Hearty and warming slow-cooker oxtail stew. Let your slow-cooker work its magic and transform a few oxtail bones and a handful of vegetables into a thick and delicious meaty stew. A bowl of this oxtail stew is just what you need to chase away the winter blues.
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Years ago, oxtail was a very cheap cut of meat and was classed as offal. Nowadays, as the shops have caught on to the fact that people like oxtail, the price has sky-rocketed, and it now costs the same as a good piece of topside.
It can be quite difficult to get hold of though (remember, a cow only has one tail). You may have to place an order with your butcher. But once you’ve got your hands on it, you can turn an oxtail into the most fabulously meaty stew, with the thickest and most flavoursome gravy that you can imagine.
Because of the nature of the cut, there is not too much meat on an oxtail. It has large bones running down the inside, surrounded by meat that contains a lot of gelatin and collagen. This melts during the long slow cooking process, forming the gravy and leaving the meat tender and succulent.
It’s all about the ‘sticky bones’
To my mind, the best bit about eating an oxtail stew is picking up the juicy bones and sucking the sticky, meaty, gelatinous deliciousness from the ends. This is not a meal for the faint-hearted. This is a meal where you roll up your sleeves, grab a pile of serviettes and get well and truly stuck in.
Beef oxtail has to be one of my favourite meats to eat. It’s juicy and succulent and full of flavour. And it lends itself perfectly to a slow-cooking method. After a few hours in a slow-cooker, the meat is so soft it practically falls off the bone.
Pair this with a mound of vegetables and potatoes and you have a meal that will satisfy the most voracious of appetites. Oh yes, this is comfort food at its finest. Bring on winter!! Bring on the oxtail!!
What ingredients do you need?
To make an oxtail stew, you obviously need oxtail. The more the better. I tend to buy beef oxtail by the size of the bones rather than the weight of the pack. I normally allow one large bone per person with one or two additional smaller bones. The meat in the picture below will feed three people easily.
If you do want to buy your oxtail by weight, then you should bear in mind that oxtail is about 50% bone. You will need more oxtail by weight than you would for boneless meat such as steak. There can also be quite a lot of visible fat on the pieces of oxtail which should be mostly trimmed away. For these reasons, I would allow 7 to 8 oz (or about 200g) of oxtail per person.
For the vegetables, you will need a mirepoix or ‘holy trinity’ of onions, carrots and celery. This is 2 parts onion to one part each of carrots and celery. These form the flavour base of the stew and should be finely diced.
No stew is complete without potatoes. I like to use washed, unpeeled, baby potatoes (2 or 3 per person, depending on the size) but you can use any firm potato, peeled and cut into large chunks. Maris Piper or King Edward potatoes are a good choice if you live in the UK, or Yukon Gold in the US.
I also add about 1 cup of grated potato to the stew. This breaks down during cooking and helps to thicken the gravy.
The other vegetables are chopped mushrooms and tomatoes, and shredded cabbage. If you don’t like cabbage, you can leave it out. I find that the cabbage cooks away to almost nothing, and provides additional flavour and richness to the gravy.
For the gravy, you will need a beef stock cube dissolved in 1 cup of boiling water, some Worcestershire sauce, tomato puree and optionally, some salt. If you like a richer gravy you can also add half a cup of good quality, full-bodied red wine, but this is also optional.
You will also need flour, seasoned with a little salt, for coating the oxtail, and also olive oil for browning the oxtail.
How to make slow-cooker oxtail stew
Start off by preparing the vegetables.
- Peel and chop the onions and carrots, and dice the celery.
- Wash the potatoes if you are using baby potatoes, or peel and cut larger potatoes into large chunks.
- Wipe the mushrooms with a damp cloth to remove any black bits and then cut them into quarters or halves.
- Cut the tomatoes into small dice – there’s no need to remove the skin first.
- Using a sharp knife, cut the cabbage into shreds.
- Peel and coarsely grate one medium-sized potato.
Brown the oxtail
Once the vegetables have been prepared, trim most of the visible fat away from the meat and discard. Coat the meat with seasoned flour and brown it in a little olive oil in a frying pan. Take your time over this step and allow the meat to brown nicely on all sides. You may need to do this in batches if you have quite a lot of pieces of oxtail.
Transfer the browned oxtail to the slow-cooker, then add a little more olive oil to the pan if necessary and stir in the onions, carrots and celery. This has the effect of both softening the vegetables, and also picking up any bits leftover from browning the meat. It all adds to the final flavour!
Now transfer the softened vegetables to the slow-cooker and add the rest of the vegetables (mushrooms, tomatoes, cabbage and grated potato). Arrange the potatoes on top.
Make a stock by dissolving the beef stock cube in boiling water, then mix in the Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste and salt. Pour this over the meat and vegetables in the slow-cooker.
If you are using wine, add this now as well.
Cook and serve
Cover the slow-cooker with a lid and cook as follows:
- High – 6 to 7 hours
- Low – 7 to 8 hours
The meat will be done when it pulls away from the bone.
15 minutes before the end of the cooking time check the consistency of the gravy, it should be nicely thickened from the grated potato that was added. However, if you think the gravy is still too runny, make a slurry of a tablespoon of cornflour (or cornstarch) with 3 tablespoons of water and drizzle this into the gravy to thicken it. You may not need all of the mixture, use your own judgement.
Serve this oxtail stew with slices of crusty bread to soak up the gravy, and a mound of serviettes to wipe off any sticky fingers!
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Your questions answered
Yes, you can freeze any leftovers in a rigid plastic container for up to 3 months.
To use, defrost either in the microwave or overnight in the refrigerator, then tip into a saucepan and reheat until piping hot.
Yes, you can prepare this dish up to 3 days in advance and store, covered, in the refrigerator.
When you are ready to eat it, tip it into a saucepan and reheat until piping hot.
Yes, this dish can be cooked in a pressure cooker. I often use my Pressure King Pro electric pressure cooker to make oxtail stew.
Follow the recipe instructions up until the meat has been browned, then place the meat in the pressure cooker and cover with stock (do not add the vegetables at this stage).
Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for your own pressure cooker.
For my pressure cooker, I set the timer to the ‘Stew’ function and cook for 30 minutes. This will allow the meat to cook first.
After 30 minutes, release the pressure and add the vegetables. Set the timer to the ‘Stew’ function and cook for another 30 minutes.
Please note that timings will vary depending on your particular pressure cooker.
If you have leftover oxtail stew, you can turn it into a ragu. Just remove the bones, making sure to scrape all the delicious meat off first. Cut any large pieces of potato into smaller pieces. Boil spaghetti in a pan of salted water until cooked – approximately 7 minutes. Heat the leftover stew in a saucepan and serve over the spaghetti.
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If you enjoyed this slow-cooker oxtail stew recipe, you may like to try some of my other delicious family suppers:
- Slow-cooker beef and kidney stew – a hearty stew with juicy beef and tender kidneys.
- Meatball soup with vegetables and tomatoes – vegetable soup with the additional of tasty meatballs.
- Hearty beef casserole with suet dumplings – soft and fluffy dumplings on top of a hearty beef and vegetable stew.
- South African lamb bredie (lamb stew) – South Africa’s favourite stew made with succulent lamb ribs.
- Hungarian beef goulash with spaetzle – a traditional Hungarian dish of paprika flavoured beef served with soft homemade noodles.
- Slow-cooker roast chicken dinner – an entire roast dinner cooked in the slow-cooker.
Slow-cooker oxtail stew
(Click the stars to rate this recipe)
- 2 pounds / 900 grams oxtail
- 2 cups diced onion
- 1 cup diced carrots
- 1 cup diced celery
- 1 cup white button mushrooms halved
- 1 cup diced tomatoes
- 8 to 12 small baby potatoes
- 2 cups shredded white cabbage
- 1 medium potato grated
- ½ cup full-bodied red wine optional
- 1 beef stock cube dissolved in 1 cup boiling water per stock cube
- 4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon salt or to taste
- 1 to 2 tablespoons flour seasoned with salt
- 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil for browning the meat
Prepare the vegetables
- Peel and chop the onions and carrots, and dice the celery.2 cups diced onion, 1 cup diced carrots, 1 cup diced celery
- Wash the potatoes if you are using baby potatoes, or peel and cut larger potatoes into large chunks.8 to 12 small baby potatoes
- Wipe the mushrooms with a damp cloth to remove any black bits and then cut into quarters or halves.1 cup white button mushrooms
- Cut the tomatoes into small dice – there's no need to remove the skin first.1 cup diced tomatoes
- Using a sharp knife, cut the cabbage into shreds.2 cups shredded white cabbage
- Peel and coarsely grate one medium-sized potato.1 medium potato
Prepare the slow-cooker
- Cut any visible fat from the meat.2 pounds / 900 grams oxtail
- Coat the meat in seasoned flour and then fry over a medium heat in olive oil in a frying pan until browned on all sides. Do this in batches if necessary1 to 2 tablespoons flour, 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Transfer the browned meat to a slow-cooker.
- Fry the onions, carrots and celery lightly for about 3 minutes in the same frying pan until they start to soften. Add more olive oil if necessary. Stir the vegetables and scrape the bottom of the pan to remove any leftover residue from browning the meat.
- Transfer to the slow-cooker.
- Add the remaining vegetables (mushrooms, tomatoes, cabbage and grated potato). Arrange the potatoes on top.
- Make a stock by dissolving the beef stock cube in boiling water, then mix in the worcestershire sauce, tomato paste and salt. Pour this over the meat and vegetables in the slow-cooker.1 beef stock cube, 4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce, 2 tablespoons tomato paste, 1 teaspoon salt
- If you are using wine, add this now as well.½ cup full-bodied red wine
Cook and serve
- Cover the slow-cooker with a lid and cook for about 6 hours on high or 8 hours on low. See note 1.
- Serve with slices of crusty bread to soak up the gravy, and a mound of serviettes to wipe off any sticky fingers!
I am not a nutritionist. The nutrition information has been calculated using an on-line calculator, and is intended for information and guidance purposes only. If the nutrition information is important to you, you should consider calculating it yourself, using your preferred tool.
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