These easy smothered oxtails are bursting with flavor! I'm here to show you how to make this culinary treat from the comfort of your own kitchen with nothing more than oxtails, vegetables, herbs and spices and a little red wine to add that special touch, resulting in a rich and velvety gravy. Instructions on how to make it in an Instant Pot or on the stove-top are below.
Smothered oxtails have been around for ages. If you've been in any high-end restaurant with a knack for cooking up trendy food, or an American Southern kitchen, you know about the soul food delicacy known as “oxtails”.
They used to be a regional food that could be found cheaply. I know because I grew up eating oxtails all the time, but ever since they've become the newest culinary trend, the prices have gone way up....and there's a good reason why: They're unbelievably flavorful and packed with protein! Just in case you're wondering....No. Oxtails don't come from pork. It's beef. I'll tell you more on that below.
What are Oxtails?
I don't know about you, but my local area doesn't have a whole lot of oxen plowing lawns and carrying a bunch of pioneer days gear around. So, how do they pop up in stores and butcher shops around the nation?
The short answer? They don't. Oxen, or castrated male cows, used to be used for oxtails because they were such an important part of life, and when they died, their owners used every bit of them. They were too valuable to just bury and forget about.
Now, oxtails come from cows. We breed so many of them to fill store shelves with steak cuts, ground beef, and everything else you eat every day, that it just makes sense to use their tails instead of breeding oxen specifically for their tails. It's a lot more ethical than the latter, too.
How Much do They Cost?
This is where people start to roll their eyes or shake their heads a bit. Oxtails used to be a throwaway cut. They were taken home by the butchers and slaughterhouse workers to feed their lower-income families.
When those lower-income families mastered turning them into a delicacy, they became popular all over the South.
Unfortunately for us average folks, high-end restaurants found out about how popular this working class delicacy was, and they adopted it as their own.
Now, you can expect to pay between 6.00 - 13 dollars per pound, and almost half of that weight is just bone and fat. The same thing happened with lobster and snails.
Where Can I Buy Oxtails?
Oxtails aren't as common as ribeye steaks, chuck roasts, and other popular beef cuts. So, you might have a difficult time finding them at first.
I think the best way to get your hands on them is your local butcher shop or meat market. You'll probably get a better price, and you'll be supporting a small business instead of whatever big-box grocery store happens to sell them.
You can find them in bulk at some Sam's Clubs, and occasionally they'll pop up in Whole Foods and other popular stores like Walmart. If you live in the DMV are check Walmart or Shoppers.
How to Clean and Prepare Oxtails?
To start of making smothered oxtails, you should clean and pre-soaked them before you do anything else. It's pretty simple to do, and it takes just 10 minutes.
First, if you have a lot of fat on your oxtails you should cut some of it off. If you don't, your liquids will be very fatty. However, don't remove all of the fat. Leave some for flavor.
Next, add your fresh oxtails to a large bowl and add water until they're covered. Next, add 2-3 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, and top it off with a lemon sliced thinly.
After your little concoction has sat for 10 minutes, you can dump out the liquids, discard the lemon and rinse off your oxtails.
What Type of Red Wine do I Use?
You don't have to use red wine, however, red wine adds a wonderful flavor to this dish. Use any red wine you want. But this is one of those recipes that make you want to hang out in the kitchen and “accidentally” fill a glass one, two or even three times. So, get one you really like.
I had my husband go pick up some red wine for this recipe. He bought sweet red wine. I used it in this recipe and it turned out great.
How do You Eat Oxtails?
Place the cooked smothered oxtail onto your fork, and then carefully insert it into your mouth, before entering a state of euphoria. I'm kidding.
Oxtails are a tough cut of meat that require a certain touch of love and gentleness to make palatable. You'll be cooking these for about an hour in the instant pot. The Instant Pot will break down the collagen and tenderize the meat.
However, once they're tender, they're the equivalent of meat butter. Think of a perfectly-cooked brisket, but smaller and even more tender with less cooking time.
What Goes with Oxtails?
This recipe covers smothered oxtails in the American South, and nothing beats pairing them with rice, rice and peas, or mashed potatoes with a big chunk of cornbread.
There are other oxtail recipes from all over the world, particularly in Africa, the Caribbean and South America, that you can check out if you're feeling a little adventurous. We're sticking with the good ol' soul food southern style smothered oxtails this time.
Smothered Oxtail Ingredients
- Oxtails: These are the star of the show. They're expensive anyways, so get some good ones.
- Seasonings: garlic powder, onion powder, sweet paprika, salt and Pepper
- Garlic Cloves: Get these fresh, and they will add a ton of flavor as they cook.
- Red AND Green Onions
- Herbs: Fresh thyme and parsley
- Red Wine: Don't forget a little extra. I like to add a splash more once it's done then I cook off the alcohol.
- Beef Broth
How to Make Smothered Oxtails In the Instant Pot
Step 1: This instant pot oxtail recipe is a little time consuming, so be patient. These are instructions on how to make instant pot oxtails. To make them on the stove-top scroll down some more.
The night before you plan to cook, toss all of your ingredients in a large plastic bag, jostle it around a bit to get everything covered, release the air from the zip bag and then let it sit in the fridge overnight.
Don't have a zip bag? Use a large container or a baking dish, as shown below. Cover with a top, plastic wrap or aluminum foil, but you'll have rotate the oxtails half way through marinating and with a spoon pour the liquids and vegetables over the oxtails.
This will infuse all those flavors into your oxtails, and it will help start breaking down the meat so it cooks easier.
Step 2: First, take your marinading oxtails out of the fridge and let them come to room temperature.
Step 3: Remove your room temperature oxtails from the marinade bag and pick out any garlic or onions that are stuck to them. Add some olive oil into the instant pot. Now brown them on each side.
Once hot, add olive oil. brown the oxtails on both side until the they have golden crusty tops.
Remove the oxtail from the Instant pot. Set to the side. strain the black bits. Reserve about 3 tbsp of the fats. If your IP looks very burnt, you need to clean it out before you proceed to saute the vegetables. You don't want burnt tasting food. *See notes below.
Step 4: Next, saute the onions for about a minute. Add the minced garlic. Saute until fragrant. Add the beef broth, red wine, herbs and seasonings and bring to boil.
Add the oxtails bake to the pot. Stir it all together. Press cancel. Put the top on the pot. Press the "pressure" button. Set timer for 60 minutes.
Turn the knob to lock position. Make sure the vent nob is set to "seal". Once the time is up, let the IP natural release for about 15 minutes. Smothered oxtails are done!
Step 5: Make the slurry. Press the saute button. Set time for a 5 minutes. Add about 2-3 tbsp equal parts cornstarch and water to a bowl. Mix until the clumps are gone. Pour it into the instant pot.
Mix well. To get rid of the cornstarch taste, cook for the full 5 minutes. Gravy will become thickened. You should now have a nice gravy covered in oxtails. Now you know how to make instant pot oxtails!
Step 6: Next, slather these on top of some rice which is the most traditional way. You can also add some rice and peas. No rice?
Use mashed potatoes or egg noodles. You can eat them alone with crusty bread or, soak up any leftover juices with my cornbread recipe.
The cornbread is sweet and goes perfectly with smothered oxtails. In fact, it probably goes well with just about everything. I recommend keeping the recipe handy in your kitchen.
How to make Oxtails on the Stove-Top
If you don't have an Instant Pot or just want to do it the old fashioned way. You can make smothered oxtails on the stove-top but you'll have to be extra careful. To do so, follow all these steps, but instead of adding everything to the Instant Pot, just do that part in a large pot on the stove.
You'll need to cook over medium high heat. Once you're ready to slow cook, set stove to simmer. It'll take 3-5 hours of simmering to do this low and slow until the meat is very tender. FYI, larger oxtails will take longer to cook.
Red Wine Smothered Oxtails
- Olive oil or vegetable oil
- 3 lb oxtail
- 3 tsp salt plus more for taste but only after the oxtails are done
- 1 ½ tsp pepper
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- ½ tsp sweet paprika
- 1 ½ cups red onions cut into wedges then halved
- ¼ cup green onions about 3-4 green onions sliced
- 6 garlic cloves minced
- 3 fresh thyme sprigs stems removed
- ½ cup red wine you can add more for taste after you add slurry if you like
- 1 ¾ cups beef broth
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- white cooked rice
To make the slurry
- 2-3 tbsp water I used 2 tbsp but add 3 if you want a thicker gravy
- 2-3 tbsp cornstarch
- Dry seasonings: season oxtail with salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and sweet paprika
- Marinade Oxtail: Toss all (except the butter and slurry) your ingredients in a large plastic bag, jostle it around a bit to get everything covered, release the air from the zip bag and then let it sit in the fridge overnight. Don’t have a zip bag? Use a large container or a baking dish, as shown below. Cover with a top, plastic wrap or aluminum foil, but you’ll have rotate oxtail half way through marinating process and with a spoon pour the liquids and vegetables over the oxtails. This will infuse all those flavors into your oxtails.
- Brown Oxtail in Instant Pot: Heat up Instant Pot using "Sauté More" function. When it says "hot" about 8 minutes add the oil. Once the oil is hot, add meat - this will help prevent the oxtail from sticking to the pot. Add 2-3 pieces of the larger oxtails. Brown each side for about 5 minutes. Take out the oxtails and set to the side. Add the remaining oxtails and brown again. Set aside the browned oxtails.
- Strain solids from oil: Pour the oil from the browned oxtails through a mesh strainer into a bowl. Keep about 2-3 tbsp of the oil. Discard the solids and or burnt bits if you have any. Return the oil to the Instant Pot and proceed with the recipe.
- Saute Onions & Garlic: Add in wedged halved onions, then saute for 1 mins. Add the chopped garlic cloves, then saute for one minute. Sorry. I forgot to take a picture for this step!
- Pressure Cook Oxtails: add the red wine and beef broth in the Instant Pot. Add the browned oxtails in Instant Pot. Ensure the liquids come to the top of the oxtails but doesn't cover it. With a spoon bring the onions to the top to cover the oxtails. Close the lid. Turn venting knob to sealing position. Pressure cook on high for 60 minutes. Natural Release for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, release the remaining pressure by turning Venting Knob to Venting Position. Open the lid when the floating valve drops. Open the lid carefully. ***See notes below
- Slurry: Heat up Instant Pot using "Sauté More" function. When it says "hot" about 5 minutes. Pour in the slurry. Mix well. Add a splash of red wine. Add butter. Cook for 5 minutes. Sauce should be thickened. Taste and season with more salt and pepper if necessary.
- Taste: Taste first then season with more salt & black pepper if necessary. Turn off the heat. Serve with rice, rice and peas, mashed potatoes, egg noodles or eat them alone with crusty bread or cornbread. Sometimes we serve with rice and candied yams
- *Pro Tip: If you leave the oxtails sitting in the gravy for about 20-30 minutes, they'll taste even better. This is true too for leftovers.
- Sharing is caring, so please share this recipe, so other people can enjoy it!
How to make Oxtails on the Stove-TopFollow all these steps, but instead of adding everything to the Instant Pot, just do that part in a large pot on the stove. Cooking Oxtails: Make sure to cook oxtails in batches. Don't overcrowd the instant pot. I used larger pieces of oxtail. If you have several small ones, shorten the cooking time. You can always pressure cook them some more, if they are not tender enough for you, but if they're overcooked there's no fix for that. So use your best judgement.
YOU MAY ALSO LIKE THESE OTHER SOUTHERN RECIPES: