This is one of my all-time favorite dishes. Warm, inviting fall-off-the-bone comfort food perfect for Fall and Winter days, when all you wanna do is snuggle up on the couch with a book or favorite movie. This oxtail stew is worth the time and effort, and this recipe makes a lot. It will feed your family plus some friends over for dinner–or better yet, save the extra stew for a second dinner the next day! And not to worry–if cooking in quantity isn’t your thing, you can easily cut the recipe in half.
Is it Kid-Friendly?
My kids go crazy over oxtail stew. Whenever I tell them that’s what’s for dinner, inevitably I get a big grin and a “Yayyyyyy!!” It’s an easy dinner day when everyone around the table with get 2nd and 3rd helpings. And despite the fatty nature of oxtails, they provide lots of protein and are a good source of iron.
Oxtails are similar to braised beef short ribs, but to me they have their own unique, comforting umami quality you can’t get from anything else.
A Few Notes About Oxtails
Although oxtails used to be known as food for people who couldn’t afford much, they are now fairly expensive. The outlook is good, however, because they’re beginning to increase in popularity. Before I could only find oxtails at Asian grocery stores; lately I’ve been buying them at my local grocery store (QFC), as well as–get this–Costco! (Gasp!) But wherever you get them, the decadent cost is worth it.
I have to admit, oxtails are super fatty. But that’s why cooking them a long time produces that unmatched, special flavor. In fact, the stew is really best made the day before and eaten the next day. Often people make oxtails for a special occasion, because it really is a special dish.
I make sure to skim off the fat very well. (Sometimes this means skimming off some of the sauce, but this recipe makes a lot so you don’t miss it.) It’s even better if you can let the stew cool (30 min to 1 hour, and overnight in the fridge if you make it the day before). Cooling the stew lets the fat settle on the top, and you can scrape it off. (See photos below for what this looks like.)
Because they take a long time to cook, make this on a day that you’ll be at home and not in a rush. The oxtails need time (I give it 2 to 2 1/2 hours) to become soft and tender, almost fall-off-the-bone. (And in my case, the kids ask that it falls off the bone because they don’t like taking the meat off!)
This particular recipe is more tomato based, with the oxtails enriching its hearty flavor. After the oxtails have simmered under low heat for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, carrots and potatoes are added the last 30 minutes.
Dredge the oxtails in flour, then brown all sides
This first step can seem like a pain, but it really adds complex layering to the stew. (I’ve tried skipping this step before, and the end result just wasn’t as tasty.)
Dry the oxtails with a paper towel. Salt and pepper the oxtails, then dredge the them in flour, shaking off the excess. If you have too much flour the meat can stick to the bottom of the pot and burn when simmering if you’re not careful.
Some tips for browning:
Don’t crowd the pot and let each oxtail have enough space to sear. (You’ll probably need to sear the oxtails in 2 or 3 batches.) I use about 1 tablespoon of oil per batch.
Don’t touch the meat, let each side get a nice seared browning (1-3min), before moving on to another side
I must say that cutting up an entire onion makes the finished sauce very rich (but tasty). When I was on my elimination diet, however, I stopped eating garlic and onions completely–so I replaced the onion/garlic with bell pepper and celery. The end result was also very tasty, and a lot lighter.
If you want a lighter, less intense sauce, feel free to substitute half of the onion for half a bell pepper and 2 stalks of celery.
Add enough water to mostly cover the oxtails. Heat the pot up to boiling, then turn down heat to low and simmer for 2 hours (for soft and tender oxtail), 2 1/2 hours for fall off the bone tender. It’s best to occasionally stir the pot once in awhile to ensure the meat isn’t sticking to the bottom and burning.
Skim the fat off
Skim off the fat after the oxtail has been simmered. There is a lot of it, but it’s not too hard to do.
There are several options:
In a pinch for time: do your best to find the oil from the stew sauce (with heat off), and skim it off.
Better option: wait for to oxtail to cool (30 min to an hour), and skim it off the top.
Best option: Put the oxtail in the fridge to fully cool (a few hours), then take off the solidified fat from the top. It’s the top bright orange layer.
Add the carrots & potatoes
After you’ve skimmed the fat, add the carrots and potatoes. I simmer these on low-medium heat, and once in awhile I stir things to make sure the meat isn’t sticking to the bottom of the pot and burning.
Simmer for about 30-45 minutes, until the carrots/potatoes are softened (but not mushy)! Then the stew is done. I always serve a big pot of rice to go with this, because having that rich sauce mixed on top of the rice is the perfect complement. (Sometimes I mix brown and white rice together to make it healthier.)
Burnt flour at the bottom? One last note.
This has happened to me too many times. If it happens, no problem! Just transfer the stew to another large pot, being careful to leave the bottom burnt part behind. The burnt part usually just sticks to the bottom and won’t affect the rest of your stew.
Beef Oxtail Stew
Rich, flavorful and hearty stew with beef oxtails simmered a long time on the stove.
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time3 hrs
Total Time3 hrs 30 mins
Course: Main Course
Keyword: beef, comfort food, oxtail, stew
Servings: 8 people
Large pot or dutch oven
- 5-6 pounds beef oxtails
- 1/2 cup flour
- 3 tablespoons oil divided between batches of browning the oxtails
- 1 cup red wine
- 1/3rd cup soy sauce
- 4 cloves minced garlic
- 1 15oz can stewed tomatoes I find stewed tomatoes add more flavor than diced because there are extra spices added.
- 1 15oz can tomato sauce or marinara sauce (marinara sauce adds more flavor)
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon grated or finely minced ginger
- 1 1/2 tablespoon brown sugar
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 1/2 cups rough chopped carrots about 4 large carrots, or 14oz
- 2-3 medium russet potatoes, peeled and chunked potatoes any type of potato should do
Wash and dry the oxtails with a paper towel. Salt and pepper them all over.
Dredge the oxtails with flour, and be sure to tap all the excess flour off.
Add 1 tablespoon of oil to the pot, and wait until the oil is hot. Then carefully place the first batch of oxtails in, one side up, with enough room for each one. Let them sit undisturbed for 1-3 minutes, until the side down is lightly browned. Then flip each of the oxtails to a different side and continue browning. Repeat until each side is browned. You may have to do 2 or 3 batches of oxtails. Use a tablespoon of oil for each new batch.
Set aside the oxtails in a bowl or plate.
Rough chop the onion and mince the garlic. Finely mince or grate the ginger.
Add the chopped onion, garlic, ginger, brown sugar, soy sauce, bay leaves, stewed tomatoes, tomato sauce, and wine to the same pot. Then add the oxtails back in. Fill the pot with water until the oxtails are mostly submerged, and give the pot a stir or two.
Bring the pot to a boil, then lower the heat to low and cover the pot. Simmer for 2 hours, until the oxtail is tender. Once in awhile, give the pot a stir and make sure the meat isn't sticking to the bottom of the pot. Simmer another 30 minutes if you want fall-off-the-bone texture.
Remove the bay leaves. Take the fat off the stew. It is best to wait until the stew cools so that the fat is easier to skim. You can also cool it in the fridge for 30 min to an hour and skim the fat.
Chop the carrots and potatoes into bite sized pieces.
Add the carrots and potatoes to the pot and give the pot a stir. Heat the pot up to boiling, then low-medium heat and simmer another 30-45 minutes, until the carrots/potatoes are cooked but not mushy. Careful again that the meat doesn't stick to the bottom of the pot. Once the veggies are just right, turn off the heat.
Serve with a big pot of rice!
Make AheadThe stew is actually the absolute best tasting the day after, when flavors have had time to meld and develop. So if you can plan, make it a day ahead!Lighten the StewIf you want to lighten the stew sauce, substitute half the onion for half a bell pepper and 2 celery stalks. Burnt flour at the bottom?This has happened to me too many times. If it happens, no problem! Just transfer the stew to another large pot, being careful to leave the bottom burnt part behind. The burnt part usually just sticks to the bottom and won’t affect the rest of your stew.