenderness that is uncomparable, it's no wonder this cut of meat is a favorite for many people. The only downside is that the more people that know about it will jack the price of this meat cut up even more.

Where To Buy Oxtail & The Reason Oxtail is Rising in Price

Regarded as a "throw-away" cut for years, oxtail was an early African American soul food staple that was cheap to eat along with collard greens or to make into an oxtail soup. Now, as Angela Davis of The Kitchenista shares, "Oxtail used to be an incredibly cheap cut of meat, something mostly poor people cooked. It's the tail, after all. But now? The secret's out."

Bull tail in raw from the market wrapped in paper.
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Why is it more expensive to make an oxtail dish now? It's simple supply and demand. Each cow only has around six pounds of viable oxtail to go around, compared to the other 400 plus pounds of viable cuts you can get from the rest of the cow.

The cut of beef can usually be found in most grocery stores near the liver and tongue as well as online, where you can even purchase Waygu oxtail, which runs about $10 a pound plus delivery.

Oxtail Recipes to Try Out

When it comes to cooking oxtail, low and slow is where it's at to break up all the connective tissue and collagen in the cut. The only time you want to use high heat is when you are searing the meat for flavor, called the maillard reaction, before braising it on low heat or in the slow cooker. Some cooks like to use a pressure cooker to speed up the cooking process, but the choice is completely up to you.

Smothered Oxtail

smothered oxtail
The Kitchenista Diaries

This smothered and covered oxtail might have a long cooking time, but the wait is totally worth it from the first bite. Serve this over rice, mashed potatoes, or even a bowl of grits.

Get the recipe here from The Kitchenista Diaries

Jamaican Stewed Oxtail With Butter Beans

Jamacian oxtails with butter beans
Caribbean Pot

In Jamaica, this classic preparation is served in restaurants and home kitchens alike. This recipe uses the whole spice cabinet-- and you can taste it in every bite.

Get the recipe here from Caribbean Pot

Chinese Braised Oxtail

Chinese braised oxtail
The Woks of Life

Thicker than traditional stews, this Chinese braised oxtail recipe is braised with Asian spices such as star anise, ginger, and garlic. Serve with steamed rice.

Get the recipe here from The Woks of Life

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