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Are ox tails just not for me?

Let me preface this by saying there is generally no food I do not like if it is prepared well. I have tried ox tails at two local (Jacksonville FL) carribean / Jamaican restaurants, and I just have not been that impressed. At one restaurant, the flavor was a little boring, but at the second, it was a very delicious and spicy. That said, at each place, it seems like a chore to get the meat off the bone, as there is still a lot of fatty connective tissue. In my mind, it seems like this stuff should break down if cooked a little longer. However, since it was an issue at both restaruants, I wonder if this is the way it should be cooked. In other words, is "fall off the bone" overcooked for ox tails? I'm just wondering if I should keep giving this dish a try or just go back to the jerk chicken.

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  1. That's oxtails for you no matter how it's made...."fall off the bone" overcooked and sometimes lots of connective tissue and sometimes it can be fatty.
    Wouldn't say part of the fun is eating it and can be some work, but no two oxtails are the same from my experience.

    1. Don't give up, when prepared properly they are delicious. I grew up on them in the UK. They should be fall off the bone tender, this way the natural gelatin in the bone has also thickened the gravy. Normally I just prepare them in a stew with onions and root vegetables and serve them with dumplings or boiled potatoes. I have had them at some good restaurants where they were already removed from the bone and served in the gravy. When cooked properly there should not be any work involved in getting them off the bone. The problem seems to be that in some cases people do not allow enough time for them to simmer slowly. Try them again and good luck!!

      1 Reply
      1. re: giveittomikey

        +1. IMO they should be fall of the bone tender. I think they'd be almost impossible to eat otherwise.

      2. When I fix oxtails, I cook them till the cartilage disks separate from the bones.

        1. You have to cook oxtails a minimum of four hours until the bones separate, that's when they're best.

          3 Replies
          1. re: MandalayVA

            "Minimum of four hours" -- well, that's assuming you're not using a pressure-cooker, eh?

            1. re: racer x

              I've never tried a pressure cooker. Time isn't the issue, it's taste. ;)

              1. re: MandalayVA

                And if you use a pressure cooker, you'll have the best of both worlds.

          2. You need good tail and to cook it properly. There's cheap tail out there that never soften up no matter how long you cook it...

            For me the perfect oxtail is bursting with fat and gelatin and falls right off the bone. You should try making it at home.

            7 Replies
            1. re: joonjoon

              "cheap tail"...hehe.
              I agree with most posters here, that when done right, oxtail can be great. Also pointed out that even if falling-off-the-bone, you still have to suck, slurp, gnaw, and pick through the bones, and yeah, thats part of the satisfaction (like eating crab or crawfish or many times goat).
              If you lean more towards buttertart and don't like the idea of oxtail, then no sweat, return to jerk chicken. But if you wanna follow-up, maybe try cooking it at home, as suggested, and go from there

              1. re: porker

                If you're having to "s, s, g & p" through the bones, then they aren't falling off the bone. A knife and fork will cause the pieces to come right off.

                1. re: c oliver

                  Correct, but like chicken wings, I don't want to use a knife and fork.

                  1. re: porker

                    If I prepared chicken wings the way I prepare oxtails, I'd be eating them with a knife and fork. I sincerely can't imagine eating either with my hands. Guess I'm not into the whole caveman thing :)

                    1. re: c oliver

                      Point taken {:/), Theres a thread kicking around about all things cartiledge and a few of us are exchanging varying opinions.

                      I wholeheartedly enjoy food much more (I guess I fall into the caveman camp) when I can pick it up in my fingers, plop it into my mouth (or hold it against my mouth), and gnaw away.

                      I realize this isn't everyone's cup of tea...but for me, this is a big draw: ribs, chicken, shrimp, crab, lobster, a sandwich.... whatever..... it doesn't matter, if I can pick it up with my hands to eat, its much more enjoyable.

                      1. re: porker

                        For me the best part of baised oxtail is gnawing on the sticky gooey stuff on the ends of the bone sections...and sucking out the goo from the cavity.. :)

            2. Generally speaking, if people like osso bucco or pork shanks, they'll be happy with oxtails. I recall discovering it when it was 59 cents a pound and I was an impoverished college student/mom. Yes, you do have to work harder to get at the meat, but I alwyas thought it was worth it. Not a meal for fanciness, but more on the order of barbecue, requiring the use of fingers and a little sucking to get the last bits of meat and cartilage. I've been cooking them for decades and every once in a while you'll get a batch that doesn't get quite perfectly falling-off-the-bone.

              But I frankly don't think they're worth more than five times the price of the old days. YMMV, of course.

              1. I've had oxtails prepared a number of different ways, including from West Indian restaurants and Spanish-Caribbean restaurants. My favorite was the way my family would cook them (Southern US-influenced).
                I prefer them meatier and fattier myself. The fatty ones are horrible for your health, I'm sure, which is why I rarely eat them nowadays, but they tend to be more tender and flavorful.

                I've found that in some restaurants they use tails that have less meat and more connective tissue - these tend to not be as good, in my opinion. Some places also use flavorings that just aren't as tasty as you may find elsewhere.

                So, in short, it may just be that you didn't like the particular way the restaurants you got them from had prepared them. Don't give up.

                1. I love oxtails. In my neck of the woods they are served in almost every soul food restaurant. I think there is a big difference in quality based on what a restaurant owner is willing to pay. There are some tails that are much more meatier and when cooked properly the meat just falls off. I pretty much know which place cooks them the way I like them, and which places to avoid. Of course it appears their popularity is increasing which means the price for tails in the market is also going up. Oxtails used to be pretty inexpensive around here but these days they are a bit costly. When I cook them at home I use my pressure cooker and they are very tender.

                  1. I love oxtail soup. I boil the oxtails, skim the water, then add chunks of ginger, a few bruised cloves of garlic, a few slices of onion, a few green chiles, a chopped tomato, some whole black peppercorns, a small piece of cinnamon bark, and a bay leaf. I allow the water to boil again, then slow simmer for a very long time, like 8 hours. The broth is amazing. The oxtails are nice and falling apart. I eat it as a soup like this, or mix in barley, oats, or sometimes fideos. It is amazing. I like the oxtail falling apart and probably wouldn't like eating it if it were served before that stage.

                    1. Oxtails, like shanks, neckbones, shoulder and the like, should be cooked "low and slow" until the collagens melt and the meat becomes almost gelatinous. The OP has been eating in places where the cooks were either impatient or misguided; anyone served a chewy oxtail should hand it back and say, I'm going to a movie; I'll be back when this is done. Getting the meat off the bone ought to be accomplished by simply picking the bone up. If the meat is done properly, it will stay behind on the plate.

                      1 Reply
                      1. I am pretty much with the OP on this - I love the broth and soup they make and like the meat if it's very well-done, tender, and the fat taken off entirely - but I would never cook them for myself (my husband loves them). Not crazy about disassembling the meat from the bones while eating and particularly do not like seeing the discs separated from them floating about in the sauce - I hate to say this but they make me think of toenails. Not generally squeamish but just not taken with this cut.

                        1. OMGosh! Oxtails! Love-Love-Love 'em!
                          Here's a simple way to do them:
                          After rinsing them off, add them to a dutch oven with plenty of cool water + bay leaves & whatever else you like.
                          Bring the pot to a boil.
                          Skim foam.
                          Reduce heat to simmer & pour on about 1/4c olive oil.
                          Eventually, the water will all evaporate & the oxtails will begin to brown in the oil.
                          Don't alter the heat source - if anything lower it even more, but it should be fine as-is.
                          Now and again give them a turn, so as to brown all sides.
                          Once completely well browned, you have (2) choices:
                          1) devour them!
                          2) pour on lots of green "enchilada" type sauce (The canned green enchilada sauce works OK for this, too)
                          Usually, I heap in plenty of cubed potatoes & parsnips with less carrots before pouring in the green sauce.
                          Sometimes, I only whirl tomatillos & garlic with water and simmer them in that.
                          Always, I finish the pot with fresh cilantro - 1 bunch per pot - stirred in during the final minute of cooking.
                          This is a marvelous dish!
                          Excellent over steamed rice, or with great bread, or flour tortillas.
                          Many like it with corn tortillas but they ruin the dish, to me - Just as flour tortillas seem to ruin mole, to me.
                          Truly, go beyond and give oxtails a try! You'll love them either simmered, then browned with only S&P - (Maybe some savory sometimes) - Or, swimming in a bowl of green saucey goodness - (Maybe some root veggies sometimes).

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: SusanaTheConqueress

                            Oxtails make a good rich chili - use plenty of good ancho powder or puree.

                            This is one case where I like to add beans to my chili. They absorb much of the fat. Black beans are my choice.

                          2. Oxtails are great. They make a great soup. Oxtail soup. Get a German recipe and enjoy the oxtails. I use to live there one winter and had it often when out. I have made it at home and used a slow cooker.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: katz66

                              +1 this! Some of my favorite memories of growing up in Germany were eating Oxenschwanz suppe. Rich, delicious, and warming when it's cold.

                            2. Friend I know thinks oxtail is disgusting because of the proximity to a certain orifice. Funny, because he's the most anal retentive person I know.

                              1 Reply
                              1. I never liked them until I tried them Jamaican style. I've now made them at home and love them.
                                The local "Taste of the Islands" has excellent ones.


                                1. The local bj's had some nice looking tail today for just 3.49 a lb so I bought a big pack of it.

                                  I don't like following recipes when I cook, and I just like to throw in whatever I have sitting around. What I did today was:

                                  Browned the tail in bacon fat, then sauteed some onions, celery, garlic, carrots, jalapenos, japanese green onion, hen of the woods mushrooms, anchovies, tomato paste. The only open bottle of red wine I had was a cab too nice to dump into the stew, so I went with a little port wine and a beer for the braising liquid, plus a couple tablespoons of soy sauce.

                                  Also added a touch of curry powder (not enough to taste like curry, but just enough to add an interesting fragrant note), ginger powder, and some dried thyme, and bay.

                                  I think that's about it. The whole pot is bubbling away right now in the oven at 300. Can't wait to dig in!!

                                  1. the only time i eat oxtail is when my mother makes a filipino dish called kare-kare. It's oxtail in a kind of peanut butter sauce (with achuete) filled with typically three kinds of vegetables: long bean, bok choy and eggplant. It's usually served with bagoong, or shrimp taste. as with nearly all filipino dishes...serve with rice.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: majordanby

                                      That's the second favorite oxtail dish mentioned here lately (the other being the Jamaican style). Of all the dishes we got at a Filipino restaurant outing last year, kare-kare and the incredible crunchy-skinned pork shank were the two best hands down.