Oxtail may sound exotic (or just plain weird), but it’s part of a long tradition of eating “nose to tail”.
First off, it’s beef. Nothing too weird about that. It’s not technically from an ox. It comes from either cows, bulls or heifers.
Historically, we didn’t waste any parts of the animal. Not only because it was economical in hard times to use all the parts, but we were also more respectful of our food sources and approached its preparation with much more care and passion. We understood that different aspects of the animal provided different things and, when consumed all together, allowed for a more holistic and balanced eating approach.
An egg is not nutritionally balanced without the yolk. Neither is eating just vegetables or eating just meat. It makes sense. Everything works together.
Within the animal kingdom, there’s wisdom in utilizing the whole animal. If we don’t, we can run into deficiencies and imbalances.
For example, by consuming only muscle meat – steak, chicken breasts, legs and thighs, pork chops, bacon, eggs etc. – we end up with higher levels of homocysteine, which can lead to inflammation and cell damage. But, this is not a problem if you’re including sources of homocysteine-neutralizing nutrients – betaine, choline, B6, folate and B12. Think beets, dark green leafy vegetables, and beans.
Eating muscle meat also increases our requirement for glycine (a better way of saying this is that by not eating other parts of the animal, we become deficient in glycine). Glycine is an amino acid found in high amounts within the bones and skin of animals. It’s a critical component of our connective tissue, the collagen “glue ” that holds us together. It plays so many important roles in the body from DNA synthesis and wound healing to digestive and nervous system function. It also helps regulate the immune system and benefits our skin, bones, heart and muscles.
I say this all the time: meat in and of itself isn’t unhealthy. It’s VITAL. It’s designed to be eaten from grass-fed cows and other pastured animals, along with other parts of the animal – liver and other innards along with bone broths and stocks. Our great grandparents knew what they were doing and the health epidemics of the day can be remedied by tapping into their wisdom.
Gelatin is an excellent source of glycine, which is why it’s so beneficial to consume bone broth on a regular basis.
The really cool thing about oxtail is that the meat around the bone is very high in gelatin. You can taste it. It’s super rich. You can also increase your gelatin and glycine intake by buying and preparing other bone-in meat, but I would wager that oxtail tips the scale on gelatin content.
If you need to heal anything in your body (we all do!), you’ll want to start thinking more broadly about the foods you consume and consider trying this delicious recipe.
Note: Oxtail is a popular Caribbean dish (something I enjoyed growing up in the Virgin Islands), so you’ll find a lot of Jamaican oxtail recipes online. This is not a Jamaican or Caribbean recipe. It’s much simpler with more basic ingredients, but just as delicious!
Don’t have an Instant Pot? The Instant Pot takes half the time, but if you don’t have one, you can just use my ingredient list and follow this non-Instant Pot process: Jamie Oliver’s oxtail stew recipe
Let’s get started….
Start with pasture raised oxtail, if you can. No worries if it’s not available. Ask a butcher in your local grocery store or check the frozen meat section.
1.5lbs of oxtail is what you see here and that fed 3 adults. The meat expands when cooked and is a very rich dish, so it’s very filling.
Ideally, if you’re feeding 4 or more people or want leftovers, go with 3-5lbs of oxtail.
Here’s what I seasoned it with this time, but it’s such a flexible dish, you can use what you like and have on hand:
1 tsp onion powder
1tsp garlic powder
1 tsp all-purpose seasoning (salt free)
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
I let this sit for about 30min, but it’s really not necessary. Using a pressure cooker really gets the flavors into the meat.
I then used the “Sear” function on the Instant Pot, adding about 2 Tbs of olive oil to the pot and mixed it with the meat. Keep turning the meat every minute or so until it’s brown (not cooked) on most sides. Then add 1/2 cup of beef stock (I used homemade beef bone broth) to the pot to get all the bits off the bottom, using a wooden spoon to scrape it into the broth.
Once that’s done, we add veggies.
Because this was only 1.5lbs of meat, I didn’t need too many vegetables, just enough for 3 people. Add much more for bigger batches.
1 yam (similar to a sweet potato, which you could use instead)
1/2 of an onion
3 garlic cloves
1 bell pepper (I only had 1/2 of one in the fridge)
Small handful of parsley, chopped up.
Mix it all together in the Instant Pot.
Add about 2 cups more beef broth, 2 Tbs Worcestershire sauce or Coconut Aminos (which is what I had). I added about 3/4 cup red wine to this dish, but you can leave that out and add tomato sauce or diced tomatoes instead.
Close the Instant pot, make sure the toggle is pointed towards “Sealing”. Hit the Manual button and set it on 120 minutes by pressing the + button until you get there (120 is the time max for the machine). A trick is to just use the – button because it goes in reverse and gets you to 120 faster 🙂
Once it’s done, remember to depressurize the cooker before opening by moving the toggle (carefully) over to “Venting”.
After 2hrs (of paying no attention to it), viola!
Get weird. Eat oxtail. Eat gelatin. Get healthy. 🙂