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Cooking With Oxtail Is Popular Worldwide, Including Rome

Cooking with oxtail is popular around the world, including a traditional recipe from here in Rome that you need to try because it is amazing and delicious.

Cooking With Oxtail - The Entire Tail

The Entire Tail

The Roman dish, Coda alla Vaccinara, is named after the Vaccinari, who were the ox butchers in the city. This is considered one of the most iconic dishes of la cucina povera because it was not, and still isn’t, a popular cut of meat that used to only be enjoyed by the poor of Rome. Today, it is popular around the world for its amazing flavor which has a place in every culture.

Cooking With Oxtail Around The World

One of the most traditional recipes in Rome, Italy is the braised oxtail ragù known as Coda alla Vaccinara. It is a slow cooked meat that you can enjoy by itself or over pasta and it is amazing. This dish, however, wasn’t what I ate the first time I enjoyed this cut of meat. Years ago I was on a business trip to the Philippines where I enjoyed a Filipino Oxtail Stew, known as Kare Kare, that I loved so much I was hooked on this cut of meat for life.

It is fair to say that cooking with oxtail was common everywhere the poor people of the region had access to the cuts of meat that the rich ignored. For example, there are oxtail recipes in the Caribbean, Africa, South America, Spain and across Asia in addition to Europe.

Cooking With Oxtail Frequently Asked Questions

Recipes with oxtail aren’t as popular in the US as they are in other countries around the world so you might have some questions. Here are the most common questions about cooking with oxtail:

What Do You Do With Oxtail?

The most popular way to prepare oxtail is in a soup, stew or ragù. This means braising the meat for a long time to break down the fats and connective tissue of the tail to release the collagen which provides amazing flavor to the sauce or soup. The minimum time I would recommend cooking oxtail is 3 hours, but for me, the longer the better.

Do You Have To Boil Oxtail Before Cooking?

This depends on the preparation. For example, I believe the British way of preparing oxtail stew is to boil the meat first to remove any impurities, but my view is that this isn’t necessary if you are preparing this in the Roman style. You certainly can if you want to, but I don’t think it is necessary.

Cooking With Oxtail - From The Butcher

From The Butcher

Why Is Oxtail So Chewy?

If you don’t let the oxtail cook long enough, it is very likely that you will not enjoy the chewiness of this particular cut of meat. Cooking with oxtail definitely requires time, at least 3 hours, of braising at a light boil to dissolve the collagen and fats that make this cut so chewy.

Does Oxtail Get Softer The Longer You Cook It?

Yes, it definitely does. Similar to a Neapolitan Ragù, the longer you cook the oxtail, the better the sauce or stew becomes. The flavors are released in the collagen and the connective tissue also dissolves. This results in meat that is falling off the bone and tender.

How Long Does It Take For Oxtails To Get Tender?

As with any tough cut of meat that has a lot of connective tissue, like pork shoulder, lamb shanks and beef brisket, the longer you let this meat cook, the better. I would recommend at least 3 hours of cooking time if you are braising the meat. If you have the time, continue to cook the meat for even up to six hours and you won’t be disappointed.

What Is Traditionally Served With Oxtail?

This depends on what country you are in when you enjoy (or prepare) this amazing meat. For Italy, I would suggest either enjoying the braised oxtail ragù with just some bread. I enjoyed it this way with some slices of truffles on top and I was happy as could be.

If you are in the Caribbean, I’ve read how oxtail stew is poured over rice and beans, which sounds amazing. In the Philippines, I enjoyed their oxtail stew in a delicious peanut sauce in a bowl, with a side of white rice. In England, this stew is served with mashed potatoes and vegetables.

What Is The Best Way To Eat Oxtail?

My favorite way to eat braised oxtail is in the traditional Roman way of removing all the bones from the sauce and adding it to a paste, like rigatoni. This dish, with a side of crusty bread and a glass of wine (perhaps a Syrah from Lazio) makes for an amazing afternoon in Rome and I highly recommend it on your next visit.

Cooking With Oxtail - Cross-Section


Italian Recipes That You Might Enjoy

If you enjoyed this background on cooking with Oxtail, you might be interested in some of the Italian recipes (Roman and more) we have on this site. Take a look at some of these:

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